Afro Cuban Folkloric Music for the Orishas, with Bata Drums and the Bembe Macagua
Bata y Bembe de Matanzas: la Presentación de un Iyawo de Chango
CD, 60 Minutes
This CD includes a full cycle of Lucumi Santeria praise songs to the Orishas, played on the sacred bata drums and sung by the late Alfredo Calvo.
The CD also presents, for the first time, the sacred Lucumi Bembe Macagua, a unique set of drums only heard in Matanzas.
Alfredo Calvo was a priest of Agayu with more than 50 years of Ocha. He was an (if not the) Elder of the Egwado branch of the Santeria religion, of which his godmother, Fermina Gomez (Ocha Bi), is considered the founder. Affectionately known as El Gallo (the Rooster) for his strong, distinctive singing voice, he was one of the most talented and knowledgeable akpwans or lead singers in Matanzas up until his death in 2011.
The CD is structured around the presentation of a newly initiated priest (Iyawo) of the Orisha Chango, the warrior Orisha of thunder and lightening, to the sacred bata drums (called Aña, pronounced an-ya). In Havana and the United States, such a presentation is a rather cursory affair, but in Matanzas it is the way in which the new priest is presented to the community as well as the drums, and it is an elaborate event.
In addition to the traditional bata drumming and Orisha praise songs, this CD also includes a track of never-before-recorded Lucumi Bembe Macagua drums. At some drumming celebrations at Alfredo Calvo's home, he combined the two types of drums (bata and bembe) to increase the power of the drums' transmission to the Orishas. This innovation is based on what happened when the Cuban slaves were liberated. No matter what African land they came from, they all began playing their drums at the same time to thank God for their liberation.
The CD presents this innovation the way it would sound at an actual drumming celebration. The bata drums are playing and, at a specific point directed by the lead singer, the bembe drums join in. They play together, then switch back and forth, and the CD ends with a 15 minute track of just the bembe drums.
Elegua (Presentation of the Iyawo) (0:38)
Ogun (Presentation of the Iyawo) (1:09)
Chango (Bata) (10:06)
Chango (Bembe Macagua) (12:58)