Name: Bata.
Type: Double Headed > Hourglass > Drum > Membranophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 211.242.12
Country: Nigeria, Cuba, Many.
Regions: Africa & Caribbean.

Description: A batá drum is a large double-headed hourglass drum with one larger head on the right or top side and on the left or bottom side is the smaller head. It is primarily used for religious and semi-religious purposes for the religion for the Yoruba in Nigeria. It is used by worshipers of Santeria in Cuba, Puerto Rico and in United States. Its original functions are connected to different deities, a drum used by royalty, a drum used in ancestral veneration and drum of the politicians.

Use in Cuba: The Batá slowly became inducted into the Cuban culture after time, and began to be played in a secular manner. The Batá were first publicly performed in 1935 in a broadcast over Cuban radio for purposes of folklore music. Uses such as this have grown as knowledge of the instrument has spread; more and more musicians not currently practising Lukumí have used versions of the drums in recordings or performances.

The Lucumi & Santeria: The Lucumi or Santeria and its use of Bata drums are closely associated. The Bata are played simultaneously, often with a rattle or “atchere” to create  polyrhythmic compositions, or “toques” during Santería ceremonies. A ceremony with batá drums is generally known as a “toque”, “tambor de santo” or “bembé” but ceremonies can also be accompanied by shaken gourd-rattle “chékere” [in English “shekere”] ensembles usually with tumbadora, also called conga drums. There are estimated to be at least 140 different toques for the spirits [saints or santos] and their different manifestations.

There are two important “rhythm suites” that use the sacred batá drums. The first is called “Oru del Igbodu” [a liturgical set of rhythms] alternatively called “Oru Seco” literally “Dry Oru” or a sequence of rhythms without vocals, which is usually played at the beginning of a “tambor de santo” that includes 23 standard rhythms for all the orishas.

The selections of the second suite include the vocal part to be performed by a vocalist / chanter [akpwon] who engages those attending the ceremony, in an African call-and-response style. The musical experience which is also a ritual is performed wherein an “initiate” one who through the great spirit Añá is granted the ability to perfectly play the Batá drums. Plays the new Batá set, and thereafter is introduced to the old Batá set. This is said to “transfer” [through the initiate] the spirit or Añá of the drums from the old set into the new set.

Playing Techniques:

Construction: In Cuba, the batá consists of a set of three tapered cylinders of various sizes. Iyá, the largest, is referred to as “mother drum”. Itótele, the middle one and Okónkolo. The smallest, are called “father” and “baby”, respectively. In Nigeria, there are five sizes of batá, which can be played either by hand, or using a leather play strap.

In Matanzas, the older Batá lineages play with one hand and the sole of a shoe or other improvised strap. In Cuba, it is common to see the drums decorated with small bells and chimes. Called Saworoide or “Saworo”. in Yorubaland and Chaworoide or “Chaworo” in Cuba; such bells are attached to one or two “igbaju” leather straps for mounting on the Iya. The larger drum head is called the “enu”, while the smaller is the “chacha”.

Citations: Mason, John 1992 Orin Orisa: Songs for Selected Heads, Brooklyn, NY: Yoruba Theological Archministry ; Amira, John, & Steven Cornelius [re-issued 1999] The Music Of Santería: Traditional Rhythms Of The Batá Drums: The Oru Del Igbodu, White Cliffs Media ; Ajayi, Omofolabo S. 1998 Yoruba Dance: The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a Nigerian Culture, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press ; Debra, L. Klein 2007 Yoruba Bata Goes Global, University of Chicago Press, p. 166 ; Websites: [Article By Bode Omojola –] ;

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