Black Spirituality Religion : Consecrated Drums

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Sekhemu, May 19, 2006.

  1. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jul 9, 2003
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    How Bata Drums Talk and What they Say

    The bata drums speak, not in a metaphorical sense, but they really can be used to speak the Yoruba language, and have been used traditionally to recite prayres, religious peotry, greetings, announcements, praises for leaders, and even jokes or teasing.

    The Bata Talk

    The Yoruba language, the mother of over 10 million people, is a tonal language, like Chinese and many African languages. Yoruba speakers use three basic tones, or pitches, and glides between them, as an essential part of how words are pronounced. Since tone is a critical part of meaning, the same word pronounced with a different melody means something entirely different.

    In fact, tone is such an important part of meaning that a fluent speaker can recognized and understand spoken Yoruba from the pitches alone, without hearing the spoken consonants and vowels, especially if they know the context and are listening to a familiar text, such as a common phrase or prayer. This is how the hourglass-shaped "talking drums" (called dundun) are able to speak Yoruba praises and sayings. This is also how bata and other drums can talk.

    The bata have been considered sacred drums on Yoruba and Cuban culture, with religious rituals surrounding their construction, who can touch them, how to prepare to play them, and how to care for them. Fernando Ortiz describes some of these taboos and rituals in his books on bata drums. These sacred bata are treated as living creatures with names, care and feeding, and various rules for their use. An unitiated person may not touch them and they may not touch the ground.

    The spiritual force and mystery that is placed within the drum when it is made is sacred, or consecrated, and called Ana. Ana is also referred to as an orisha. A drummer may be initiated into Ana(Anya) through certain religious rituals practiced in Cuba and Nigeria, and receives the spiritual force needed to play the drums correctly to bring the orishas down to a ceremony to possess the devotees. One initiation is called "having your hands washed" and allows the drummer to play fundamento drums. A further level of initiation is becoming an Omo Ana, receiving Ana, and is supposed to be conducted with participation of an Olosayin (priest of Osayin, orisha of herbal medicine and magic.) The drums may be consecrated only by and Alana, one who is already initiated and has a sacred bata. The first bata in Cuba were not sacred because there was nobody that could consecrate them. In 1830, Anabi conscecrated drums made by Atanda and the first bata with Ana were created in Cuba. This set of drums was later passed down to Pablo Roche, known as Okilakpa. By 1951, there were about 25 sets of sacred bata made in Cuba, of which only about 11 were being used at the time, according to Ortiz.

    In Nigeria and Benin, the spirit in the drum is called Ayan. Ayan is also the name of the typr of tree (African Satinwood), the one Shango is said to have hung himself on, and wood used for bat in Nigeria. Some people from long lines of drumming families have Ayan as part of their last name, such as Master Rabiu Ayandokun from the town of Erin Oshun, Nigeria.
    Excerpts from Ortiz and Mason on Sacred Bata

    Ayan or Ayon is the orisa of drums. In Cuba it is spelled Ana yet is pronounced exactly as it would be in Yorubaland. It is also the name of the African Satinwood tree, Distemonanthus, used to construct drums, Sango dance clubs, houseposts, and sometimes canoes. The following oriki (praise poem) tells us something of Ayan.

    Chief of trees that talks
    The one that makes me eat with the chief of the market
    The one that makes me know the road one has not seen before
    The slender tree that grows money
    "The one who finds brass and carries it" "Talks deeply"
    Ayan support me
    We never follow you and go hungry.

    Ayan represents the ultimate expression of God as sound Its symbol is the drum which serves as both the repository of divine power adn the vehicle to give it voice. Ayan is said to be female and is the patron deity of all drummers and bata drummers especially

    The following appelatives reflect the persuasive powers and emotional impacy of Ayan's music:

    HE who makes one eat another's food
    He who makes one say what one dreads to say
    He who forces the miserly to give
    He who makes one takes another's wife

    The bata is a hermetically sealed sound chamber with certain ritual ingredients and medicines locked inside. When properly performed this ritual heading of the drum is said to affix Ayan to it. When Ayan is affixied or born in the drum called Eleekoto (the owner of education that guides you.) This ritual includes the painting of the drum with the osu (signature veve) of Sango. Eleekoto is represented by a miniature bata that is not played but hung to sybolize Ayan."

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