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Batá Drumming

The Instruments, the Rhythms, and the People Who
Play Them


by Don Skoog and Alejandro Carvajal

Softcover, 200 pages, 8 1⁄2” X 11” $40 (+ $5 S&H)

     is the most comprehensive study of this important Cuban musical tradition, and the first to explore the people who created it, how it developed in Cuba, and where it fits in relation to the other folkloric traditions on the island.

     Who were the slaves brought to Cuba? What belief systems did they carry with them? How did the various Afro-Cuban religions grow from these systems? What types of music evolved from these religions? What is Santeria, and how do the batá drums function within it? Part One answers these questions.

     Part Two examines the history of the drums: how they are taught, learned, and played, explaining their role in the ceremony and the structure of the music. These discussions incorporate the latest scholarship as well as the ideas and concepts of respected Cuban and North American batá drummers, resulting in a more well-rounded study of the tradition as it is practiced today.

     The center piece of Batá Drumming is the Oru Seco, a set of playable, musical transcriptions of twenty-two rhythms dedicated to the Santeria gods. This transcription set accurately notates the rhythms of the Papo Angarica “school” or performance style, which is very influential in Havana-style drumming.

     Batá Drumming is the first book not only to notate the rhythms, but to connect them to the people who preserved and recreated them, “in the unrelenting face of displacement and oppression.”

     Don Skoog is an American musician and writer who has devoted two decades to the study of Cuban music. Alejandro Carvajal Guerrais a respected Cuban batá drummer, Santeria priest, and educator who traces his family heritage back to the Yorubas of Nigeria. Their ten-year collaboration has produced the most comprehensive book to-date on the history, sociology, anthropology, theology, and musicology of this powerful drumming and the fascinating people who play it.

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