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Obini Bata: Women Orisha Bata Ensemble

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Women playing bata have been prohibited from playing these sacred drums.  It is said that this was not always the case. With the introduction of Los Reglas de Ocha, or The rules of priesthood, came the introduction of the Ceremony of Ana, or introducing the drums and drummers to the spirit of the the Dead or the spirit of Music, depending upon who you talk to .  the purpose was to make the act of playing to Orisha a sacred act.  Several Prohibitions were also introduced at this time; the prohibition of using non-consecrated drums in ceremony, the prohibition of non-priests playing in ceremony and most notably, the prohibition of women playing the Bata drums.

The justification for this prohibition is that women, traditionally have their own drums to play. Drums such as the bata, and djembe represented the female anatomy and therefore, only men could touch them.  This is a very strong allusion to prohibitions regarding homosexuality.  However, I have been told that in Nigeria, that it is the women who play the bata drums for the Olofin.

Here, as every where in the world, many women are taking a stand and are embracing the drum.  This is a very short clip of Obini Bata women’s Bata drum and Dance ensemble performing Orisha Music and Dance.  these women have been  shunned in their Cuban communities but continue to embrace this art. A review of their work stated that these women have added a degree of sensuality to the music that is not matched by men.

Support for women bata players is slow on the uptake, unlike the djembe where women have shattered barriers around the world.  although the support is slow in coming, these women are gaining support in their communities and are becoming a beacon of light for aspiring women bata players around the world.


One Response to “Obini Bata: Women Orisha Bata Ensemble”

  • hi Fatu: would love to talk with you about this article. Regla de Ocha is what we call our religion instead of Santeria… I know these women-Obini Bata. they are very respected in Cuba. I started studying Bata in Havana in 1988. Made Ocha in Havana in 2000 with Amelia Pedroso, Ibae. Anya is a the Orisha that goes inside of the Iya of the Fundamento drums. Men who are initiated into this sect are called Omo Anya (children of Anya). this is something that has been passed down from Nigeria. There is an important book by Fernando Ortiz who writes about the first set of Anya in Cuba. It is translated into English. There is no book called Los Reglas de Ocha. Regla de Ocha (the rule of the rock/or Orisha) is the name of our religion. Ocha is word that means Orisha. Ceremonies in Cuba are played with a variety of instruments. The Fundamento is the most formal and the most serious… but there are also Bembes with congas, ceremonies with Cajones (boxes) and even what they call a Violin with violins playing for Ochun. there are ceremonies with Chekeres…. Ocha comes down with all of these. what is most important is the songs….

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