Kabiosile: afro cuban music from the source

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.


Echu (1:28)

Elegua (1:45)

Elegua (Presentation of the Iyawo) (0:38)

Ogun (Presentation of the Iyawo) (1:09)

Ochosi (1:31)

Inle (0:23)

Babaluaye (1:28)

Korinkoto (1:01)

Orishaoko (0:36)

Dada (0:13)

Agayu (6:57)

Obatala (3:53)

Yewa (1:04)

Obba (3:35)

Oya (8:01)

Yemaya (3:29)

Oshun (4:38)

Orula (2:28)

Chango (Bata) (10:06)

Chango (Bembe Macagua) (12:58)

Close (0.13)

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Bata y Bembe Cover

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"This amazing new recording is performed by powerful musicians and recorded beautifully...[Alfredo Calvo's]...mastery of Lucumi praise poetry and raw power shine, and the chorus shines with him. The drumming is phenomenal, embodying the beauty and power of Matanzas bata. If you haven't experienced this music in person in Matanzas, you have to hear this CD to believe it."

Mark Corrales Batadrums.com

"Beautifully recorded and wonderfully sung by Alfredo Calvo Cano and Alberto Puñales Cabrera, this may be the best recorded document of Bembe as it is performed in Matanzas. Rare material. Highly recommended."

Bruce Polin Ddescarga.com

"...[One] of the most invigorating illustrations of Orisha music to come out of Matanzas since Lydia Cabrera's and Josefina Tarafa's 1950s recordings recently released by the Smithsonian Institute."

Willie Ramos Eleda.org

"Very interesting display of living history.  [It] is very interesting to see how the Africans in Cuba were able to keep a very large and important part of the culture intact. The performance was very ritmo Africano. You should also view the DVD of the same name to see it! Remarkable!

Michael Kidd Scotch Plains, NJ