Performed By Alfredo Calvo y su Bata Oba Tola
Album UPC 602977047325
CD Baby Track ID 649801
Label Kabiosile
Released 2003-01-01
BPM 121
Rated 0
ISRC ushm90575987
Year 2003
Spotify Plays 2,611
Writer traditional
Pub Co Public Domain
Composer traditional
Clearance Sync & All Media Uses
Rights Controlled Master
Rights Easy Clear: Cover Master
Original/Cover/Public Domain original
Country Cuba


Sacred drumming and praise songs for the Orishas (deities), from the Yoruba tradition, recorded in the Cuban Santeria style in Matanzas, Cuba


This CD offers you a look inside the Santeria traditions as practiced in the home of one of the oldest and most respected Santeros in Matanzas, Cuba: Alfredo Calvo.

The CD includes a full cycle of praise songs to the Orishas, played on the sacred bata drums and sung by 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 is a priest of Agayu with more than 60 years of Ocha. He is 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 is one of the most talented and knowledgeable apóns or lead singers in Matanzas.

The CD is structured around the presentation of a newly initiated priest (Iyawo) of Chango, the warrior Orisha of thunder and lightening. 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.

The priest is dressed in the full satin regalia of his or her Orisha, ceremoniously brought out from his throne to be paraded before the community and then presented to the drums. The community joins in, singing and dancing as the apon (lead singer) and the bata drummers play praise songs to each of the main Orishas.

To see a presentation like this first-hand, please see Kabiosile's DVD "Vamos al Tambor: Presentations in Matanzas, Cuba.”

In addition to the traditional bata drumming and praise songs, this CD also includes a track of never-before-recorded Lucumi Bembe Macagua drums. These drums were originally made as Arara drums, at a sugar mill in Matanzas province called Macagua. Later, a fourth drum was added and the drums were presented to a leading Santero in Matanzas known as Cheo Chango. They became Lucumi drums. But because they were born from Arara drums, they look different from traditional Lucumi bembe drums, and they are played with sticks.

At some drumming celebrations at Alfredo Calvo’s home, he combines 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.


“Fifty years from now this will be considered one of the most important recordings to come out of Matanzas.”
Michael Spiro
Master Drummer

“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

“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

“…[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

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