Bata drums are a type of Afro-Cuban drum, which originated from the Yoruba people of West Africa, more specifically, Nigeria. Bata means drum in Yoruba, a language spoken in West Africa.
The bata drums, when used for Yoruba rituals in Cuba, are played in sets of three: the Okonkolo, the Itotele, and the Iya. The Okonkolo is the smallest of the bata drums, and has the highest pitch of the three drums. The Itotele is medium size and has a middle pitch. And the Iya is the largest of the three bata drums and has the lowest pitch of these drums.
Bata drums have a cylindrical shape, with each drum having two drum heads, one smaller than the other. The drums are held horizontally, usually with the assistance of a strap that is wrapped around the shoulder, so that the hands can strike both drum heads.
In Africa, more specifically in Nigeria, bata drums have been used traditionally for several centuries for sacred Yoruba rituals, and thus, the drums used for these rituals are considered sacred.
Unlike the timbales, which is a Cuban original, bata drums and their religious associations were introduced in Cuba by African slaves over a century ago, when African slaves were taken to Cuba. In Cuba, the religion associated with the bata drums is called Santeria.
Today, bata drums continue to be used in Cuba for religious rituals practiced by people who practice Santeria. However, the use of the bata drums has expanded to non-traditional and non-sacred use. When the drums are not used for religious purposes, nor handled in a sacred manner, they are considered non-sacred bata drums by some traditionalists.
Secular Use Of Bata Drums
The bata drums have become popular among musicians who play the drums for non-religious purposes. The drums have been used in folklore music, timba music, and jazz, among other genres of music. In fact, the bata drums have been used in recordings and performances worldwide, and have become especially popular in Latin music.
Moreover, given that during the past few decades, the popularity of the bata drums has increased so significantly worldwide, many more of this style drum are produced in non-traditional ways, making different styles available in the marketplace.
Thus, bata drums that were originally made for sacred purposes and introduced to Cuba over 100 years ago by slaves who wanted to practice their sacred religion and rituals, have evolved as the cajon drum and the congas have, into drums that are used in different genres of music all over the world. Enjoy.
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