Bata drums: the drumbeats of African origin changing the phase of Caribbean religion 

Stephen Nartey September 27, 2022
Bata drums. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ABORISADEADETONA

Over the last five centuries, the bata drums have been the lifeline of African and Caribbean culture and religious faithfuls. They are not considered ordinary musical instruments for those who revere the sacred drums and are aware of their significance. 

In the early days of ancient civilization, the bata drums were considered to hold the coded language of the ancestors, monarchs and gods, while they also hold some spiritual bearings on the Nigerian Yoruba people. For the Yoruba, the bata drums form an intrinsic part of the worship of the Orishas, according to Naija biography. 

For starters, the bata drum is a two-round shaped-headed wooden piece covered with hide with an hourglass form at its mid-section. Between the 1800s and 1950s, the Santera religious faithfuls in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the United States assimilated the bata drums into their tradition. 

The drums still play a significant religious role in Yoruba culture. Aside from the religious contributions of the bata drums, they have spiced music of Cuban origin. Many genres of music adopt the rhythms produced by the drums into their composition. 

The same is the case in Brazil, where composers of Candomble music dwell on the bata drums in producing their rhythms. Historians trace the origins of the drumbeats from the Caribbean to the enslaved Africans who were brought to Cuba and other islands in the region. The transatlantic slave trade exported the art of the bata drums to Cuba in the 1800s. 

They were first used publicly on Cuban radio in 1935 as a part of the broadcast of traditional music. Since then, they have played several roles in the national discourse of the Cuban people. 

Not only did the Nigerians bring their drums and knowledge along, but they also added religious practices such as Santera when they settled in Cuba. It is a religious custom that takes its inspiration from the Yoruba tradition, which incorporates drumming extensively in its activity. 

The bata drums play the role of talking drums when kings want to communicate coded language to their subjects at public events. Priests use them in invoking prayers, while during social gatherings, they are used to hail the elite under the occasion. 

In modern times, they have been popularized by secular artists such as Julito Collazo among others, raising Latin music to the world. 

In recent times, the bata drums have been incorporated into several cultures and combined with other musical instruments to create authentic rhythms. 

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