DVD, 90 minutes, all regions.
Kabiosile’e new DVD, “La Fuerza del Tambor,” offers a rare look inside the Matanzas Afro Cuban religious community and captures a piece of history that is in danger of being lost. It features public religious celebrations, drumming demonstrations, and interviews with elders of the Lucumí Santeria and Palo Mayombe traditions. The DVD includes never-before-seen footage of a unique set of Lucumi bembe drums, called Bembe Macagua, and a rare sequence of Palo Mayombe songs played with bata drums. It also includes more traditional examples of the power of the drums to communicate with the African deities known as Orishas. The film was recorded live in the home of Alfredo Calvo, widely regarded as the most knowledgeable Santero and Palero in Matanzas.
In addition to the eight segments of live public drumming celebrations and the two drumming demonstrations, Calvo and several other respected members of the Matanzas Afro Cuban community are interviewed on such topics as the relationship between Palo and the sacred bata drums and the birth of the Bembe Macagua drums.
One of the DVD’s most valuable features is subtitles for all of the Lucumí and Palo songs, many of which are no longer sung anywhere in Cuba except Matanzas. Interviews are in Spanish with English subtitles.
Alfredo Calvo Prado is a priest of Agayu with more than 60 years of Ocha. He is an 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 (lead singers) in Matanzas. He is the owner of the Aña Oba Tola bata drums heard on all of Kabiosile’s recordings, and is an accomplished drummer in his own right. Alfredo is a highly sought-after Oriate (the high priest of the Santeria religion who is in charge of all rituals) and diviner with the dilogún (the cowry shells that serve as the mouth of the Orishas).
Alfredo is also tata or high priest of Palo Mayombe. Many people come to him for readings with the chavalongo (shells used for divination in the Palo religion) and initiations. His enormous prenda sits alongside those of his grandfather and great uncle, both slaves from the Congo who brought the secrets of their prendas with them from Africa. Alfredo is also Násaco, the highest level of initiation in the all-male Abakua society derived from the traditions of the Caravali tribe.
Reynier Urrutia, a young drummer and singer, commented during an interview on the DVD about teaching the next generation: “There are still elders who say, “I don’t teach anyone, it’s all going with me.” Compadre, no, that’s wrong. Because if you take everything with you, no one will know…the religion will be lost.”
“La Fuerza del Tambor” is the third disc produced and distributed by Kabiosile, an organization dedicated to the preservation and sharing of Afro Cuban folkloric music traditions.