Alfredo Calvo | La Fuerza del Tambor: Bata, Bembe y Güiro en Matanzas, Cuba (DVD)

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Latin: Afro-Cuban World: Caribbean Moods: Featuring Drums
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La Fuerza del Tambor: Bata, Bembe y Güiro en Matanzas, Cuba (DVD)

by Alfredo Calvo

A vibrant example of how the African spiritual and musical traditions have survived in Cuba, "The Power of the Drum" features live public religious ceremonies, interviews with practitioners of the African religions, and drumming demonstrations.
Genre: Latin: Afro-Cuban
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1. Interview: The Power of the Drum
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2. Rhythm for Yemaya
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3. Songs for Agayu
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4. Interview: Presenting Iyawos
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5. Presentation of Two Yemayas
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6. Chango oba ni koso (Chango, the King of Dancing)
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7. Interview: Palo and Aña
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8. Drumming Demonstration: Palo and Aña
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9. Ahora sí, se partió la siguaralla (Palo songs played with bata)
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10. Interview: Mixing the Drums Together
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11. Güiro for Oggun
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12. Bembe Macagua: History and Drumming Demonstrations
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13. Bembe Macagua for Oggun
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14. Bembe Macagua for Oshun
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15. Teaching the Next Generation
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
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.


Reviews


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BabaAlade Olamina

An excellent documentation of the survival of the drum tradition
This is the second installment from Mantanzas,Cuba, that I have had the privilage to view. It serves as an excellent
document of the enduring traditon of the drum, and it's integral position in the folk dance, song and belief. From West Africa through out the diaspora.
The honesty of this humble production adds to the value of it's authenticity. The addition of the interviews
were a bonus.

Frank and Pilar Leto

A beautiful documentation of the power of the drum.
Tina Gallagher did great justice in recording the history of her family, the Aña and our religion.
There were some profound statements regarding the use of the drums in ceremony, within the interview sections. We have felt the strength and have seen the beauty of Orisha while attending bembe's in Cuba. Tina's footage makes it absolutely palpable. The audio is excellent and the drummers hands are always visible, allowing the viewer to hear and see exactly what the drummers are playing. This is very helpful as a learning tool for Batá students. One can truly feel La Fuerza del Tambor. We appreciate the words of the songs written as subtitles. This was a very enjoyable DVD to watch. In fact, we have watched it several times and have gifted it to freinds we feel deserving. We look forward to future productions by Kabiosile and Tina Gallagher, Ache!

Yona Flemming

Down to earth, full of beauty and information, insight into religious and artist

Thomas Altmann

An elucidating look into Matanzas based Afro-Cuban traditions
This video places you face to face with the drummers of the tambor Oba Tola and the Bembe Macagua, listening to them answering central questions, demonstrating rhythms, and explaining historical details. Surprisingly, all of a sudden you even find yourself inside of real Santeria ceremonies.
All the participants in this production have made their contribution to the documentation and preservation of these liturgical traditions, and well so.
To me, this video felt like a 1:30-hour trip to Cuba.

There is no reason to not give it five stars.

Vanessa Lindberg

The Beauty, Strength and Truth of Matanzas
La Fuerza Del Tambor is a powerful and uncensored peek into the charged spiritual world of Matanzas. The inspiration which flows through the streets and the veins of Matanceros is expressed through their emotional admiration for the Orishas. We are lucky to see a representation of that inspiration here.
For those who haven’t traveled to the island, it is priceless to see the ceremonial aspects and to hear insightful words of wisdom from lifelong practitioners. Surely, for all it is rare to hear such knowledgeable priests speak candidly about the important truths of this misunderstood spirituality.
For those who have been lucky enough to see for themselves, La Fuerza del Tambor serves as a nostalgic reminder of the ongoing beauty, strength and truth that is Matanzas.
Like the first dvd in this series, Vamos al Tambor, this dvd captures a cross-section of the ritual sounds and sights of Matanzas. It will fill your eyes and ears with the spirit of the island over and over again.

Josselyne Price

Rare and well-constructed view into Santeria in Cuba!
These DVD's (Vamos al Tambor being a 2nd in the series) are amazing glimpses into the performance, history, and beauty of Santeria and related traditions in Cuba. Each DVD features easy-to-navigate chapters with different ceremonies or interviews/demonstrations with the Bata players, which I have shown to both academic and drumming students to contextualize the rhythm, dance, song, and ritual of Santeria. In addition to being fascinating to watch, the DVD's also help to dispell much of the assumed stereotypes of Afro-Caribbean religions that students often unknowingly carry with them. I'm glad to have these in my collection and look forward to seeing more!