My Isla Bata Drums / Bata Rumba and Guarapachangeo

Just yesterday I finished "roping" my set of bata drums from Isla Percussions , I think my Isla bata came out very well, so I have been inspired to write this post on bata rumba (and to show off my endeavors a little).

The main reason why modern aberikula bata are tied or wrapped as I have done to my Isla bata drums is for appearance. The original bata drums and specifically fundamento bata, were tightened and tuned with ropes and straps. The wrapping of modern metal tuned drums helps the drums resemble the original bata.
The wrappings also help keep the drum from sliding around on your lap, as they tend to do sometimes. The ropes can also keep your drums from becoming scratched through use. I had these three reasons in mind, but I also just enjoy tinkering with my drums.Bata drums were once solely used for the liturgy of the Yoruba, and their history in Cuba and the Lucumi was steeped in secrecy and taboos. In modern times the bata drums, and specifically aberikula bata have evolved to encompass other styles of music in their repertoire. Specifically bata rumba as originally developed by Grupo Afro-Cuba de Matanzas and even more recently by the gurapachangeo of the late Pancho Quinto and Yoruba Andabo.
Pancho Quinto and his highly stylized, individualized and unorthodox playing of the gauarapachangeo is something that resists any sort of classification, and is really just beyond my skill to even analyze in any kind of meaningful way. Bata rumba, however, is more easily analyzed, and I have compiled a small article on the subject, mostly gathered from correspondences with percussionists and musicians more learned and experienced than myself. I offer what information I have, incomplete as it is, to those interested in the subject:

Bata rumba combinations
Chachalokuafun + Guaguanco
TuiTui + Columbia

Inle + Guaguanco
Chenchekururu + Guarapachangueo

Odua por derecho + Palo Rumba
Obatala + Guaguanco

Ñyongo + Columbia
Rumba Iyesá with Guaguancó

Pello's Mozambique with the batá adaptation known as Rumba Iyesá

Usually in a batarumba, you'll have an iya player basically playing the iya part to chachalokuafon, and the rumberos playing guaguanco. Or there will be the battery of bata drums (i.e. iya, itotele, okonkolo) playing chachalokuafon with guaguanco. AfroCuba de Matanzas is known for batarumba, but they play it differently, or maybe i haven't heard enough recordings, but i can't really tell what exactly they are doing. Yoruba Andabo played batarumba on the "El Callejon..." album mixing bata w/ a columbia, and i've heard recording where they will just use the okonkolo against a guaguanco such as the okonkolo part to "tui tui" and use it as the main theme in a columbia like in the album by Roman Diaz y el Ven Tu rumbero "Wemilere" ....correct me if i'm wrong anyone....

you have to listen to the song "OYA" on "Wemilere" - Roman Diaz y Ventu Rumbero
it starts off an abakua and goes into the okonkolo part for tui tui, and keeps that through a columbia song...its great!

Clave Y Guaguanco is doing a different style batarumba on "La Voz del Congo" from the Dejala en la puntica album...The title "La voz del Congo" is accompanied in the beginning by the first section of the toque batá for Inle "Tani tani cho bí". Then they change over to Tui-Tui

Then you have Pancho Quinto's "En El Solar" where they play tui tui to an old standard "La Media Vuelta"...i hope i am on track here...they are playing "tui tui" are they not?..Tui-Tui on "La Media Vuelta".

I can't say I really know how to play any bata rumba combinations yet. I'm still just learning the traditional bata toques and playing rumba the usual way. I do really like the density and complexity of bata rumba, which I prefer over the highly improvised guarapachangeo. However I am very very lucky to be studying bata and rumba with Sandy Perez of Grupo Afro - Cuba de Matanzas (pictured above between the yellow and blue bata), so perhaps one day bata-rumba will be in my repertoire.


  1. cuanto cuesta en cuba un juego de congas ? alguien sabe

  2. --------------------------------------------------

    PS -- Some people may be used to the convention of writing a single clave as two bars of
    four-four (i.e., using a dotted-eighth to begin). I strongly suspect this practice began
    due to marketplace considerations, and the idea that nobody would buy method books that
    required reading the clave as a single bar in 4/4: thus beginning with a dotted-eighth
    (OMG!) and then having a sixteenth (all those little lines up at the top of the note!),

    To me, using two bars and those huge, clumsy note values is like trying to use Roman
    numerals to write the year! I also have been convinced by some of the great teachers
    that a two-bar clave is a poor translation between the oral Afro-Cuban tradition (West
    African, too, b/c if we've really done our homework, we'll recognize that connection)
    and the written traditions of Western Europe. I'll share what was told to me: that the
    clave does not have two "ONEs" in each cycle! Yes, I know that using two bars also
    makes writing 2-3 clave superficially easier, but again, the marketplace has tried to
    over-simplify things.

    Just because we learn it one way doesn't mean we always play and understand it that way
    for the rest of our lives, come on! For me, the clincher was learning that written
    materials from "La ENA" all use a single bar of 4/4 to represent the clave and its
    complementary patterns. The Cubans would know best, I feel.

    And, by the way, the same logic applies to the ternary bell as two bars of 6/8 versus
    one bar of 12/8. Again, those pesky market forces imposing themselves on *reality*, so
    let's not mistake the moon for the finger pointing at the moon, eh? Thank you for
    hearing my rant. How we think about the music is very important, because we are all
    sharing a mental vibration long before we start hitting the skins and making sound.
    How can the sound come together if the mental vibrations are all in different places?

  3. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is the first of two Bata Rumba arrangements taught by Sandy perez of
    Afro-Cuba de Matanzas, at La Pena in Berkeley, California, summer of 2000.

    Sandy taught the conga patterns for this and for the "Caridad" arrangement,
    but he did not address Bata at that time.

    The notation will all line up if using a monoface type of font, so try using a
    "notepad" type of program if things are not evenly spaced.

    Thank you for your interest! What good is having all of this if I can't share it?

    -- 1e&a2e&a 3e&a 4e&a --

    | Lhhh Lhhh L.h. Lhhh | Single Low Bell "Imawa," set on the ground in front of
    | rlrl rlrl r-l- rlrl | a seated player (use mouth vs. neck for low vs. high)

    | X..X ...X ..X. X... | Single High Bell (also "Iwama") plays clave de rumba

    | .SSB ..2S O.SO ..2. | "Quinto" is two drums playing Habana style guaguanco.
    I didn't write all the timekeeping heel/toe strokes,
    and I used "2" to mean an open tone on the lower drum

    | htS. 2.22 htSt OO22 | "Seis por Ocho" is also two drums, again "2" is an open
    | LLR. R.RR LLRL RLRR | tone on the lower one

    | .OOO OOO. htSt ttSt | htSt ttSt htSt ttSO | * Finally, "Conga" is one drum
    | .RLR LRL. LLRL RLRL | LLRL RLRL LLRL RLRR | and the pattern takes 2 cycles!

    "Conga" has the (to me) 'unusual' touch with the right hand, for example on the fourth
    beat of each bar. This is correctly written. Sandy taght the complete pattern by
    first claarifying the 7-stroke fill, using a pickup:
    ----> .O | .OOO OOO. |
    Then he taught the timekeeping figure with the slaps, explaining that
    it repeats three times and then the fill happens.

    The "Quinto" pattern was highly improvisational, with lots of slaps and extra melody notes,
    all while still maintaining the underlying guaguanco melody.

    I seem to hear this arrangement on "Balia mi Guaguanco" from the ^^Raices Africanas^^ CD,
    although the drummers seem to use what I have notated only as their most dense option,
    and most of the time playing only small portions of the "melody" (i.e., the open
    tones) and thus keeping the conversation very spacious, clean and clear. On that
    recording, you can definitely hear the "Conga" part used intermittently, at least...

    I'd like to share the "Caridad" arrangement, too, if anyone is interested... By the way,
    YES, I did ask Sandy if it would be okay to share these arrangements and YES he did say
    that it would be okay!


  4. THANK YOU Mr. Rumba Instruments for sharing the information about Bata Rumba
    combinations! This is great information, very hard to find anywhere else.
    I'm giong to have fun working on the basic toques and hopefully eventually
    combining them with my own very basic rumbas, hahaha! As a student of Sandy
    Perez, you probably already have learned the arrangement below, but maybe not.
    I offer it for any other percussionists who come here, like I did, seeking
    information about Bata Rumba. Thanks again for the article, which named some
    toques I'v never even heard of! I will enjoy following-up with the subsequent
    research, playing, aesthetic experiences, and new states of musical consciousness.


    1. Glad you enjoyed the information. I'm going to take a try at transcribing the rhythm you notated. I actually have not had much chance to play batarumba here.

  5. Thank you very much, I'm looking through Fernando Ortiz right now, having fun trying to track down some of the ones you named. Glad you enjoyed my info, too! I also have it written out in standard notation: that's how I wrote it at the time & then I made a cleaned-up copy for myself, if you want to compare some day.

    I've played zero batarumba, and actually only recently had the chance to play full rumbas here. For many years, there weren't enough drummers & it would have been inappropriate for me to play anything but one of the basic 2 melody patterns, certainly not much quinto! But now we have a nicer and larger scene and I'm thinking it would be fun to add Bata, since we now have more than 3 drummers!

    Check this out, too: I've got some copies I made at the UCLA Ethnomusicology archive of Dr. Delgado's "Iyesa" dissertation. I hadn't looked at it in years, but sure enough your mention of combining Iyesa with Mozambique made me remember it. I'm known in town as "Mozambique" since I used to play the rhythm & sing "Se Formo el Tiqui-Tiqui" at the soccer games, so you can see how the idea of adding Bata to it is giving me a happy feeling?

    Anyway, Delgado says that an expert he worked with in Cuba believed that the CFN's Iyesa performances influenced not only the Mozambique rhythm but also the Mozambique dance steps!

    Super cool, right? The footnote mentioned other popular styles & said that the "El Coyulde" dance has Oya and Obatala movements. I don't know b/c I've never seen (or heard?) Coyulde, that I know of. To say nothing of being only an intermediate Orisha dancer, hardly qualified to analyze and trace movements, or even recognize and identify them most of the time, hahaha. But anyway Delgado's informant said Pilon and Paca also had Orisha dance movements, although which ones aren't specified...

    PS Please don't worry about the links I sent you, assuming you haven't seen the film from that gathering up north, a few decades ago. Its not a virus or a trick.

  6. thanks for indulging my rant about the notation, too. I see that David Penalosa, for example, is using the 4/4 notation with 16th notes, so I think the old idea about 2 bars of 4/4 and nothing smaller than an 8th will slowly vanish. I actually saw a book from the 1950's that notated the clave's second stroke as totally onbeat and not syncopated! So I know we have come a long way.

    It seems especially important for the Rumba Columbia, especially around here where we are (mostly) all Mexican_American. The 2 X 6/8 interpretation seems for some people to imply that the ..HHLL melody of the lowest congas is in a waltz-type feel, like would be very common in Mexican music, for example:

    Even if people aren't reading and writing it, feeling it in 3 versus with the underlying 4 makes a huge difference in the ensemble's ultimately congealing or not... Actually, most people out here have never heard of Rumba Columbia! They still correct me & say "Colombia," so thanks also for the cool comparison of it with Abakua on the other post. I'm off to play some Abacua right now, actually. I really enjoyed reading the patterns you posted. Your blog has a lot of great info!

  7. if you don't know this guy, he's super cool. he was actually my first drum teacher! great source for Yoruba Bata...



  8. haha, i keep forgetting to say how beautiful the drums in the pic look! i wish we had a set out here, so we could start working with them...


  9. i also sent you the 'caridad' arrangemment as Sandy taught it not just some shit I made up or tried to improve with my own stupid ideas, but the actual thing exactly as he taught it.

    I realized I should ask, since you've got the ear for picking out some of the toques used in other pieces, if you know what toque(s) are used in Caridad? For the other batarumba arrangement, Sandy didn't specify which songs they used it for. I'm sure there are a zillion arrangements they use, b/c those people are some of the best in the world, after all! But at least for Caridad, wow, since I've got the conga parts, I'm actually pretty close to being able to put the bata on there, if I only knew what toque?

    Obviously I'm trying to take a short cut, b/c once I learn all the basic toques, I'm sure I'll be able to hear it very clearly on the recordings. Anyway, you specifically had mentioned Afro-Cuba in your post, so I hope the info was useful. Your info really inspired me to keep learn more about BataRumba, as you can see! So thank you...

    I guess a P.S. would be "can you identify toques for any of the recorded AfroCuba BataRumba examples?" like you did for some of the other groups' songs? I should have at least asked Sandy which toques he recommended combining with the two conga arrangements, but I was just so blown away by getting to learn the conga parts, hahaha!