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The Ancient Origin Of The Bàtá Drum

Feb 24, 2023 02:00PM ● By Burns Johnson

An essential drum used by the Yoruba people is the Bàtá, a double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass with one cone more significant than the other. Aside from being used in religious functions, festivals, carnivals, and coronations, it can also convey messages of hope, divination, praise, and war.

The ìyáàlù (mother) Bàtá drum is the biggest of the set of drums played by the Yoruba people. For at least 500 years, these instruments served as a form of communication to Sàngó, Esu Egungun, Oya, and other Yoruba Orisa cults. At the turn of the 21st century, they extended their repertoire to include sacred and non-sacred music, though this latter category is rare. The importance of Bàtá drums carries across the African diaspora – for instance, in New World Lucumi (Santeria), as found in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States – where it is used in both religious and secular settings.


Bàtá drums have special religious and historical significance in African and Cuban cultures and traditions. They were introduced to Cuba through the slave trade in the 19th century. As well as being part of Brazilian Candomblé, Bàtá drums are also an integral part of the African diaspora religion.

It consists of three drums of different sizes, similar to an hourglass. Each drum has two different-sized heads and is played sitting down with both hands on the drum.


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The Iyá Alu ("Mother") is the giant drum and leads the group, playing long, complex patterns with many variations and initiating conversations with the other two drums. The drums of Iyá are often adorned with bells and bronze caps called Chaworo, which enhance their vibrations and timbre when they are played.


As a middle-sized drum, the Itótele plays long but less complex patterns with some variation, answering and occasionally initiating conversations.

 Okónkolo plays short, simple patterns with occasional conversations and variations. It is the smallest of the three.

Several parts make up the Bàtá drum; "Igi Ilu" (wooden framework), leather, "Egi Ilu" (wide brooms used for support), "Osan" (wire work), "Iro" (black substance applied to the drum surface), "Bulala" (leather drumstick), and cowries. Afro-music producers now use this drum to produce musical sounds.

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 Immanuel Burns Johnson is a young and dedicated social media personnel. He was born, raised and schooled in Lagos, Nigeria. His hobbies include traveling, sports, political criticism and mobile games like C.O.D.M. Apart from these; he is also interested in skydiving and aeronautics. He is skilled in web coding and has a trait of hard work. This has helped him become successful in his field at a young age.

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