\u0022I am Felipe Garcia Villamil\u0022 begins Drumming for the Gods, the life history of the Afro-Cuban artist whose music has survived both political and personal upheaval. \u0022Balogun for thirty years. Oluana, of Matanzas, Cuba, for about forty years. Omoana for almost forty-five years. OluIyesa [he knows the secrets of the Iyesa drums].\u0022 A practitioner of sacred drumming for almost his entire life, Felipe practiced his trade in Cuba both before and after the Revolution and brought it with him to New York, where he continues to play for the gods. This book focuses on three periods of Felipe's life, each marked by changes in his personal life and by important historical events. The first period covers his formative years during which he received his initial training. Through Felipe's story, we explore the legacy of slavery in Cuba, the nature of Afro-Cuban religions and their musical traditions, and the history of bata drums. The second period covers the critical years of the Cuban Revolution. Here we see the effect of social turmoil both n music and religious practice (santero, palero, and abakua).
The third period covers Felipe's life in New York as a refugee/immigrant, and the role of music in rebuilding his identity. Felipe's story illuminates his cultural practices and beliefs as well as the ways in which an individual musician selects and modifies the elements of his cultural heritage to create a voice that is personal and unique. Felipe not only lives through history but also makes history, shaping an identity that cannot be described as \u0022Cuban immigrant,\u0022 \u0022Afro-Cuban,\u0022 \u0022religious drummer,\u0022 or \u0022santeria initiate,\u0022 but is composed of all of them. Through Felipe's experiences, Maria Teresa Velez reveals the interaction between social, political, economic, and cultural forces and an individual's own actions. The professionalization of musicians in Cuba following the Revolution and the plight of Afro-Cuban immigrants in New York are seen as large historical and social problems to which Felipe must personally respond. A noted ethnomusicologist, Velez provides the most insightful and comprehensive English-language study of an individual Cuban religious drummer available.
Drumming for the Gods is a must-read for those interested in ethnomusicology, Caribbean studies, and Afro-Cuban religions and culture.
Copyright in bibliographic data and cover images is held by Nielsen Book Services Limited or by the publishers or by their respective licensors: all rights reserved.
Maria Teresa Velez is a freelance ethnomusicologist and a consultant for the International Division of S.I.F.I. S.p.A. Italy.
CONTENTS Acknowledgments A Note on Spelling Prologue PART ONE: Learning the Trade Background Entrance into the Afro-Cuban Religious World Overview Entering Felipe's House Santeria: The Lucumi Door Palo Monte: The Congo Door The Abakua Society: A Secret Passage from Calabar Early Musical Experiences Learning to Play Bata History of the Drums Other Bata Lineages in Matanzas Other Drumming Traditions in Matanzas PART TWO: Life as a Musician During the Revolution Making Ends Meet Becoming a "Cultural Worker" Performing Afro-Cuban Religious Music in Secular Public Contexts Amateur Groups Organizing a Professional Folkloric Ensemble Negotiating the Limits of Secrecy Performing Other Afro-Cuban Secular and Sacred Drumming Styles Performing Afro-Cuban Religious Music in Private Ritual Contexts Searching for Alternatives: Becoming a Craftsman of Religious Objects Crafting a Bembe Drum: "Manufacturing" Material Culture to Obey the Orichas PART THREE: Life as a Diasporic Musician Leaving Cuba Building the Present: Exercising His Trade in His New Home The Tools of the Trade Instruments as Immigrants: Ana Grosses the Ocean Applying "Cultural Memory": Making Instruments Bata Drums Bembe Drums Iyesa Drums Drums as an Extension of the Self, as a Source of Living, as Life Itself The Artisan Transformed into an Artist Felipe's "There" Faces His "Here" Felipe's Concept of Tradition Syncretism The Marielitos "The Orichas Behave Different Here" Confronting the Written The Struggle of Memory over Forgetting Teaching as a Way of Remembering Teaching Women to Play Bata Singing as a Way of Remembering Epilogue Notes Bibliography Glossary Index
"This is without a doubt the most comprehensive English language study of an individual Cuban religious drummer." -Steve Cornelius "Drumming for the Gods constitutes an impressive accomplishment and includes a great deal of previously unavailable information. It represents a significant contribution to existing literature on Cuban music and cultural history." -Robin Moore, Temple University "[This book] documents the musical traditions of the Afro-Christian Santaria cults through the life history of one of Cuba's most esteemed practitioners of sacred drumming." -Institute for Studies in American Music Newsletter
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