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Event Description

The making of the first set of consecrated bata drums, central to the Cuban religion of Regia de Ocha, in the United States happened in Miami in 1975. Prior to this, the fledgling religious community honored their orichas (deities) using guiros (beaded gourds), a campana (a metal hoe blade), and a conga. At the time only a handful of Cuban exiles knew the sacred rhythms, chants, and ceremonial protocols of a musical tradition that spans centuries and continents. Since the 1980 Mariel boatlift, the number of ritual drummers has continued to grow, as many arrive with the knowledge while others acquire it on U.S soil. Those in the community estimate that there are now over a hundred ritual musicians and at least fifty sets of consecrated bata drums in Miami alone. This lecture reflects on the lived experiences of these professional musicians and the changing landscape of their world. The research presented follows a three-month oral history collection project by ethnomusicologist and performer Vicky Jassey.

Vicky Jassey is a British Visiting Scholar currently affiliated with the Cuban Research Institute and the Digital Libraries of the Caribbean at Florida International University. She completed her M.A. in Performance at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She was awarded a South West Wales Doctoral Partnership scholarship and is now a third-year Ph.D. student in the Ethnomusicology Program at Cardiff and Exeter Universities in the UK. Her Ph.D. research focuses on gender narratives in Cuban bata performance. She has spearheaded Afro-Cuban music in the UK by facilitating a community arts organization, Bombo Productions, which mobilizes artists within the genre to create and support a range of performance and educational events around the UK.



Document Type


Event Date

Spring 5-12-2017


Latin American Studies

The Bearers of Sacred Sound Ritual Musicians of Miami



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