Geographic Region: Caribbean
Country of origin: Cuba
Subregion: Havana and Matanzas
Climatic type: Tropical
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The iyá is the largest of the three batá drums, all of which are double-headed membranophones with an asymmetrical hourglass shape. The batás have wooden shells, either carved from one piece of wood (traditional style), or assembled from slats of wood. Like all three drums of the trio, the itótele has a larger head (enú), which produces a more melodic sound, and a smaller head (chachá), which produces a more percussive, less clearly-pitched sound. The iyá wears garlands of bells strung around each head, called chaguoró (around the enú) and chaguorí (around the chachá).
See under History for Cuba: Batá Drumming
See under Tuning for Cuba: Batá Drumming
The player rests the drum across his/her lap, and may use a strap attached to each end of the instrument to keep it stationary while playing. The player strikes the iyá's enú ("mouth" in Yoruba/Lucumí, the larger head) with one hand, and its chachá (a word for the sounds produced by that head) with the other. The hand technique used, and the sound produced in each case is distinct. The enú is struck with a slightly cupped or flat hand, with the full hand just inside the edge of the drum, the to produce a sustained "open tone" with a clear pitch, or a "closed tone" (also called "mute" or "muff"), which comes from pressing the hand against the drum head. The chachá is struck using the fingertips and a whip-like motion of the wrist in order to produce a "slap tone," a high, cracking sound.
See under Notation for Cuba: Batá Drumming
Role in the Ensemble
The iyá leads the batá ensemble, and calls the other two drums to begin, change their patterns, respond in (partly or fully) prescribed ways, and stop, as necessitated by the musical situation. In settings where an akpwon (lead singer) is present, the batá drums accompany the singer, following and interpreting his/her cues for starts, changes, and stops. "Complete" (that is, expert) iyá playing, which itself implies knowledge of all itótele and okónkolo parts, is not just knowledge of all the rhythms in the repertoire (an estimated 50-60, each with sectional changes), but also familiarity with hundreds of songs and how to accompany them appropriately, as well as knowledge of musical techniques for intensifying spiritual energy. Along with the enú of the itótele, the iyá's enú co-creates the speech/song melodies characteristic of the batá ensemble. The iyá's chachá has a unique role in batá drum music. It frequently plays at the same time as the itótele's enú, duplicating the itótele's parts in speech-song melody creation. At times it contributes to the rhythmic framework created by the okónkolo and the itótele's chachá. At other times, it plays independently, accenting the iyás own melody (enú) notes, playing characteristic figures that add density and intensity to the music, or accenting dance steps, among other musical functions.
See under Performance Context for Cuba: Batá Drumming
See under References for Cuba: Batá Drumming
Last Modified: 01-Dec-2005TOP