Alternate Name(s): batá
Geographic Region: Caribbean
Country of origin: Cuba
Subregion: Havana and Matanzas
Climatic type: Tropical
Definition: Double-headed drum in the shape of an asymmetrical hourglass, with metal rims and lugs for tensioning/tuning the drumheads. Traditional, consecrated sets use a tensioning system of rawhide strips and/or rope strung from head to head and wrapped around the body of the drum. A clay-based material, called id?Yoruba) or fardela (Spanish), is put onto the larger head (en?) of the iy?o reduce overtones and create a low, sustained, relatively clear pitch. Occasionally, fardela will be applied to the other drums for the same purpose, but this is much less common.
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The okónkolo is the smallest of the three bata 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 okónkolo 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.
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 okónkolo'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 resulting sound in each case is distinct. The enú is struck with a flat hand to produce a sustained "open tone" with a clear pitch, while 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 okónkolo generally plays short, simple, repetitive patterns that serve as a reference point for the entire ensemble. In certain toques (rhythms from the repertoire) and at certain times, the okónkolo improvises within a limited range, adding excitement and rhythmic density to the overall sound of the batá ensemble. The okónkolo's improvisations have been likened to quinto playing in Afro-Cuban rumba, a secular Afro-Cuban dance music that has influenced and been influenced by Afro-Cuban sacred music. The distinct sounds of the okónkolo's two heads, in combination with the chachá of the itótele, make a rhythmic framework or context for the speech-song melodies co-created by the enús of the iyá and itótele.
See under Performance Context for Cuba: Batá drumming
See under References for Cuba: Batá drumming
Last Modified: 05-Dec-2005TOP