by Jeanne Schmartz – University of Amsterdam, Musicology (2008)


Coached by Wim van der Meer (UVA) and Oscar van Dillen (CODARTS)


Since I have participated in my first Bata drum workshop with Jérôme Goldschmidt some years ago, the Cuban religious music of Santeria fascinated me. After this first contact with the Bata drums I continued to take more and more classes, and tried to play as much as I could, which leaded me finally to dedicate my thesis to this subject.

Because there is little literature about this topic, I decided to go to New York, to make research, and to get to listen to Bata drumming. I got in touch which really fascinating people, who inspired me a lot. But again I learned one more time, that many people don’t want to share their knowledge of this mystic music. The music is played in a religious context, and so many people think that you should be initiated into Santeria in order to learn the drumming, which is understandable in one way. One more problem I encountered was, that in Santeria women are not allowed to play the Bata drums. Because of this fact some people in New York were also not willing to teach me. But nevertheless I found musicians like John Amira, who shared his enormous knowledge with me, and Pedrito Martinez, who really inspired me a lot with his playing and his open mind.

I had to put my focus on one topic. What I decided to do is putting my accent on one God only: ELEGGUA. But how can I talk about Eleggua without explaining the main aspects of Santeria? In my work you will find background information on the Cuban religion and its Gods and on the drums used in religious ceremonies, called Bata drums.

The last, and biggest chapter of my thesis is dedicated to Eleggua, the first Orisha in the Yoruban Pantheon. I made research on the main characteristics of Eleggua, and also made a link to Legba, the corresponding God in the Vodou traditian of Haiti. I did not only compare the Gods, but also the music of both religions, which have some parts in common, but also know a lot of differences. This work will not teach you how to play the Bata drums, and will also not reveal all the secrets of Santeria. In my thesis I will give an overview over what this religion and music is all about, and over the main percussive grooves, and songs played for Eleggua.

What is Santeria? How can drums talk? And who is Eleggua? These are some of the questions I am going to find an answer in this work.

Short history of Santeria

In the chapter below you will find information about how and where Santeria developed. As my thesis will not be a theological research, I concentrated on the musical side of Santeria. To explain how this religion works would go behind the scope of this work.

Where does the religion have its origins?

The origins of SANTERIA, or REGLA DE OCHA, lie in West Africa. The worship of Orishas (see Glossary) came to Cuba during slavery time (18th and 19th century). The region where these slaves came from was known as YORUBALAND, today’s southwestern Nigeria and a part of Benin. Murphy (1988:23) mentions that one estimates that the number of slaves brought to Cuba lies between 527´828 and 702´000.

It is wrong to say that Yorubaland was one big nation. In fact, there lived more then twenty different ethnic groups with their own kingdoms as for example the EGBA, LAGOS, KETU OR IFE (Volkenandt, 5.1). The two most important cities were OYO, which was the political capital of the kingdoms, and IFE, the religious centre.

Several versions of the Yoruba myth of origin exist, of which the most popular revolve around a figure named Oduduwa. As recorded by one of the earliest Yoruba historians, Reverend Samuel Johnson, Oduduwa was the head of an invading army from the East (a place often identified with Mecca, the Sudan, or northeastern Nigeria) who established the constitutional monarchic system of government amongst the indigenous population he found. Other versions of the myth posit that Oduduwa was sent down by Olodumare, the Creator, to fashion the first human beings out of the clay soil of Ile-Ife. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yorubaland)

My focus lies in the history of Yoruba in Cuba. For those who are more interested in the history of Yorubaland, I can recommend you an article on http://www.yorubanation.org/Yoruba.htm.

The development of Santeria in Cuba

The sugar mill owners needed a huge number of labours to work on the plantations. Because of this, they started to bring an enormous number of African slaves to Cuba. Slavery trade began in Cuba already around 1515 but found its highest point in the first half of the 19th century, even if the Englishmen prohibited slavery trade in 1820. In Cuba, it took until 1886 for slavery to finally be abolished.

A group of slaves working and living together on the plantations never consisted of slaves from one single ethnic group. Slaves originating from the Bakongo region, the kingdom of Dahomey, Angola and from Yorubaland were mixed. The different cultures and languages were meant to keep them apart. But nevertheless it was impossible to separate them completely, and that is how slaves started to reconstruct their ancestral cultures and religions, in which dance and music played an important role. This reconstruction happened in their plantation barracks (Rodriguez, 1995:2-3).

Another important role in the development of Santeria were the CABILDOS. In first place, the role of these societies, which were allowed by the Spanish rulers and supervised by the Church, was to provide mutual aid and religious instruction, but also to meet slaves from the same ethnic group, like for example the LUKUMI. In Cuba Lukumi was the name given to all slaves coming from Yorubaland. It is derived from the way of greeting each other, saying OLUKU MI, which means “my friend” (Murphy, 1988:27). The Cabildos were under protection of the Catholic Church because the Spanish thought that this would maybe help to Christianize the slaves.

The Catholic feasts gave the slaves the opportunity to put their style of celebration into the public festivities. They played their music and danced the way they were used back in Yorubaland. The most Africanized religious festivity was the day of Epiphany, or dia de reyes. It became their special day because of the black king Melchior coming from Africa to adore Jesus on his birth. They saw the African presence in the Catholic religion and this made this feast day the most important for the Lukumi (Murphy, 1988:30).

The transformation of the Yoruba religion into Santeria

In Cuba syncretism happened. This means that elements of different religions are fused to a new religion in which you can still see the origins of the different elements. At the beginning, slaves had to hide their Orishas behind the picture of a Catholic Saint because they were supposed to be Catholics. Moreover they could only worship them on a catholic feast day. But soon they realized the similarities between their Orishas and the Saints, and so both religions were mixed and Santeria, or Regla de Ocha was born. In some cases this fusion was very superficial, and so it happened that some male Orishas have a female Saint as counterpart. This is the case for Chango, who became Santa Barbara. But Lukumi don’t see this as a problem, because of the fact that every Orisha has female as well as male attributes. They consider Santa Barbara as one aspect of Chango. Important for the choice to link both of them together was the red dress of Santa Barbara, and the fact that both are connected to thunder (Volkenandt, 5.3).

The Orishas

What is an Orisha? What is his role, and what are his main characteristics? I made a research about the familial relations between the different Orishas, and put them together in a family tree.

General information about Orishas

Yoruba believe that nature, or God, is the Supreme Being, called OLUDUMARE (Edwards & Mason, 1985:1). Oludumare had no time to involve himself in the affairs of men and that’s why he divided his power amongst his messengers, called ORISHAS. They are considered deities in the Yoruba pantheon. They are superior to men but inferior to God. Yoruba people use them as messengers and pray to them instead of directly to Oludumare.

The Orishas are parts of God, and every one of them rules upon one part of the Universe (Edwards & Mason, 1985:1). They personify the different forces of nature, like for example the wind, the ocean or thunder. An Orisha is not considered to be perfect. He has human characteristics, which are both, good and bad. These aspects are called CAMINOS, meaning roads. As already mentioned in the chapter about Santeria, each Orisha is linked to a Catholic Saint. This is due to the fact that during slavery time the Spaniards wanted to Christianize the slaves. Those hided their Orishas behind the faces of the Catholic Saints and kept on praying to them.

Furthermore every Orisha has his own rhythms, his specific objects, and favourite food and drinks as well as a special day, number and colour. There is a huge number of Orishas in Yorubaland. It is often said that there are 401 of them in Yorubaland, which is a mystic number symbolizing a multitude (de la Torre, 2004:45). In Cuba however, there are only around twenty-four Orishas left (Sobisch, 2004:187).

The Orishas can be divided into different groups: (Altmann, 2004:9-10) • TRES GUERREROS, three warriors: Eleggua, Ogun and Ochosi • ORISHAS DE FUNDAMENTO, fundamentals: Eleggua, Obatala, Chango, Yemaya and Ochun • SIETE POTENCIAS, seven powers: Eleggua, Ogun, Obatala, Chango, Yemaya, Ochun and Oya • ORISHAS FUNFUN, the white Orishas: Obatala, Oddudua, Ochosi, Ochun, Oricha Oko

Overview of main characteristics

In this section I put some of the characteristics of the Orishas in one table. Unfortunately there are some aspects missing. I could nowhere find information on those attributes.

Table 1: Overview of the Orishas

ELEGGUA Orisha of the crossroads St. Anthony – he carries a child Red & black
OGUN Orisha of metal and the war St. Peter – He holds a key of metal Black & light green
OCHOSI Hunter St. Norbert – He is a passionate hunter Blue & yellow
OBALOKE Orisha of the mountains St. Robert Unclear
INLE Fisherman St. Rafael – He has the ability to heal Green & white, green & yellow
BABALU AYE Orisha of illness St. Lazarus – He is a poor beggar who is starving Brown & black
OSAIN Orisha of plants and herbs St. Sylvester Lavender & black, Green & black
OSUN Unclear John the Baptist – He revealed like Osun a secret of a sexual relationship White, blue, yellow and red
OBATALA Orisha of peace and justice Lady of Mercy – She is like Obatala a very important Saint White
DADA Orisha of the gardens Lady of the Rosary Unclear
OGGUE Orisha of the cattle farm St. Blas Unclear
AGAYU Ferry boat driver St. Christopher – He is the Saint of travellers and ferried Christ across the river Red
IBEDYI Orishas of Good luck, childhood St. Cosmas & Damian – They are twins Red& white (male) Blue & white (female)
ORUNLA Orisha of the oracle St. Francis of Assisi – He is holding a rosary, which is compared to the divination chain Green & yellow
ORICHA OKO Orisha of agriculture St. Isidore – He is the patron of the farmers Lila & turquoise
CHANGO Orisha of fire, passion, thunder and drums St. Barbara – She is wearing a red dress, and linked to thunder Red & white
YEGUA Orisha over the cemetery, and of virginity Virgin of Mount Serrate Pink & violet
OYA Orisha of the wind and owner of fire Lady of Candlemas – Her feast is a feast of candles Brown, aubergine, dark red
OCHUN Orisha of the river and love Lady of Charity – She is the symbol of hope Gold, yellow
YEMAYA Orisha of the sea, and motherhood Lady of Regla – She is black and the patron of the Bay of La Habana Light blue & white
OBBA Orisha of fidelity St. Rita – Has like Obba a wound on the head, and also represents an ideal model for women Yellow & pink

ODDUDUA Part of Obatala St. Manuel White (Amira & Cornelius, 1992; en.wikipedia.org, de la Torre, 2004)

Unfortunately it was impossible to find all the information I needed for this table. That is why some colours are missing. Most of the books only tread the most important Orishas, and don’t write about minor ones like for example Obaloke.

Figure 2: Chango and Yemaya

Relations between the Orishas

It is important to notice that the Orishas are all related one to another I tried to make a small “family tree”.

Figure 3: Family Tree Older brother or sister MARRIED.

There are more familial relations between some of the Orishas. Sobisch (2004:189) writes that Chango and Ogun are brothers, and that Ochun and Yemaya are sisters. According to Cabrera (2001:14), Obaloke is the brother of Ochosi, who is at the same time the brother of Ogun.

CHANGO YEMAYA AGAYU OCHUN OR OYA IBEDYI DADA YEGGUA OBATALA OBBA (jealous first wife) OYA (mistress or second wife OCHUN (favourite wife) ORUNLA

I will discuss the family of Eleggua in detail in the chapter called ELEGGUA. I got all those information by reading different PATAKIS (Amira & Cornelius, 1992; Cabrera & Tarafa, 2001). A Pataki is a legend about the relationship between different Orishas, or between Orishas and humans. Some have their origins in Africa and others originate in Cuba. They are mostly transmitted orally, which is the reason why you always find different versions of one particular legend. For believers, it is not important if those stories really happened. They should also never been taken literally. The purpose of these stories is to provide guidance and practical help for believers in the here and now (de la Torre, 2004:57).

The different parts of a ceremony

Amira writes in his book “The Music of Santeria” (1992:21), that GUEMILERE, or TOQUE DE SANTO are held for different reasons: It is held to celebrate the sacred day of an Orisha, to celebrate the anniversary of an individual’s initiation into Santeria (often called a birthday party), to honour the Orisha of one’s elder in the religion, to express gratitude to an Orisha for a special benefaction that has already be granted or to tribute the Orisha in anticipation of some future benevolence. The ceremony has different sections. Mostly four parts can be differed: ORU SECO, ORU CANTADO, IBAN BALO and CIERRE. Below you find a description of every part.

Oru Seco

The ORU SECO is the first section in a tambor or güemilere, and its real name is ORU DEL IGBODU. In the ancient land of the Yoruba Igbodu was the place where priests received the oracle. In Cuba it is the area or room in the house set aside as the shrine for the Orisha and used during a ceremony (Pryor, 1997:15). In the Oru seco there is no singing (seco means dry in Spanish). Some people say that the Bata drums themselves are speaking (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:22). This part of the ceremony is not accessible for everybody. There are 24 salutes to the Orishas. The order in which the salutes are played does not differ a lot from one tambor to the other. The Orisha for whom the toque is held is taken out of the normal order and saluted last (Mason, 1992:20).

Mostly the following order is played: Eleggua, Ogun, Ochosi, Obaloke, Inle, Babalu Aye, Osain, Osun, Obatala, Dada, Oggue, Agayu, Orunla, Oricha Oko, Ibedyi, Chango, Yegua, Oya, Ochun, Yemaya, Obba, Oddudua (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:23). John Mason and Fernando Ortiz list Ibedyi before Oricha Oko. Because the salutes are played directly to the Orishas some drummers consider it to be the most important part of a music ceremony. (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:21)

Oru Cantado

The Oru Seco is followed by the second part, called ORU DEL EYA ARANLA, which means “ceremony in the main room” (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:21). In this part eveybody can join. The lead singer, called the AKPWON, leads this section of the ceremony. All the participants together build the chorus, or ANKORI. This musical form, where lead singer and chorus take turns, is called “antiphonal”. The Akpwon starts with a prayer that is immediately followed by a call of the Iya player. Then the Itotele and Okonkolo enter. Like in the Oru seco every Orisha is saluted in a more or less fixed order. The rhythms, which are played in the Oru Cantado, are sometimes the same as in the Oru Seco.

In one of his articles Thomas Altmann (2005:4) gives the following order: Eleggua, Ogun, Ochosi, Oricha Oko, Inle, Babalu Aye, Osain, Obatala, Oddudua, Dada, Obaloke, Aggayu, Ibedyi, Chango, Obba, Yegua, Oya, Yemaya, Ochun, Orunla.

Here, the Orisha for whom the party is held is not saluted in the normal order but again put last (Altmann, 2005:5). Once again, this order is not always respected, but there are only few changes.

Iban Balo

This section is the longest and a relatively free part of the toque de santo. It is sometimes referred to as a FIESTA, meaning party in Spanish. If people get possessed by Orishas, it happens during this part of the ceremony. It is the lead singer who is leading the Iban Balo by choosing the right songs in order to provoke the appearance of the Orishas. This part is really open, so it is impossible to write some kind of an order down.


The last part of a religious ceremony is again more structured. Cierre means ending of the ceremony. It starts again with a seco part, where he ancestors, or EGGUN, and Orishas connected to the death are saluted. After this, several toques for their corresponding Orishas are played. Eggun, Oya, Babalu Aye, Osain, Yegua and Yemaya. Thomas Altmann (2005:6) puts Yegua before Osain. During the toque played for Yemaya, a person initiated to Yemaya flings a bucket of water to clean the room spiritually. After this the bucket is carried to the street, where it is expelled of its contents, presumably including the spiritual energies from the evening’s events. The toque ends when the bucket is placed up side down in front of the drummers. With this sign, the seco part of the Cierre is finished.

The first part of the Cierre is followed by songs for Eleggua. The Bata drums first play LA TOPA. Then they play SALIDA, meaning exit, where some other songs for Eleggua, but also for Olokun are sung (personal communication, Pedrito Martinez, April 2006).

Eleggua is honored at the beginning and end of all ceremonies. This ensures his blessings upon the event and guarantees that normal order is restored, allowing the participants to safely return to their homes at the evening’s conclusion. This sequence of events ensures that the Orishas end their possessions (Schweitzer, 2003:33). The very last moment of a ceremony is a short sign, FINAL, played by the Bata drums, marking the end of the ceremony.

The Bata drums

This chapter is focussing on the Bata drums. You will find information on their origin, their construction and their language. Furthermore I discuss the difference between sacred and non-sacred drums.

Their origin

The Bata drums came with the slaves from Yorubaland, which today is Southwest Nigeria. (www.batadrums.com). They developed about 500 to 800 years ago. They were the official drums of CHANGO, who was both a real king in Yoruba history and the deity, or Orisha. They announced his arrival, accompanied his dance and military campaigns (www.batadrums.com).

It is unclear where and when they were first introduced. There are different stories, but analysing all of them would really go beyond the scope of this work. For detailed information you can read the article on www.batadrums.com/background/yoruba.htm

Their names and their role in the music

Bata drums are always played in a set of three drums. The biggest drum with the lowest sound is called IYA, which means mother in Yoruba. The middle drum is the ITOTELE. This word is build out of different syllables: • I = stands for action • Toto = completely • Tele = to follow, respond (Pryor, 1997:11)

The second drum in some Yoruba drum ensembles (although strangely not bata) is referred to as atele, meaning “the one that follows” or “the successor”. The second drum in the Nigerian bata ensemble is called omele abo (female accompanying drum). When I say the word itotele to refer to the Cuban drum, my Nigerian research participants have said this comes from atele, so it is not my own ethic analysis (Amanda Vincent, personal note on February 11th 2006).

The smallest drum with the highest sound is the OKONKOLO. The author of the CD-booklet of I am Time says that this name comes from “Konkoto”, which means the god, or toy, of children (1997:11). During my research nobody could confirm me this. So I would not call is an official translation. The Bata drums stand in familial relation to each other. Iya is, as noted before, the mother. The Okonkolo is the son of the Iya. Concerning the Itotele, people gave me two different answers. Some call this drum the father, and some the second son (Martinez and Amira, personal communication, April 2006).

Each of the drums plays a special role in the music of Santeria. The master drummer plays the Iya, because this instrument leads the rest of the ensemble and has the longest and most complex rhythms. The master drummer has the most freedom to play variations and it is him who makes all the calls (llamadas) to the Itotele (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:15). The Itotele must make the difference between simple variations of the Iya, where it does not need respond, and calls that need to be answered. So the Itotele player really has to know the language of the Iya to be able to hear the calls. The Okonkolo is the timekeeper. Its rhythmical patterns, emphasize the main metric pulse, are the least complex of the ensemble. The Okonkolo player is hardly free to do any variations (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:15).


General Appearance

The Bata drums are double-headed and have an hourglass form that is carved out of solid wood. In Cuba they use cedar or sometimes mahogany wood. The drums are played with two hands at the same time. Because of the fact that the Bata drum is a symbol of unity, the shell should ideally be constructed by hollowing out a single piece of wood (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:15).

Further, Amira (1992) writes that the Bata drums belong to Chango, the God of thunder. Their shape is said to represent Chango’s thunder axe (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:15).

The three drums differ in sizes and pitches. Also the two skins of a drum are, because of the shape of the drum, different in sizes. The larger drumhead from each Bata is called ENU or BOCA (mouth) and the smaller one CHACHA (butt). The skins are of male goat or deer leather and are nowadays almost always fixed and tuned with the tuning system we know from the Congas. Before the introduction of this system and for the construction of the sacred Bata drums, ropes are used to fix the skins.

A wax-like substance is put on the Enus of the Iya and the Itotele to give it a deeper and duller sound. This substance is called IDA or FADELA. It is traditionally made out of herbs and blood (Pryor, 1997:11).

What makes the Iya special are the two belts with bells attached near the heads. Those bells are called CHAWORO. They ring whenever a tone is produced on the drum. Occasionally the Iya player also shakes the drum lo let them ring. Sometimes, Chaworo are linked to Ochun, goddess of the rivers and one of Chango’s many wives (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:16).

Figure 4: the Bata Drums Bata set with Chaworo and Traditional set of Bata from Havana the modern tuning system

Differences between two different sets of Bata drums

There are two different drum sets: the baptized drums, that have fundamento de santo, or aña, called also ILU ANA, and the unbaptized drums called ABERIKULA (not initiated). The big difference probably is that aberikula drums cannot be used in religious ceremonies. There, only initiated Bata can be played. During their construction they have had a religious surrounding. Sacred drums, for example, must be made out of material that was once living, like wood, skin and rope. Therefore the skins are tuned with ropes and not with the modern tuning system out of metal. According to Amira some people say that there is a second reason why ropes are used to tune. Ogun, the God of metal, is an enemy of Chango. That is why his drums shouldn’t be constructed out of metal. However this theory is not universally accepted (Amira & Cornelius, 1992:16).

The only metal used on sacred Bata drums is a ring on the cha-cha side of each Bata. It is used to hang the drums when they are not played. Bata drums should never be dropped on the floor, and one should not sit on or walk over them (Mason, 1992:11).

Not everybody is allowed to touch or play them because Batas having the fundamento, are treated as living creatures. During their baptism, a mystery, called ANA or AYAN was put inside the drums. Aña comes, according to Thomas Altmann (2003:2), from the African name of the tree Ayan. In Nigeria the Batas are built out of this wood. This tree is holy and dedicated to Chango, who is said to have hanged himself on that tree (Altmann, 2003:3). Aña, which is considered an Orisha, prefers the Iya to live in (Rodriguez, 1995:5). There is a discussion about whether Aña is female or male. In Cuba there is no doubt that Aña is a man, but according to John Mason (1992:6) it is a female Orisha. There is a second debate between Mason writing that Aña is the patron of the Bata drummers (1992:6), and Altmann saying that this is not Aña but Chango (2003:4).

People can be initiated into Aña and receive the spiritual power that allows them to be able to play the sacred drums during religious ceremonies (Corrales, 2000). These drummers are then called OMO-ANA, son of Aña. Women and homosexuals are however never allowed to play the sacred drums.

Their Language

Fernando Ortiz writes as follows (Pryor, 1997:11): The three Bata “hablan lengua” (speak tongue), using the tonal values characteristic of the languages spoken in the African towns from which the slaves were brought to Cuba. The Bata express themselves in Lucumi language, and their notes, like syllables, taken from the vibrating skins of the drums, come out, in order like sounds in a series, to form the words.

There are rhythms, or toques, where the Bata “say” exactly the same as the songs. Some examples:

Abukenke for Eleggua,
Oyokota for Babalu Aye
Cheke Cheke for Oshun
Iye Iyekua for Oya

(listen to examples on CD) Here, as an example, the lyrics for Oyokota played for Babalu Aye. You can clearly hear the lyrics, even if there is only drumming on the recording.

Oyo kota
Oyo kota
Oyo kota
O wanile
O wanile

The six skins of the drums can perfectly imitate the tonal Yoruba language. Yoruba speakers have three basic pitches and glide between them. Depending on the pitch, one word can have many different meanings. This is also the way the Bata talk.

In 1969 Darius Thieme wrote in his dissertation: In the majority of the cases, low linguistic tones are played by the large membrane of one or two (Iya and Itotele) drums, mid tones by a combination of large and small membranes of both drums (tones and slaps), and high tones by one or both small membranes. Muffled tones are used to imitate the slide. They are half a tone higher than the open sound. The conversation seems to be mostly between the enus of Iya and Itotele (www.batadrums.com).


This is the chapter focusing on Eleggua, the Orisha of the crossroads. You will get information on the myth around him, as well as on his main characteristics. Later I make a comparison between him and Legba of the Vodou tradition.

Short resume of his main characteristics

Table 2: Characteristics of Eleggua

  • Colours: Red and black
  • Number: 3 and 21
  • Day: Monday
  • Catholic saint: St. Anthony of Padua
  • Symbol: a cement or sandstone head with eyes and mouth formed of seashells

-Accessory: Whistle and a hooked staff painted red and black

  • Field of Power: He is the messenger, the trickster, and guardian of the crossroads
  • Patron: Eleggua is Patron of doorways, messengers, tricksters and justice
  • Personal Characteristics: Playful, clever, childlike
  • Eleggua belongs to the three warriors.
  • He can be compared to Eshu (Nigeria), Exu (Brazil), or Legba (Haiti).

Because of his funcion you can also compare Eleggua with the Greek Hermes, or the Roman Mercury.

Figure 5: Eleggua


In Nigeria every City belongs to one single Orisha. The origin of Eleggua lies in the Yoruba city of Ketu (de la Torre, 2004:59).


There are different stories concerning the parents of Eleggua. Miguel de la Torre mentions three possibilities in his book Santeria (2004). It could be that Oya is his mother. In this case it is not clear who the father is, because Oya was married to Ogun, but she also was the mistress of Chango (de la Torre, 2004:59). Gary Edwards and John Mason, too, wrote (1985:12) about Oya being the mother of Eleggua. Another myth says that Eleggua is the son of Obatala and Yemmu and the brother of Ogun and Orunla (de la Torre, 2004:59). The third story says that Eleggua was the first Orisha created by Olofi (de la Torre, 2004:59). Sure is that he is the only male Orisha not linked sexually to any female. He also has no children.


Even if Eleggua is the youngest of the Orishas, he is, after Obatala, the most powerful. In every ceremony he must be worshipped and fed first. This can be explained by the following mtyh: Oludumare was sick and in bed. All the Orishas were gathered around, and one by one they attempted to cure him. But they all failed. Suddenly Eleggua appeared and offered to try to bring around a healing. The other Orishas were perturbed that one of the smallest and youngest among them would have the gall to try what they had failed to do. Yet Eleggua succeeded. To thank him, Olodumare made him the first Orisha to be honoured in every ceremony, (…) (de la Torre, Santeria, 2004:61).

Yoruba believe that, if he is not appeased first, he will confuse the ceremony and prevent the offering from reaching the Orishas. He is the divine trickster and does what he wants without restriction. He asked this privilege to Olodumare after having eaten the mice that threatened him (de la Torre, Santeria, 2004:60).

There is one famous story about Eleggua as a trickster (Iles, 2000): Eleggua was walking between two old friends, wearing a tall hat, which was white on one side and red on the other. Later the friends talked about that mysterious man with the hat, and a fight about the colour of the hat began. At that point Eleggua appeared and showed them his two-coloured hat. He was delighted to see that two best friends could fight about something as ridiculous as the colour of a hat and ruining their friendship like that.


Eleggua is an old man and a child at the same time. He is an endless wanderer who is often disguised as a beggar or a crazy person. Eleggua lives in the streets and eats rats. Because he is always carrying a club he is called the club bearer. The club is a symbol for Eleggua being a man and for being the warrior with the strongest power. He has long painted hair, which is a sign of strength. In traditional sculptures it has sometimes the shape of a penis (Edwards & Mason, 1985:11- 12).

His role

In Yoruba his name literally means “messenger of the gods” (de la Torre, 2004:59). This is also his role in the Pantheon. He is the messenger between God, the Orishas and men. He wears a magic wand, which allows him to travel the roads of God (Edwards & Mason, 1985:9).

Eleggua offers choices and is therefore the guardian of the crossroads, marketplaces, the thresholds of houses, and the streets curves (Edwards & Mason, 1985:9). All these locations offer choices and are therefore symbolic for his role in nature. He offers the options that decide our future (Edwards & Mason, 1985:8). He is also the divine trickster (…) [who] allows man to have many options, deceives him into making unfortunate mistakes, (…) and then sits back as an unofficial observer as man stumbles onto the right or wrong path (Edwards & Mason, 1985:9).


Eleggua has twenty-one different roads. It is important to make the distinction between Eshu and Eleggua. These are both names given to the same Orisha, but Eshu is the wild and uncontrollable side, and must be kept out of the house, whereas Eleggua is a side that has been calmed down (Edwards & Mason, 1985:8).

St. Anthony of Padua

Eleggua is linked to the Catholic Saint named St. Anthony of Padua, who was born in the 13th century in Lisbon, and died in Padua, Italy. He is one of the most beloved Saints in Catholic Church. On pictures you always see him carrying the Child Jesus and holding a lily. People make the connection between him and Eleggua because Eleggua often acts and looks like a child (de la Torre, 2004:62).


Figure 6: the sign for Legba

Introduction to Vodou

Before I can start writing about Legba in Vodou, it is important to know some basic characteristics about the Haitian religion. VODOU evolved from the word VODU, which means God or spirit, originally used by the Fon-speaking people of Benin (Armstrong & Knepper, 2002:18).

The main difference between Vodou and Santeria is the fact that not only one single ethnic group has influenced Vodou. It has influences of Nigerian, Congo and the Dahomey regions as well as a part developed in Haiti. It is important to understand the meaning of the word NANCHON. A Nanchon is a group of Vodou deities, called LWAS. These families are linked to the group of slaves coming from a particular region of Africa. There are two main Nanchons: the RADA derived from the word Arada, the name of a kingdom of Dahomey, and PETRO. The Petro Nanchon has his roots in Haiti. It got its name from a mythological character, Dom Pedro, a maroon rebellion leader (Desmangles, 1992). Some people name a third Nanchon, which they call CONGO, obviously brought to Haiti by slaves coming from the Bakongo region in West Africa (Desmangles, 1992:94-95).

Each Nanchon has its own musical characteristics and instruments. Many of the RADA lwas have Petro (…) counterparts. (…) The personalities of these RADA lwas become inverted in the PETRO Nanchon (Desmangles, 1992:95).

In general you can say that the lwas of the Rada Nanchon are more calm and controlled than the ones of the Petro. The Petro section is a really heavy part, which you could compare to the Cuban Palo (Amira, private lesson, April 3rd 2006). I will show these differences later while talking extensionally about LEGBA.

The Vodou ceremony

A Vodou ceremony is, because of the different traditions, also divided in different parts. Before the actual beginning, the members of the society, or LA FAMILLE, are called together.

The first prayers are mostly in French, Latin or Creole. In those prayers, people talk to the lwas by calling them by the names of their corresponding Saints. After each Saint has been saluted, the same sequence of prayers is repeated, but this time, they call the lwas by their African or Creole names. The drums do a roll for every new law. Now the actual ceremony can start. As already noted before, the ceremony has several parts. In each part, every lwa will be saluted. The order of the salutes stays the same through the whole ceremony.

The first section is the Rada part. It has three main rhythms: YANVALOU, MAHI and ZEPOL. For each lwa one cycle is played, which mainly consists of two Yanvalous followed by either one Zepol or one Mahi. Before the Petro section, which is the second main part of the ceremony, the lwas of the NAGO, IBO AND CONGO Nanchons are shortly saluted (Amira, private lesson, April 3rd 2006).

To get more details about the Vodou religion, I can recommend you the book The Faces of the Gods by Leslie G. Desmangles. I will not go into more detail, because this work has a musical focus, and not a religious one.

Musical differences between VODOU and SANTERIA

The most obvious differenence between Vodou and Santeria is the lack of the Bata drums. Haitian uses different ensembles of drums, called Batteries, the French word for drums. There are differences between the Rada and Petro batteries. In the Rada section you have three drums, in Petro you only find two (Armstrong & Knepper, 2002:24).

The Rada ensemble resembles a bit the Bata drums. There is the small drum, called BOULA, which is played with two sticks, and which keeps a main, simple pattern. This can be compared to the role of the OKONKOLO. The SECONDE is the middle pitched drum. It is more flexible in its playing, and needs to respond to calls of the lead drum. This drum is played with two hands, two sticks or with only one curved stick, which is called ADJIDA. Again you can see the parallels with the ITOTELE.

The lead drum is called MAMAN, which is French and means mother. You play it with one stick having the form of a hammer, called BAGET, which means stick in French. Just as the IYA player, the MAMAN player gives the calls to change from one rhythm to another and is communicating with the dancers (Armstrong & Knepper, 2002:24).

A second main difference between Vodou and Santeria is that there are only very few rhythms that belong to a specific lwa. There is no part like the Oru del Igbodu in the Vodou ceremony, where all the deities are saluted with their own toques. Ogou, Guede and Cousin belong to the few lwas that have their own toques. For LEGBA in Rada, you can play all of the three main rhythms. Which one you chose depends on the songs (Amira, private lesson, april 3rd 2006). A last characteristic that you find in a Vodou ceremony is the CASSÉ, or break in English. This musical figure is played to change from one rhythm to another. You play it between two different Yanvalous. If you change from Yanvalou to Zepol or Mahi, you use the call for that particular rhythm instead of the break. The break changes the energy of the rhythm very suddenly and therefore causes a fast possession of a member of the society.

Just as in Vodou, they have in Santeria a key that leads to possession, called the Puyas. This is a song where an Orisha is attacked and provoked to come down. But the reason for the possession lies in the lyrics where as in Vodou the key is a rhythmical phrase (Amira, private lesson, april 3rd 2006). 5.9.4 Aspects of Legba

The people having Fon roots identify the light of the sun with the creative power of Legba. That is why in Haitian ceremonies fire is often lit for Legba. In prayers addressed to him you find words like Cleronde, circle of brightness, or Kataroulo, meaning the four wheels of the sun’s chariot. In Vodou the light of the sun is a regenerative life force.

Legba is the patron of the universe, the link between God and the universe, the chord that connects the universe to its origin. Bondye (God almighty in Vodou) fashioned the universe; Legba has nurtured it, has fostered its growth, and has sustained it (Desmangles, 1992:108). As Eleggua in Santeria, Legba is the lwa of the crossroads, known then as Gran Chemin, which is derived from French for big road (Desmangles, 1992:109). Met Kafou is his reflection in the Petro Nanchon. While Legba in Rada is the source of life, Met Kafou is a trickster and destroyer of life (Desmangles, 1992:110). In Rada, he is an old and serious man, smoking a pipe and carrying a sack. In Petro you can see his childish side. Furthermore he is, like Eleggua, the messenger between the different lwas, as well as between lwas and humans.

As Yoruba and Fon, Vodousiants know Legba as the cosmic phallus. He is asked in matters of sex. The cane he is leaning on while walking, called baton Legba, represents his phallus, the source of life (Desmangles, 1992:108-109). Legba is also sometimes compared to a policeman, because he keeps the keys to the sacred world, known in Vodou as Vilokan. He controls the order in which the lwas come down like the policeman controlling the traffic on the crossroads (Desmangles, 1992:108-109). Because of this, Legba is identified with St. Peter, who holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Catholic religion.

Toques y Cantos

In this chapter I am focussing on the different grooves and songs that are played for Eleggua. First you will find general information on different kinds of grooves and songs. After this come transcriptions and explanations of songs and grooves that can be played for Eleggua.

Toques (rhythms)

There are rhythms that can only be played for one particular Orisha. Those rhythms belong to them. But furthermore, you have many toques that can be played for a large number of Orishas, or even for all of them. The Bata drums have to follow the songs chosen by the akpwon and play the rhythm that fits. • The toques that belong to the Orishas are mainly played in the Oru del Igbodu. They represent the Orishas. Ex. La Topa for Eleggua. • Generic toques are the grooves that are played to accompany the songs in the Oru Cantado • The toques especiales, the special rhythms, are only played in combination with special songs. They are an exact copy of them. Ex. Iye iyekua for Oya, Cheke cheke for Oshun. • Rumbitas are also often called party toques. These are two bar dance rhythms that are played for the enjoyment of the Orishas. They can be played for every Orisha. Nowadays many of these rhythms are used in jazz, fusion or salsa music. Ex. Ñongo, Chachalokafu.

Cantos (songs)

There exist several types of songs in the Santeria. There are more than thousand different cantos, which are all sung in Yoruba, mixed with some Spanish words. There are three kinds of cantos: • Cantos are just normal songs. • Rezos are prayers, which are normally sung freely in tempo. • Puyas are songs in which the Orishas are provoked and made angry so that they come down to earth. Cantos are organised in a kind of medleys, which are called secuencias, the Spanish word for sequences. These are more or less traditionally fixed, but there are always some minor changes. Sequences that are meant to lead to trance are called tratados. Here the musical intensity is increasing from the beginning to the end and the songs are getting shorter and shorter (Altmann, 2003:5).

Together with the dance, toques and cantos build a unity. Only when these three elements are given, the circle is closed.

In this last section of my thesis I made a short analysis of some secuencias from artists that, for me, are especially meaningful. You will not find all the songs that can be sung for Eleggua. There exist just too many and what I wanted to show are some different orders of songs that all match with the same grooves. Some songs are used in more than one secuencia, but are for example followed by different songs.

In the Toque section you will find the main grooves played for Eleggua. I only wrote down the most basic form, because that is the first to be learnt. Only if you can play the basics you will be able to understand and play variations and conversations.

Analyses of the major toques

La Topa

This groove is belonging to Eleggua, and is played as well in the Oru Seco, the Oru Cantado and in the Cierre. La Topa has four different parts. Some people consider the part that I call the second conversation as a part on its own. In the Cierre only the first part is played.

La Topa is, like Eleggua, very tricky. Often musicians can get very stressed with this toque, which leads them sometimes even to stop learning the Bata. The most difficult part of this toque is the entrance. Once everybody enters in the correct way, La Topa is not the most difficult toque. Very often the call of the Iya i s misunderstood. The most common mistake is to hear the first slap of the Iya as first beat.

Mainly, when played, the first part of La Topa is the longest. It has the most songs that match this groove. Furthermore there are two traditional conversations in this part, and none in the other three parts of La Topa. Sometimes the first transition I transcribed is left out, and the Iya player switches to the second part only by playing a loud slap on the second beat of the second bar of his pattern (second bar is played then like bar 13 of the transcription). The parts two and four are toques especiales and are always played with the same songs, called Ago Eleggua abukenke and Abukenke. You will find them transcribed in the cantos section (cantos para eleggua 1: 4&5). In the oru cantado the third part, which is the only one in a 4/4 bar, is left out.

In this part the Okonkolo has to switch from its most common pattern, referred to as ki-la, to a pattern that clearly marks the 4/4 time signature. In the last part it changes again back to ki-la.

In all of the four sections you can observe the interplay between the Cha Cha of the Iya, and the Enu of the Itotele. You can find this normally in every groove. This is also the reason why the Itotele player is always sit on the left side of the Iya. Like this, the Cha Cha of the Iya, and the Enu of the Itotele are side by side. What is also important to notice is the left hand of the Itotele. Playing slaps that are situated on the second and fifth eight notes is a common pattern for the Itotele, and works, like the ki-la of the Okonkolo as a timekeeper.

La Lubanche

La Lubanche is another groove that can only be played for Eleggua. It is played and sung in the Oru Cantado. There it is played right before La Topa. In fact it is the first groove played in the second part of the ceremony. The songs that are sung with this groove are prayers, called rezos. Mostly only Bara suayo is sung. You can find it transcribed in cantos para eleggua 3: 1, as well as Ago a chureo (cantos para eleggua 3: 2) which is another rezo. La Lubanche is a really slow groove.

The Okonkolo is sticking, like in La Topa, to the ki-la pattern. It has a very clear 6/8 feel. As always it enters with the open sound in the right hand. In Cuba, the Bata drummers always enter their pattern with the right hand and never with the slap of the left hand, even if it marks the beat. The Itotele plays a really straight groove that has in fact a 3/4 feel and marking every beat, and not like usual the offbeat. Itotele together with Okonkolo produce this very typical mixture of time signature.

The basic pattern of the Iya drum is really open. It leaves a lot of space for individual embellishment. This pattern has in fact also more a 3/4 than a 6/8 feel. This toque also shows very clearly the connection between the drums and the dance. The steps of the dancer fall exactly with the accents played by the Iya.


Ñongo belongs to the group of the Rumbitas, and can accompany hundreds of songs. It is a two-bar groove, which is not as simple as it may appear. As for all the other grooves, I only transcribed the basic groove. For Ñongo, as for all the Rumbitas, there are a lot of variations. Especially with these grooves people use to create their own conversations, and so it is impossible to get to know all of them. In Ñongo you find again the same timekeeping pattern of the Okonkolo and the Cha Cha of the Itotele like in La Topa.

The Enus of Itotele and Iya represent the melody of the groove. This melody has a part that produces tension (Iya) and one, who is resolving this tension (Itotele).


This groove that is belonging to the group of the Rumbitas is probably one of the best-known Bata groove. It can be played for every Orisha, and just like Ñongo, there are a huge number of songs that go with it. You find Chachalokafu also in many Latin Jazz tunes. This groove is played very fast, even sometimes too fast. Just as Ñongo, people invent their own conversations and variations for this two-bar groove. It exist some traditional conversations, but the number of conversations that are new inventions is huge. Furthermore the feel of Chachalokafu can change a lot from one group to another. Mostly it is played in a binary feel. But you can also find groups that interpret it in a ternary feel.

Again, I only wrote down the basic form. For the Okonkolo this straight pattern is the basic. Chachalokafu is however one of the few grooves where the Okonkolo player can play variations. In those variations, he is not playing anymore on, but around the beat. The basic pattern of the Iya is very open. The player has a lot of freedom do to variations. Chachalokafu and Ñongo are mostly on the end of one tratado. Once you arrived there, there is no way to go back. They built in combination with very short songs the climax of a tratado.


Teremina is a two-bar groove in 6/8. This groove is in fact played for Ochosi in the Oru Cantado. In this context it is often called Rumba Ochosi. When played for Eleggua, it always goes together with the song Teremina, and that is the reason why, for Eleggua, people call it Teremina. You will find the song Teremina in cantos para eleggua 3: 12. As you see, the Itotele is not playing the offbeat slaps, but accentuating the beat. The Okonkolo is also not playing ki-la like in the other 6/8 grooves, but changed to a pattern that gives a bit of a double tempo feel.

Analyzing the slaps of the Iya and the open sounds of the Itotele, you can see, that, except for the first beat of the second bar, the two sounds of the two drums fall together.


Salida is a groove that is played in the Cierre after the seco part, and after La Topa. Songs for both, Eleggua and Olokun, are sung while the Bata drums play this groove. These songs are transcribed in cantos cierre, starting in the coro of number 4 and continuing until the end. The Okonkolo part is the same as the Itotele pattern for Yegua. Also it is almost the same as the Okonkolo pattern for Ochosi. The only difference is, that there, the pattern starts on the second part of the pattern. The whole groove is very straight and in a strong 4/4 feel.

The conversation, which I also wrote down, is fitting, like all the other traditional conversations, perfectly with the songs.


(see examples)


Santeria is the most spread religion in Cuba. What is special about this religion, which came to Cuba with the African slaves, is that you have elements of both, African and Christian religion that fused into one. Often, the Cubans call their Gods, or Orishas, by the name of their Christian Saints. One should not be surprised by seeing pictures of Santa Barbara or of Our Lady of Mercy on a Santeria altar. They linked both religions perfectly. This is called syncretism. It was however really difficult to find all the links between the Orishas and the corresponding Saints. The reason why some information is missing is because sometimes the link is really superficial, or people just simply don’t know them. I also could not find all the information in books, because they mostly treat only the most important Orishas, belonging to the Siete Potencias.

I found out that there are many differences in spelling the names of the Orishas, but also for all the other Yoruban words. Some use the names from the Gods how they are spelt in Nigeria, and some spell it with a big American influence. I just chose for one way of writing and kept it the same in my whole thesis. I wanted to add a chapter on the sections of the ceremony in my thesis in order to let see the musical order of events. The Oru del Igbodu is a very important part, because there is only drumming. One believes that the drums are talking. I must conclude that there is, except for the third part, an order in which the rhythms and songs are played. This order is fixed traditionally, and my research found out that everybody uses more or less the same order, because all my teachers showed the same order.

Next follows a chapter that treats the Bata drums. I was always amazed by the way of communication through the Bata. But through this thesis I learned even more about the whole language the drums use. I decided to add a CD to my thesis, to illustrate those stories, told by the Bata. In my opinion you cannot only read about music; you have to listen to it and to feel it. The best way to really get into the world of Bata drumming is to go to a live performance, because there, the whole concept of the language of the drums becomes very clear. Soon, I realized that those are hard to find anywhere in Europe. This was one of the reasons why I decided to go to New York, in order to stretch out my research about this subject and to get as much information as possible.

But also in New York, people sometimes give you different answers on one question. Nobody really speaks or understands the Yoruban language anymore, which is the reason why almost nobody could help me finding a translation for the names of the drums. I also found out two different familial relationships between the drums. Some people say that the Itotele is the father, but others say that he is the second son of the Iya.

The main chapter of this work is dedicated to Eleggua, the Orisha of the crossroads. Here a short summary of those facts that I believe to be most important.

Who is he?

He is sometimes a child, but can also be an old man leaning on a club. Eleggua is a trickster, but not devil. He should always be honoured first to make sure that a ceremony turns out well. Because if Eleggua is not happy, this can have serious consequences for humans. This makes him to one of the most important Orishas. But a ceremony does not only start with Eleggua but also ends with him. So Eleggua is the beginning and the end. In New York I met John Amira, expert in both Santeria and Vodou. With him I discussed the similarities between Eleggua and Legba. But he also showed me the music of Vodou, which of course interested me even more. What I found out is, that the drum ensemble of the Rada section is working quite the same than the Bata drums. The musical role of the drums is exactly the same. The big drums of the two music styles, which are both called “mother”, are leading the drum ensemble, and the two small drums are working as timekeeper.

But there are also many differences between those two music styles, like for example the fact that there are almost no rhythms in Vodou that belong to the Gods.

In Santeria however you have grooves like La Topa, La Lubanche and Salida which are belonging to Eleggua and which can also only be played for him. In the last section of my work I transcribed and analyzed those rhythms, and some other major grooves where you find songs for Eleggua. I really believe however, that you can never learn how to play the Bata drums with a book. If you want to play those drums, you should get a teacher, and listen a lot to this music. This music is a living language, and the feeling of it cannot be written down. I put these grooves to make my work complete. I think that the transcriptions should be understood more like a part of the research and not as a manual on how to play the Bata drums.

I hope that, by reading my thesis, you got to know the world of the music of Santeria a bit better. If you really want to know more about the religion or the Bata drumming, I believe that you should forget the books and go to Cuba or New York and get in touch with this mystic world.


  • ABERIKULA: the not baptized Bata drums
  • ADJIDA: curved stick with whom you play on the Seconde
  • AKPWON: the lead singer in a ceremony
  • AÑA: the soul that inhabits the ritual Bata drums
  • ANKORI: the choir in a ceremony
  • BAGET: the stick, which looks like a hammer and with whom you play on the Maman
  • BASS: the sound that you produce when you hit the drum with the palm of the hand
  • BATTERIE: the name for the Vodou drum ensemble
  • BOCA: the big skin of a Bata drum, different word for enu
  • BONDYE: god almighty in Vodou
  • BOULA: the highest drum in the Rada tradition
  • CABILDO: a social club in Cuba, serving as mutual aid
  • CAMINO: an aspect of an Orisha
  • CANTO: a song
  • CASSE: the break used in Vodou to change to another rhythm and to provoke possession
  • CHACHA: the small skin of a Bata drum
  • CHACHA a groove that can be played for almost every Orisha
  • LOKAFU: this groove belongs to the group of Rumbitas
  • CHAWORO: the bells fixed on the Iya
  • CIERRE: the last part of a Bata ceremony
  • DIA DE REYES: January 6th, most important feast day for Lukumi
  • EGGUN: the death
  • ENU: see Boca
  • ESHU: the wild part of Eleggua
  • EXU: the name for Eleggua in Brasil
  • FADELA: the wax-like substance you put on the skin of the Iya to make the sound deeper; also called Ida
  • FAMILLE: the name for the society in the Vodou tradition
  • FINAL: the phrase played by the Bata drums to end a ceremony
  • FON: Name given to people coming from Benin and Dahomey
  • GRAN CHEMIN: one aspect of Legba
  • GUEMILERE: the name for a Bata ceremony
  • GUERREROS: the warriors: Eleggua, Ogun and Ochosi
  • HERMES: Greek messenger God
  • IBAN BALO: the party part of a Bata ceremony
  • IDA: see Fadela
  • ILU AÑA: the sacred Bata drums
  • ITOTELE: the second biggest Bata drum
  • IYA: the biggest Bata drum
  • IYESA: a groove that can be played for almost every Orisha. This groove belongs to the group of Rumbitas
  • KETU: the Nigerian city, where Eleggua is worshipped
  • LA LUBANCHE: one groove played for Eleggua
  • LA TOPA: one groove played for Eleggua
  • LLAMADA: Spanish word for a call played from the Iya
  • LUKUMI: the name given to the slaves coming from the Yorubaland
  • LWA: the Orishas in the Vodou tradition
  • MAHI: a groove from the Rada section
  • MAMAN: the biggest drum from the Rada ensemble
  • MERCURY: Roman messenger God
  • MET KAFOU: one aspect of Legba
  • MUFFLED: the dampened sound produced when you leave the fingers pressed on the skin.
  • NANCHON: a group of Lwas, all coming from one region
  • ÑONGO: a groove that can be played for almost every Orisha. This groove belongs to the group of Rumbitas
  • OKONKOLO: the smallest Bata drum
  • OMO-AÑA: the person who is allowed to play on the baptized bata drums, because he is initiated to aña
  • OPEN: the sound produced on the drum when you don’t leave the fingers on the skin
  • ORISHA: a deity of the Yoruba pantheon
  • ORU DEL EYA ARANLA: the part of a Bata ceremony where all the Orishas are saluted with songs
  • ORU DEL IGBODU: the first part of a Bata ceremony where all the Orishas are saluted by their grooves
  • PATAKI: a legend telling about the relations between Orishas and men
  • PETRO: a Nanchon in Vodou
  • PUYA: a song meant to provoke the Orishas so that they come down
  • RADA: a Nanchon in Vodou
  • REGLA a different word for Santeria, meaning the path of
  • DE OCHA: Orishas
  • REZO: a prayer sang freely in tempo
  • RUMBITAS: grooves that can be played for all of the Orishas
  • SALIDA: one groove played in the Cierre
  • SANTERIA: a different word for Regla de Ocha, meaning the way of the saints
  • SECONDE: the second biggest drum of the Rada drum ensemble
  • SECUENCIA: a sequence of different songs
  • SIETE POTENCIAS: the seven powers: Eleggua, Ogun, Obatala, Chango, Yemaya, Ochun and Oya
  • SLAP: the sound that you produce with your left hand on the Chacha of the Bata drum
  • TOQUE: the Spanish word for groove
  • TRATADO: a sequence of songs meant to lead to trance
  • VILOKAN: the mythological City of the Lwas
  • YORUBA: people group coming from today’s southern Nigeria
  • YORUBALAND: that part of Nigeria where Yoruba people came from
  • YANVALOU: a groove from the Rada section


  • Altmann, T. – 1998 CANTOS LUCUMI A LOS ORISHAS. Hamburg: Oché TA0001
  • www.ochemusic.de (last viewed on September 1st 2006).
  • Amira, J. – 2006 Private classes. New York.
  • Amira, J.; Cornelius, S. – 1992 THE MUSIC OF SANTERIA. Gilsum: White Cliffs Media Company.
  • Armstrong, J., Knepper, T. – 2002 VODOU DRUMSET – Drumset applications of traditional afrohaitian rhythms. New York: Carl Fischer.
  • Cabrera, L.; Tarafa, J. – 2001 HAVANA, CUBA, CA. 1957: Rhythms and songs for the Orishas. (CD) Washington DC : Smithsonian Folkway Records.
  • Corrales, M. – 2000 BATA DRUMS. CLAVE Vol.1, No.3 Aug/Sep 2000
  • http://www.lafi.org/magazine/articles/batadrums.html (last viewed on July 25th 2008).
  • De la Torre, M. A. – 2004 SANTERIA – the beliefs and rituals of a growing religion in America.Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Desmangles, L. G. – 1992 THE FACES OF THE GODS. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
  • Edward, G.; Mason, J. – 1985 BLACK GODS – orisa study in the new world (third printing). New York: Yoruba Theological Archministry.
  • Iles, S. 1999 Eshu, An Afro-Caribbean Divine Trickster. Sacred hoop 29, summer 2000.
  • www.dracoblu.com/essayeshu.html (last viewed on July 25th 2008).
  • Martinez, P. – 2006 Private classes. New York.
  • Mason, J. – 1992 ORIN ORISA – songs for selected heads. New York: Yoruba Theological Archministry
  • Murphy, J. M. – 1988 SANTERIA – AN AFRICAN RELIGION IN AMERICA. Boston: Beacon Press. Pryor, A.; O’Neil, J. & Gomes, N. (editors).
  • 1997 I AM TIME. (CD). Bethpage: Blue Jackel Entertainment Inc.
  • Rodriguez, O. A. – 1995 SACRED RHYTHMS OF CUBAN SANTERIA. (CD). Washington DC : Smithsonian Folkway Records.
  • http://schweitzer.washcoll.edu/ethno/Schweitzer_Dissertation(Chapter1).pdf (last viewed on July 25th 2008).
  • Sobisch, J. – 2004 KULTUR SCHOCK CUBA. Bielefeld: Reise Know-how Verlag Peter Rump GmbH.
  • Vincent, A. – 2006 BATA CONVERSATIONS: guardianship and entitlement narratives about the Bata in Nigeria and Cuba. PhD dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
  • de/zprivdat/kerstin (last viewed on July 25th 2008).
  • Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org
  • www.batadrums.com


Figure 1: Map of Yorubaland: Fagg, W., Pemberton, J., Holcombe, B. (1982).
Yoruba Sculpture of WestAfrica. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
Figure 2: Chango: www.omo-obatala.net Yemaya: Sandra M Stanton:
www.goddess.com.au/ goddesses/Yemaya.htm
Figure 3: the Bata Drums: ochemusic.de
Figure 4: Eleggua: www.indioproducts.com/ webstore/images/79307.jpg
Figure 5: Sign for Legba: www.kajou.com/legba.gif


Cantos para Eleggua 1: Abbilona. (1999). TAMBOR YORUBA: ELEGGUA,OGGUN Y OCHOSI. (CD). Caribe Prod./O.K.records CD-9546
Cantos para Eleggua 2: Ros, L. (2002). ORISHA AYE: ELEWA. (CD). CD Unicornio UN-CD6017
Cantos para Eleggua 3: Abbilona. (2001). TAMBOR YORUBA: ELEGGUA, OGGUN Y OCHOSI 2. (CD). Caribe Prod./O.K.records CD-9600
Abukenke: Cardona, M. (1985). BEMBE. (CD). Amercian Clave B000005A2M
Cheke Cheke: Abbilona. (1999). OCHUN 1. (CD). Caribe Productions 9547
Iye Iyekua: Ros, L. (2001). ORISHA AYE OYA. (CD). Unicornio 6010
Oyokota: Grupo Ilu Ana. (1996). SACRED RHYTHMS. (CD). Bembe Records B00005NTS7
La Lubanche: Ros, L. (2002). ORISHA AYE ELEWA. (CD). Unicornio 6017
La Topa: Los Ojos del Rey (2003). OLOYU OBBA. (CD). Arion B00009W3S0
Chachalokafu: Wemilere Santeria. (2003). TAMBOURS SACRES. (CD). LongDistance 7245
Nongo: Wemilere Santeria. (2003). TAMBOURS SACRES. (CD). Long Distance 7245
Teremina: Abbilona. (2001). TAMBOR YORUBA: ELEGGUA, OGGUN Y OCHOSI 2. (CD). Caribe Prod./O.K.records CD-9600
Salida: Abbilona. TAMBOR YORUBA : AGGAYU 2. (CD). Caribe Production

I would like to thank:

My parents and my sister Cathy, All my teachers of CODARTS in Rotterdam and Wim van der Meer from the University of Amsterdam, Jérôme Goldschmidt and Olivier Congar, John Amira, James Armstrong and Pedro Martinez, Paul Schumacher and Marc Lohr and the “Ministère de la Culture, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche” of Luxembourg for their support.

Author and License

  • This thesis is writen by Jeanne Schmartz
  • Text is released under CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

Born in Luxembourg (1982), I started my musical education at the age of 6 with solfege and violin at the Conservatory of Luxembourg City. Later I took classes in classical percussion. At the age of 12 I discovered the world of latin music. I took Latin Percussion classes with Jerome Goldschmidt and later with Emanuel Baudry. After finishing my High school, with specialization in music, I did audition at the Conservatory of Rotterdam where I studied 4 years with teachers like Martin Verdonk, Lucas van Merwijk, Nils Fischer, Dirk Hauptmann, Marc Bischoff and Jan Hartong. During my studies I did trips to New York and Brazil where I took privat classes with Pedrito Martinez, George Delgado, Johnny Almendra, Armando Marção, Robertinho Silva etc. Later I followed a master course in musicology at the university of amsterdam, researching Salsa music, and graduated in 2009. At this moment I am living both in Rotterdam and Luxembourg.I am the founder of a new Latin-American band Sonido Profundo.

Jeanne Schmartz


A pdf version of this thesis can be found here: Who_is_eleggua-uva (pdf)

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