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At the Crossroads
Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami


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Music pervades every aspect of Orisha worship. Percussion, singing, chanting, and dancing serve as major vehicles through which practitioners harness ashé, the divine energy that animates the earth and all that exists. Establishing a proper connection with ashé ensures well-being. During ceremonies, ashé is manifested through the orishas, who partake in the celebrations through possession of devotees.

At the most important ceremonies, music is provided by batá, a trio of double-headed hourglass-shaped drums. The ensemble consists of the iyá (mother), the itótele (he who follows in rank), and the okónkolo (small child). Shangó is the patron deity of batá drums and is the owner of Añá, the deity of music. Consecrated batá drums contain Añá’s energy and may only be played by the Omó Añá, members of a fraternity of drummers.

Batá drums have been used for Orisha worship in the United States since the 1960s. In 1975, in Miami, Pipo Peña, along with sixteen babalawos and various other priests, consecrated the first ritual set of batá in the United States. During the 1980 Mariel boatlift, many renowned batá drummers, such as Orlando “Puntilla” Rios, Juan “el Negro” Raymat, and Ezequiel Torres, arrived in Miami and New York.

For ceremonies in which there is a less rigorous protocol, a shekeré ensemble may be employed. A shekeré is a gourd covered with a net of beads and/or cowries. A typical ensemble consists of three shekerés, a conga drum, and a hoe or cowbell that is struck with a wooden stick. Orisha worship may also include other percussion instruments, such as cajones (wooden boxes).

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Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami
The Afro-Cuban Orisha Religion | Orisha Worship in Miami
Orisha Artists | Beadwork | Paños | Garments | Thrones
Herramientas | Music | Ifá Paraphernalia
The Orisha Tradition in Popular Arts
Pantheon of Orishas

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