Bata Project Inspiration

Interplay in Batá percussion music

I’ll extensively use original material from two projects I co-founded which are continuously being developed in a team of four. The first one is percussiontutor.com, a library and a practice app with rhythms from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil and West Africa and expanding to other cultures (e.g. a Flamenco was added in 2019). A large section is dedicated to the highly complex Cuban Batá drum culture. The concept is similar to other play along pieces of software relying on separate tracks with the notable difference that PercussionTutor only focuses on rhythm and doesn’t rely on midi takes but only on skilled musicians specialized in specific genres.

Mother & father dialogue

Batá drums in Cuba consist of a cylinder shaped drums that come in three different sizes iyá, okónkolo, itótele also referred to as “father”, “mother” and “child”. While performing the iyá player will use specific patterns to call the itótele player. The expected answer also consists in a highly coded rhythmical pattern. The calls though can appear at random during the main groove pattern, although the spot is fixed. Here is an example of the Yacota1 base rhythm.

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Yacota is a 6/8 rhythm played in a slow to medium tempo. In the conversation section the iyá and itótele converse with one another while the okónkolo keeps time. The iyá calls the itótele in two similar ways. The itótele offers one response by just adding a note in front of the open tone.

This is a good example for the use of random elements in a musical situation. It is reductionist to give too much wait to this feature considering the richness and cultural value of Batá music but it is an instance of a musical language with call and response codes that are taught in this way and that performers respect during play. The following example will play the calls randomly, notation serves as reference only. If you can’t hear any audio please refer to the Why This Format Section

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  1. PercussiontutorBook ↩︎