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La Presentación De Un Iyawo De Chango

Matanzas-style Orisha music
   Released by Kabiosile

Experience the power of Matanzas-style Orisha music as performed by Alfredo Calvo (one of the most knowledgeable and talented Afro-Cuban folkloric singers alive today) and his Grupo Aña Oba Tola. The CD also presents, for the first time, the incredible sound of the sacred Lukumi Bembe Makagua, which were made in the early 20th century as war drums for the Orisha Chango. The drums are hot and Alfredo’s singing is amazing. A must have for all lovers of Orisha music!

Alfredo Calvo is the last surviving godchild of Ferminita Gómez, a Yoruba ex-slave who founded one of the most important branches of the Afro-Cuban religion popularly known as Santeria. Calvo, who just turned 73, was crowned a priest of Agayu by Ferminita when he was 12 and she was 102. It was foretold during his initiation that he would be the person to carry on the traditions of her house—and that he certainly has done. Hundreds of godchildren and many sets of Ana have been born in his house (including the first set of Ana ever brought to the United States, by Francisco Aguabella), and he has taught dozens of drummers, singers, and priests of the religion.

“Fifty years from now, this will be considered one of the most important recordings to come out of Matanzas,” says Michael Spiro, master drummer.

BataDrums.com writes in a recent review: “This amazing new recording is performed by powerful musicians and recorded beautifully….[Alfredo Calvo’s]…mastery of Lukumi praise poetry and raw power shine, and the chorus shines with him. The drumming is phenomenal, embodying the beauty and power of Matanzas bata. The surprise comes at the end of the cycle: after playing a long section of bata for Chango that is unique and hair-raising, the bembe drums join the bata, sending the energy through the roof….The interplay of Calvo’s praise singing and the drumming is indescribable…. If you haven’t experienced this music in person in Matanzas, you have to hear this CD to believe it.”

Bruce Polin, of Descarga.com fame, says, “Beautifully recorded, and wonderfully sung by Alfredo Calvo Cano and Alberto Puñales Cabrera, this may be the best recorded document of Bembe as it is performed in Matanzas. Rare material. Highly recommended.”

Willie Ramos, a well-known Santero and author, writes on his site Eleda.org, “Kabiosile Productions [has released] two of the most invigorating illustrations of orisha music and life to come out of Matanzas since Lydia Cabrera’s and Josefina Tarafa’s 1950’s recordings recently released by the Smithsonian Institute…. This CD and DVD are sure to become valuable contributors to the documentation and preservation of Lukumí religious music and traditions for all time.

And Michael Easterling of 6-8 Media writes, “An incredible new CD has just been released documenting the unique sound of Matanzas-style Orisha music…[and] culminating in one of the most powerful prayers for Chango ever recorded. Calvo is one of the most knowledgeable Santeros and folkloric singers in Cuba, and this new CD brings his amazing voice and unique phrasing to American listeners for the first time.”

The CD is structured around the presentation of a Iyawo or newly initiated priest of Chango, the warrior Orisha of thunder and lightening. (“Iyawo” literally means “bride” and is what the new priest is called for the first year of initiation.) In Havana and the United States, such a presentation is a rather cursory affair, but in Matanzas it is the way in which the new priest is presented to the community as well as the drums, and it is an elaborate event. The presentation takes place on the third day of the Iyawo’s initiation, after the Ita or consultation with the Orishas the Iyawo has received. The Iyawo is dressed in the full satin regalia of his or her Orisha and is ceremoniously brought out from his throne to be paraded before the community and then presented to the drums. The community joins in, singing and dancing as the Akpon (lead singer) and the Aña drummers play praise songs to each of the main Orishas. To experience a presentation like this first-hand, please see Kabiosile’s DVD “Vamos al Tambor: Presentations in Matanzas, Cuba”.

In addition to the traditional Aña drumming and praise songs, this CD also includes a track of never-before-recorded Lukumi Bembe Makagua drums, which were made as war drums for Chango in the early 20th century. These drums, which are similar to Arara bembe drums, are upright (as opposed to the hourglass across-the-lap style of Aña and bata drums) and are played with sticks (and, in the case of the main drums, one hand and one stick. See the Artists page for a picture of these unique drums.). Alfredo Calvo was present at the birth of the Makagua drums. In recent years, he has created a drumming innovation of bringing in the Bembe drums to play along with the Aña, then switching the entire tambor to Bembe. The sound is unique and powerful. Whatever Orishas didn’t come down to join the party before are sure to arrive as soon as the crowd and drums break into “Marele Okuo,” which means “Something new has been born.” It is an experience not to be missed (and Kabiosile is planning a new DVD to capture and share it with you)!


Click titles with notes to hear samples
1 echu
2 elegguá
3 elegguá
4 ogun
5 ochosi
6 inle
7 babaluaye
8 korinkoto
9 orishaoko
10 dada
11 agayu
12 obatala
13 yewa
14 obba
15 oya
16 yemaya
17 ochun
18 orula
19 chango
20 chango
21 close


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