I give thanks for today, yesterday en tomorrow, for doors closing balanced with others opening, blue-skying en cool wotas, nashukuru upendo na imani tunayo… nashukuru the continued guidance and protection of de ancestors of dis land, wale wahenga wangu ninaowajua, wale sijui, na wale wanaonijua deeper than ninayojijua….inifinitely grateful for de blessings of dis week, for dis counting down to de first anniversary of #To David With

Love, coming into an ‘epic’ year of mi twenties, and celebrations of Afrikan Heritage (or Black History) Moon, like Dinner, Performances & de first tambor for Ibeji at de Children’s Peace Theatre. Big tings’ a gwaan wid dis ting called ubuntu….

So, in the spirit of intimacy and de spaces between recovering from rituals en preparing for mo ceremonies, this hadithi kuhusu Toque de Santo is transcribed from Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeria, written by Katherine J. Hagedorn.

Dear Katherine, asante sana for sharing your re/learning. And deeply grateful to mi Tdot teachers for offering the kind of priceless educational programs not only I’ve been looking for, in grassroots universities, across borders. Asante Baba Gee & Baba Falo, Sista Leopard & Mama (wa) Amani Theatre, Prof Ausar & Papa John.  Na asante for (re)birthing dis post mi goddess mama No.3 –  Beth, who not only gifted me dis book we’re sharing with you, but co-creates en maintains sacred spaces with other honourable elders to remember the sage secrets of loving en continue fulfilling our highest destinies.

Asante akina baba, mama na watoto wa Afreeka. Nashukuru bredrin and sistren in solidarity….

[pamoja tukifafanua ukweli wa Anaa na]  TOQUE DE SANTO: Evoking the Orishas

A toque de santo (or tambor) is de main public religious performance of Santeria [en other traditions], de popular name of de [looked pon as] polytheistic religious tradishun that grew from Afrikan and European roots during the four long centuries of de slave trade in Cuba. Toque refers to de verb tocar (to play) en to de specific noun toque (rhythm), as well as to de general noun toque, meaning de event itself; santo refers to de deities
called santos (orichas or orisas) who are evoked by de toques. Although de performance of Santeria includes other ceremonies involving music en dance (such as festive bembes en guiro ensembles), toques de santo require the use of de sacred bata drums, en are thus considered de most divinely powerful of all de religious ceremonies of Santeria.

the warriors

The origins of de toque de santo lie in de Atlantic slave trade. Cuba imported de bulk of its slaves during the nineteenth century. Most of de Africans captured en sold into slavery who were landed in Cuba came from a curved corridor of present-day West Afrika stretching from Guinea down to Angola, en a significant plurality of these came from Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo, en Cameroon. These Afrikan regions share some formal characteristics in their monotheistic religious traditions, which, under, de chaotic en brutal conditions of slavery in Cuba, gradually developed by de end of de nineteenth century into what became known as Santeria.

One of de most powerful similarities among de many West Afrikan mono & polytheistic traditions thrown together in Cuba during de nineteenth century was the evocation of deities through de performance of specific praise songs, drum rhythms, en gestures. Toques de santo can be interpreted as a distillation of more than a century of diverse, divine per formative intent.

In present-day Cuban Santeria, toques de santo are ritual drummings, typically held as offerings to appease orichas or santos. These drumming ceremonies may also be offered to de santos to change de objective circumstances of one’s life…..

Although de deities of Santeria may communicate with humans through divination, prayers, en dreams, they relish de communicative powah afforded them through music en dance. Each santo or oricha “owns” certain melodic gestures, rhythms, dance movements, en praise songs, as well as specific colours, numbers, animals, foods, en natural phenomena. They respond readily to songs en dances that incorporate these associative representations-such as, in de case of de salt-wota deity Yemaya (whose name is said to mean “Mother of Fishes” in Cuban Lucumi), a dance that imitates de undulation of de waves, or a song that evokes de powah of de sea en its creatures. De main goal of these rhythms, songs, en dances is to summon (or goad) de santos to earth, so that de deities may soothe those who are grieving, heal those who are sick, rebuke those who have acted unwisely, bless those who appear to be deserving, en set de tone for de next few weeks or moons in de community.

For a toque de santo to be successful, however, each participant must know how to behave, how to engage correctly de divine potential of de ceremony. What are de “rules of engagement” at a toque de santo or tambor? How does one know when to dance (or sing, or become possessed) en how? Are there different ways of participating in Afro-Cuban religious en folkloric events, and, if so, how does one discriminate between them?….

De rules of engagement in religious and folkloric performances seem to shift in accordance with de goal or intent of de event, en with de expectations of de religious practitioners. In a toque de santo, for example, de aim of de ceremony is to summon one or more orichas to earth, so that de deities may address de needs of de community through specific blessings, healings, en advice. In this case, de “rules of engagement” for each participant in a religious event are determined by socioreligious desire en necessity.

In the events presented by de Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba, by contrast, de goal of a performance is primarily aesthetic excellence-de perfect (or near perfect) execution of dance steps, percussive rhythms, song phrases, en gestures of a toque de santo in accordance with norms established by “folkloric” schools of performance. In de CFNC, then, the “rules” of participating are determined by one’s ability to maintain a uniform standard of performance of specific rehearsed musical en physical gestures.

Yet the genres of “religious Afro-Cuban performance” en “’folkloric’ Afro-Cuban performance” inform each other, “use” each other, en at times even inhabit de same sphere of sacred intent (see de page on ‘a is for….’ de architecture of syncretism in santeria: remixed).

This sphere of sacred intent is most often constructed by resurrecting de memory of de sacred in both folkloric en religious performances. And in both types of performance, de memory of de sacred is translated through de body. De body is where “sacred” en

“secular” meet, where de boundaries are blurred, en it is this liminal space that is both powahful en disruptive because it calls into question de per formative categories implied by de terms “sacred” and “secular” en forces de participants to renegotiate their respective “rules of engagement.”….

SACRED KNOWLEDGE AND COMPETENT ENGAGEMENT

Protectors of (not only) Cuba’s Afrikan heritage and representatives of its future, ritual musicians hold de key to an analysis of the toque or tambor, and control de first stage of engagement….

TOQUE ETIQUETTE AND SACRED INTENT

Engaging appropriately in a toque de santo, then, requires de competent use of sacred knowledge…Toque etiquette varies widely from casa templo (house of worship) to casa templo, but what is much less variable is de philosophy that informs de rules of etiquette for each particular “house.” “Tradition” might vary from house to house on de same block, from city to city, en from country to country, but what keeps religious practice unified is de overriding theology that invents it, en de santo families that are cocreated en enlarged each time a new creyente is initiated into de religion…….

PERFORMING THE REGLA DE OCHA

In order to be a good drummer in the Conjunto Folklorico, according to Alberto, one must not only have de religion, one must respect its rules. When de author of the excerpts of dis book asked Alberto who decided de content of de Conjunto Folklorico’s performances, he responded that there were different departments that could influence de decision, such as research, management, percussion, chorus, dance, the board of directors—but that ultimately Rogelio Martinez Fure, the asesor or artistic advisor to de group, made de final decision. Immediately afterward, however, Alberto began talking about de new dancers (thos who had attended the aficionado schools) who did not appreciate the religious basis of the folkloric toques, and how these young people considered the Conjunto Folklorico’s performances to be art, without any religious aspect…..

Alberto sees his religion not only as someting beyond compromise, but also as a source of powah en authority in de aesthetic skirmishes that he en his colleagues may face on a daily basis. His religions informs en is inseparable from his work [as it is with not only me, but many others]. When Katherine Hagedorn asked Alberto about de connection between his religion en his work, however, he said there was none. “My job is over here [right hand], and mi religion is over here [left hand]. This [his job] has nothing to do with this [his religion]. We don’t tell de secrets of our religion in the Folklorico. That would be impossible-because then it wouldn’t be my job, it would be mi religion.”

Alberto sees himself, en creyente drummers in general, as true representatives of de religion. In this sense, he acts as a preserver of his religious tradition, although he claims that his work and religion are totally separate. He is an absentee guardian of the authenticity of de folkloric renditions of his religions, which is to say that he does not allow his religious persona to participate actively in de folkloric performances but de passive knowledge of what that religious persona would require during a religious ceremony is allowed to remain, and it safeguards de remnants of the performance’s spiritual dignity…..

The drummers in de Conjunto Folklorico are de main actors in de negotiation process between the sacred and secular aspects of performance…How  religion is “brought” to art seems to revolve around the paradoxical and elusive (yet not rhetorical) questions regarding the differences and separations between the two……

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi Njoo….

Sahani ya?