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There is no other production available anywhere which details bata drumming with the depth and breadth of El Lenguaje de Tambor. The five (5) total hours of video, both performance and interviews, comprise much more than just a Master Class of playing the bata. This is more like an intense University level course which will take many viewings to even begin to digest. This is truly a historical work which will take its place among the few masterpieces within the study of AfroCuban drumming and religion.
Daniel Alfonso Herrera takes us from the basics of playing all three drums to a complete Oro Seco. Watching the Master's hands as he demonstrates each drum in Disc Two is a very profound experience, knowing that these hands have been playing bata for so many years. After each drum is taught, demonstrating all the sounds and hand placements, Señor Alfonso plays toques for the Orishas, one drum following the other. Truly masterful. The DVDs' production is to be praised. It gives us very clear views of each drum, of each drum head and hand technique. The sound quality of the DVD is also to be praised. The ambience of the room is excellent.
Interviews within the DVD project give light to the stories of the Orishas, to the deep history of the drums in Cuba, and to Cuban religious life with the drums. Señor Alfonso's knowledge of the history of the religious drums leads us from the beginnings of the fundamento bata in Matanzas up until the present day. You will get a true feeling for the pride, the beauty, the profundity of drumming within the religious and secular life in Matanzas.
The soulful interview with Esteban "Chacha" Vega Bacallao, filmed shortly before his untimely demise, is a centerpiece of this wonderful work.
Author of "Cantos Lucumí a los Orichas"
Peter G. Dunbar
Ade Okun oni Yemaya
For those of you who are studying or involved in the Lukumi religion and the afro-cuban styles of bata drumming at any level, you should have El Lenguaje del Tambor.
This excellent production of Tina Gallagher's, with the substantial collaboration of Mike Spiro, Bill Summers, Neraldo Duran, Kevin Repp and Vanessa Lindberg, features five hours of drumming demonstrations, tutorials, and interviews in Spanish with English subtitles. It is filmed with remarkable intimacy. It features close-ups of both hands on each drum, close-ups of faces and full-body shots. If you work without the benefit of a conjunto you will still be able to make better progress in playing with other bata players as a consequence of studying this DVD. The audio quality is excellent. Even the iya drum can be heard clearly and distinctly. The lead-in shows the town of Matanzas and concludes by taking us to the Marina district of Matanzas. This sets the stage and is a treat for us who have read about these locations but have not yet been to Cuba.
But the centerpiece of the DVD, other than the religion and the music itself, is amo anya and ocha priest Daniel Alfonso Herrera. Señor Alfonso presents this complex subject with authority, simplicity and clarity. He also speaks to the inner nature of bata drumming and the orisha in terms I have not encountered before. Though I know that there are techniques used by documentary filmmakers to increase the immediacy of their images and message, when I am viewing this DVD I am certain that Señor Alfonso is speaking to me and I know you will feel the same way.
I have been a student of bata in years past and have had my successes and disappointments. At a certain point I put the bata down. But due to my own initiation into ocha religion, presentation to tambor anya and now this DVD, I have resolved to pick up the drums again. I can give no better endorsement to this fine presentation.
Please purchase the accompanying volume of transcriptions as well as the DVD. Though I do not read music, I find myself looking at the music as I listen and I realize I am teaching myself to read.
Finally, please purchase Tina's two previous DVD's, Vamos al Tambor and La Fuerza del Tambor. In the latter maestro Alfredo Calvo, elder of the Egbado branch of Lukumi, sings to Yemaya with seldom-matched length and power.
This package is a godsend for me. In August I am traveling to Matanzas to study with Daniel Alfonso Herrera as part of my masters course at SOAS, University of London. Although I am an experienced drummer I am a beginner when it comes to the intricacies of bata. I began to study bata four years ago and have been learning a little here and a little there. I traveled to Havana in 2004 and studied for a week with one of the greats but had virtually no previous knowledge of bata. Now in 2007 though before I travel to Cuba, I have the advantage of being able to meet the teacher on DVD and study his techniques in detail in advance. The technique for each drum is clearly explained and each rhythm is broken down into individual parts (with an achere playing the pulse! Very important for me as a beginner batalero!)
Furthermore the transcriptions that are available with the DVDs provide a clear and concise description of the toques. All of this I am sure is going to help me maximize my time in Matanzas with Daniel.
Kudos to Tina Gallagher and Kabiosile for making El Lenguaje del Tambor available to us. I remember the days when the only study sources for bata were limited to a few, not so complete, recordings such as Afro Tambores Bata by Giraldo Rodríguez, and the musical transcriptions provided by Cuban musicologist, Fernando Ortiz. This package presents the toques (rhythms) to the Oro Seco in Matanzas style through audio, visual (DVD), and yet another visual approach and extension of the audio which are the musical transcriptions in the book expertly transcribed by Neraldo and Bill Summers; edited by Kevin Repp and Vanessa Lindberg, and reviewed by renown percussionist Michael Spiro. Each rhythm is presented in the DVD complete with the three batas and then broken individually for each drum. You can also look at the book for a complete break down of the patterns in music notation. The production is excellent, concise, and clear. Studying with a teacher would take years of lessons and/or apprenticeship. While no DVD/book is a substitute for actual playing and/or study with a good teacher, studying the DVD and book transcriptions will provide the learner with the basic working skills to advance in this genre of drumming.
Produced with imagination, savvy and skill by a formidable team of Cuba and American musicians and film makers, El Lenguaje del Tambor: Bata Rhythms and Techniques from Matanzas, Cuba (2 DVDs) ($49.95) and its accompanying book of musical transcriptions Bata Rhythms from Matanzas ($39.95) is the best distance learning package of its kind I have seen.
It may be difficult for newcomers to appreciate that less than generation ago, American
musicians such as Bill Summers and Michael Spiro (who were both involved in this project) had to make huge sacrifices to get the information which is presented on a plate in this tutorial set. Usually overshadowed by the more popular Havana style of bata drumming, this pack lets us into what was until recently a little-known ritual drumming tradition. One can only wonder if anyone buying the DVD/book package for $74.95 (very good value after having emptied my pockets on several trips to Cuba) could appreciate the sweat that's gone into it.
Even on its own, the 5-hour DVD set is a remarkable product aimed at both seasoned music professionals and complete beginners. They got the formula right. Honouring the oral tradition, there are hours of footage (everything subtitled) demonstrating the specific techniques of Matanzas style, the rhythms in their entirety and then breaking them down into solo parts. The transcriptions (just the oru seco, a portion of what is on the DVD) are of course especially helpful to musical outsiders and music readers. There really is something here for everybody.
Of course, a distance learning product is never a substitute for sitting with a master drummer, but it throws it open to those who don't have the opportunity to travel to Cuba, and it is great preparation for those who can travel. In what could easily have been a dry tutorial product, the DVD is tastefully shot and features Matanzas master drummer Daniel Alfonso Herrera with a bonus interview with living legend Esteban "Chachá" Vega Bacallao who is in particularly good form. Daniel introduces each rhythm with a short explanation about its ritual context, while English/Spanish subtitles label the various sections which correspond to the transcriptions. Their notation choices are different to my own, but anyone who has worked through John Amira's ground-breaking book on the Havana oro seco won't have any problems working through this. There are a few details where the notation is slightly different from the DVD, but one can understand the almost impossible task of representing every performance note for note. Savvy drummers will be able to bust through this and beginners will certainly be able to find their way with the helpful visual cues on the DVD. There are quite a few songs on the DVD, which is a great bonus.
As a music scholar specialising in bata, I can say that this is certainly the best learning aid to date on the Matanzas style.
Takoma Park, MD
This DVD is a true labor of love. Any student of bata drumming (at least here in the States) knows that information on the Matanzas style is by far the hardest to come by. Well, consider this a major breakthrough in bringing this beautiful, profound and funky drumming style to the rest of the world. The production is top notch, the format is exceptional, and most importantly this DVD's got some soul! To hear Daniel Alfonso speak about the Anya philosophy makes one realize this is a belief system that that can stand along side any of the world's major religions. Being an Omo Anya myself, some of the interviews gave me the chills, as well as even more insight into my calling as a ritual drummer. Daniel Alfonso is an exceptional teacher and this DVD is the next best thing to being there. With the amount of information on the two discs (5 hours), it's very reasonably priced as there is a lifetime of information contained therein. This is an important document. From the in-depth look at the Matanzas toques to the interviews with Cha-Cha, Alfonso and his crew of young drummers. These DVD's should give students of bata drumming and lovers of Afro-Cuban music & culture equal satisfaction. Hopefully Kabiosile will one day do a similar DVD on the Havana style! Gracias Tina & Co. Mucho Ashe!
Co-author of The Music Of Santería
El Lenguaje del Tambor is one of the most detailed instructional tools I have seen. Great care has been taken to show both the ensemble and individual performances of all the rhythms in the Oro Seco from all angles.
It gives the student the opportunity to learn each drum at their leisure and then fit it into the group.
The transcriptions in Bata Rhythms from Matanzas, Cuba provide a clear written counterpart to the visuals of the drummers and clarify where Daniel Alfonso places the rhythms against the pulse timeline.
The only thing better than this package is either going to Matanzas or hiring Daniel Alfonso to come and teach you privately.
Another landmark production from Kabiosile. This one contains a wealth of well-organized detail, achieving both artistic and instructional excellence. A must for anyone wanting to learn bata.
Brooklyn, New York
Tina, thank you so much for your hard work on this gem.
To watch these drummers play, with none of the affectations commonly found in highly skilled musicians, is a privilege.
To hear them speak of Aña, and then play afterwards in the language demonstration, nearly brought me to tears. The pure joy of playing was unmasked on Daniel's face, he seemed to me as a child. In my opinion, the word "master" is tossed about rather freely these days but in this case it is clearly an understatement...
Suffice it to say that while I know this will serve as a material reference for years to come, it's serving a much deeper purpose for me now, reminding me why I started playing music in the first place.
Bless you and thanks again!