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Francisco Aguabella

Francisco Aguabella - congas

A master percussionist who was born in Matanzas Cuba, Francisco Aguabella is one of the first eschelon of drummers who came to America and are responsible for all drummers that came after them,” says Latin percussionist John Santos in the movie “Sworn To The Drum.”

Francisco Aguabella was born October 10, 1925, and raised in the Matanzas drumming tradition of Cuba. In 1953, he immigrated to the United States and established himself in California as an olu batá (batá drummer). Batá drumming is a ceremonial musical style that plays an integral role in the African-derived religion of Santeria, practiced in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and, since the 1950s, in the United States. No other music of the Americas bears a more striking similarity to West African music than batá. Its set of three double-conical drums replicates the Nigerian Yoruba drum ensemble of the same name. Many of the rhythms closely resemble their African prototypes, and the Afro-Cuban language of Lucumi, in which Aguabella sings, is clearly a derivation of Yoruba.

Before 1980, Aguabella and Julito Collazo were the only olu batá in the United States who had been initiated into a secret society of drummers designated to perform a highly sacred type of batá known as batá fundamento. The batá fundamento is an integral part of Santeria ceremonies in which an individual's initiation into the religion cannot be consecrated unless he or she has been presented before this sacred ensemble.

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