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Ring-Around-the-Rosie Atlantic: Transatlantic Uses of Rings Among Bata Drummers, Caravan Guards, and Muslim Insurgents

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

Abstract In the preparation of the bata drums of Cuba and Yorubaland, ritual specialists affix a small iron ring near the smaller of the two heads of these drums. The ring is the material marker that the drums are consecrated, imbued with the power of Ayan, the orisha of drumming. This study looks to other appearances of iron rings and iron idiophones along sub-Saharan trade routes connected to the Oyo Empire, the ‘source’ of bata drumming. The study links the use of rings in these regions to iconic sites of Yoruba culture in the Americas—Brazil and Cuba—as a means of revisiting some of the dominant narratives in the constructed past of orisha worship on both sides of the Atlantic, before and after the transatlantic separation. The prominence given to the Oyo-Shango complex in American forms of orisha worship is considered here to be unwarranted.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Music, York University 4700 Keele St. Toronto, ON M3J 1P3 Canada


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