Afro–Cuban Drum Music from Smithsonian Folkways

When Africans were taken to the Americas in the slave trade, they brought with them a wealth of musical traditions-particularly dense, complex, and polyrhythmic drum music-that was central to their daily lives. African drum music is anchored by a repeating pattern played by bells and/or rattles, while drums play designated call-and-response patterns. Call and response also occurs in vocal music; the leader sings and a chorus responds. These traditions carried over to Afro-Cuban music, particularly in sacred musical styles such as performed in Santería, which feature double-sided batá drums and rhythmic patterns for different deities. Listen here to explore the traditions of Afro-Cuban drum styles, including bembé, rumba, palo, and batá.