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Starr Center for the

Study of the American Experience

The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Bata Drumming: Aesthetics, transmission, Bonding, and Creativity

Date: 5:30pm EDT October 1, 2013

Washington College music professor Dr. Kenneth Schweitzer will talk about and read from his new book followed by a musical performance with special guests D.C.-based percussionist Mark Merella and ethnomusicologist David Font.


     Afro-Cuban batá are “talking drums” that express the epic mythological narratives of the West African Yoruba deities known as orisha. By imitating aspects of speech and song and by metaphorically referencing salient attributes of the deities, batá drummers facilitate the communal praising of orisha in a music ritual known as a toque de santo.

     Dr. Kenneth Schweitzer is Associate Professor of Music and Concert Series Advisory Council Chair, and Department of Music chair at Washington College. His research and performance expertise focus on Afro-Cuban music, particularly the sacred batá drumming that accompanies the possession rituals of the religion known widely as Santería.

     Dr. Schweitzer holds a Master of Music in Ethnomusicology and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Percussion from the University of Maryland. His recently published doctoral dissertation is now a book titled The Artistry of Afro-Cuban Batá Drumming: Aesthetics, Transmission, Bonding, and Creativity (2013, University of Mississippi Press). 

     This festive event, cosponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, will also include a Caribbean-themed reception and book signing.