A gendered tone: representations of sexuality and power in Cuban Batá Performance
Fundamento or Añá are the three hour-glass consecrated batá drums central to the
worship of the orichas (deities) in Cuban Santería and belong to initiated heterosexual men.
Taboos prevent women and homosexual males from coming into close proximity with these sacred
objects. Thirty years ago however, Cuban men began teaching women to play non-consecrated
batá called aberikulá. Three decades later there are now six all-female batá groups and a growing
contingent of female batá players in Cuba. Furthermore, in Santiago in 2015, women started
playing fundamento batá in a historical break from tradition. There has been extensive research
focusing on men’s sacred batá performance and its associated religious and cultural practices but
in-depth studies which focus on gender and the growing number of female batá players have been
few. Addressing gender asymmetry, this article examines representations of power and sexuality in
male/female, sacred/secular batá performance.
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