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Musical Instruments of Cuba

Author(s): Harold Courlander

Source: The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Apr., 1942), pp. 227-240
Published by: Oxford University Press
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Musical Quarterly

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These notes on Cuban musical instrzments were made on a
recording expedition-sponsored in 1941 by the American Council

of Learned Societies and the Archive of Primitive Music of

Columbia University-which was mainly limited to Matanzas

Province. Close examination of the musical traditions of eastern

Cuba may round out this picture substantially. Regional differences
are great, especially between the flat plantation country and the
mountains. Even in a given locality an observer is somewhat dependent upon special holidays to bring to light customs and devices
that are at other times well hidden and almost forgotten. Considerably more informtion about the cult and secret society instruments
should, and doubtless will, be made available by other investigators
in the future.

THE FOLK MUSIC and the musical instruments of the "Afro-

Cubans" are generally unknown outside Cuba, the mention of

which stirs up in most people's minds thoughts of such musical
forms as La Conga, the Rhumba, and the Son, and pictures of the
Conga drum and maracas. These things are symbols of Cuba for
the American, and they are, as such, misrepresentations. For Cuba
is a heterogeneous scene, a patchwork of musical customs and tra-

ditions in which the "symbols" play a minor part. Some of the

traditions are perpetuated in isolated regions, others in social classes,

ethnic groups, and professions. In some instances they are the

property of communities, while in others they are held by minorities, or even families. Havana gives little inkling of the truly seething musical life of the Cuban people.
Inasmuch as slavery and the slave trade continued in Cuba well

into the i th century, African music and instruments might

reasonably be expected to have survived strongly. As in Haiti,

such Africanisms are mainly identified with cult life. African cults
permeate the island. They are active within a few miles of Havana

itself, and extend to Oriente Province. The eastern portion of

Cuba was for many years overrun by Haitian cane workers, and
its population speaks much Creole (Haitian) as well as Spanish, so
that cult life has been influenced by Haitian practices.

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The Musical Quarterly

In many respects, cohesion of the factors of cult life has been

stronger in Cuba than in Haiti. The different "tribes" or "nations"
have tended to keep their traditions apart and distinct. Each cult
has its own specific ritual language. Many persons think of them-

selves as Congos or Arara (Dahomey) people, as well as Cuban.

Some of the very old ones talk of themselves as though they are
only secondarily Cubans. Habitudes of dress are affected by cult
beliefs, and it is possible in parts of Cuba to identify instantlyfor example-certain turbans and necklaces for feminine attire as

being that of Lucumi (Yoruba) people. Greetings and good-byes

of cult adherents, even in secular life, are sometimes couched in

the language of the group to which persons belong. The various

groups have their own special constellations of musical instruments, and, to some extent, their own peculiar musical idioms.
Virtually since the Spanish-American War, "African" festivi-

ties of every kind have been outlawed. Laws prohibiting cult

dances and rituals (referred to inclusively by all white people as
bembe) are still in effect, though they are not universally enforced. Ceremonies take place only with the permission of the

local police and military authorities, however, except during designated fiesta weeks, when cult life is "in the open". Cult members
are distant to and suspicious of inquiry into their affairs. They

have been libelled and persecuted for many years. How much

these factors have to do with keeping the groups intact and apart
from one another is not immediately evident.
The four main cults, or "nations", which exist in the western

portion of the island appear to be the Lucumi, the Arara, the

Abakwa, and the Kimbisa.

The Lucumi group is clearly a survival of the beliefs of the

Yoruba people, who came from the region of Africa that lies be-

tween the Niger River and the Nigeria-Dahomey border. As

among the African Yoruba, the spirits or deities of the Lucuml

pantheon are called orisha, or orisya. They include among them
many gods well known to the African Yoruba: Legua, or ltcho,
guardian of gateways and crossroads; Ogun, god of the mountains;
Otch6si, the hunter; Obatala, god of iron and war; Chang6, deity
of the storm and lightning; Agayi, an earth god; Orula, a curer;
Otchun, or Panchagara, the river deity; Yemaya, or Yalode, god

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Plate I

1. The Smallest of the Lucumi Drums 2. Metal Giiiro-

Single Truncated Cone 3. Atchere 4. Double-Cone Rattle

5. Metal Giiiro-Double Truncated Cone

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Plate II

1. Enkomo Drums 2. Rattle Cross 3. Akanika (Belt

of Bells) 4. Ericunde 5. Single Banka, or Ekon

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Musical Instruments of Cuba 229

of the sea; Oya, spirit of the cemetery; Orisha Oko, god of agr

culture; Efa; Oba; and many others. Lucumi music is mainl

though not exclusively, devoted to supplication to and praise

the orisha.

The customary orchestra for Lucumi rites consists of thr

drums, iron percussives, and a large rattle.

The Lucuml drums, usually called bata, are approximatel

goblet-shaped and have goatskin heads at both ends. The tw
heads (called tcha-tcha) of each drum are mounted on hoop
around which the skins are wrapped, and are held in place

cords or leather thongs laced from one hoop to the other. At a

early stage in the lacing the vertical cords have a multiple V ap
pearance. They are drawn tight, and further tension on the ski
for tuning is achieved by interlacing another cord around the c
cumference of the drum near one or both heads. Surplus cord i
finally wound around the drum near the middle or the narr
part, giving the appearance of a belt (Plate I, No. i). Inasmuch
one head is larger than the other, considerable range of tone
possible on each instrument. Sometimes a bata' contains a large
inside, said to be "coco-Africano", for magico-religious purposes
The three Lucuml drums are of different sizes, ranging from ab
eighteen inches to about thirty in length. The largest is called
Its larger head often has a thick circular patch of a red resin-li
substance applied to the surface near the center. This is called,

Lucumi idiom, idd, and its function is conceived to be that

moderate damping. In East Africa red paste-like substance

applied to drumheads in similar fashion, and has important ritu

significance.' Around the body of the lya near the large head is

belt of harness-type bells which is called tchaword. The seco

drum, the Itotele, may or may not have a patch of ida on its la
head. The smallest drum is called Iko'nkolo or Amele'2 The sacre
name of the Lucuml drums is Ana, and the profane name lhu.

Each batda is held in the lap of the drummer (called olo

firmly by a cord passing around and under the knees, and the ri

1 The application of resinous pastes to drumheads may have originated with

ceremony of rubbing the blood of sacrifices upon the skins. A double-headed
African drum in the Columbia University Archive of Primitive Music has circ

patches of red idd-like matter on both heads.

2 One informant in Jovellanos believed Ikonkolo to be the name of the seco

drum and Amele of the third. He thought Itotele to be a Congo word. The termin
ogy given above coincides with that of Fernando Ortiz, however; see his La Mu
Sagrada de los Negros Yorubd en Cuba, in "Estudios Afrocubanos", 1938, p. 93.

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230 The Musical Quarterly

hand usually plays the deep tones-i.e., on the large drum

The lyd is always in the center, flanked by the smaller drums,

its player, designated as kpuataki, is considered to be the chief.
The "classical" batd is carved from a single length of log, b
stave and barrel drums are so widespread in Cuba that variati
of this form are commonly seen. The variation nearest the "go
shape is a stave drum with straight though sloping sides, one
being smaller than the other. In some parts of Matanzas Prov

barrels of miscellaneous sizes and shapes are adapted as Luc

drums simply by fitting heads on the open ends; frequently

system of lacing with cords is disposed of altogether, the h
being held in place by nails.

Extremely important to the Lucumi orchestra is the la

beaded rattle known by the Lucuml word atchere (Plate I

3). It is also referred to as giiiro, a word indiscriminately des

ing large gourds. The atchere is usually oblong in shape, perh
fifteen or twenty inches in length, with an opening formed
cutting off the stem end. It is covered on the outside by a net
of light cord, on which have been strung mani nuts or woode
glass beads, which act as strikers when the gourd is shaken.s
technique of playing consists of striking the base of the r
sharply against the free hand, producing, in addition to the s
of the bead strikers, a musical tone from the opening in the
An extremely large variety of this instrument, customarily m
of a round calabash, takes the name of bakoso4 or awe-koesola.

Iron percussion instruments are not used for all categories

Lucumi music. They appear now and again,
but seem to be mainly identified with songs

and dances for the deity Chang6. The favored object is a hoe blade, called agogo or
agogor6, which is struck with a heavy nail

or other iron object. Sometimes hand-forged

iron bells with external strikers are used.

One such "bell" was in the shape of a hollow

iron tube with an open slit running its entire length, as shown in the accompanying

Lucumi Bells illustration. On another occasion a glass

3 This kind of rattle is known in some isolated sections of Haiti, where it is called

4 In Haiti the term baksor is sometimes used for the sacred rattle of the Vodoun


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Musical Instruments of Cuba


bottle, struck with a nail, was employed as a makeshift agogo.

Occasionally the small gourd rattle with a wooden handle and
seeds inside for strikers makes its appearance in Lucumi music,
usually being played by the chief singer. Sometimes other singers
may use such rattles also, but they are never used in pairs, one in

each hand, as in the secular La Conga dance music. In Matanzas

province this instrument is called maruga, and in the vicinity of

Havana, maraca.
A large metal double-cone shaped rattle containing seeds for
sounders was observed in Jovellanos. Constructed of heavy tin,
with tiny perforations, and with a ring at one end through which
a thumb or finger is slipped for secure holding, it is usually held in
a generally horizontal position when shaken (Plate I, No. 4).

In Matanzas Province a curious development of the atchere

(large gourd rattle with external bead strikers) is the metal giiiro
resembling a double truncated cone (Plate I, No. 5). It is made of
sections of tin, open at one end and closed at the other, and is
covered with a network of mani nuts. As with the atchere, it is
played by shaking and by striking against the hand. A battery of
three or four such rattles of different sizes and tones, with an
agogoro (iron percussive), entirely replaces the drum orchestra.
In some instances the smallest of the three takes the form of a

single rather than a double truncated cone (Plate I, No. 2). When
these giiiros supplant drums-which is frequent in localities where

the law against African celebrations is strictly enforced-they

may be called by the names of the three Lucumi drums: lyd, Itotele, and Ikonkolo. On one occasion the chief "drummer" playing
the Iya became impatient with the limitations of his instrument,
turned it over, and played on the closed end as upon a drumhead.
Sometimes the true gourd giiiro or atchere supplements this combination. The underground and surreptitious nature of many cult
gatherings doubtless fosters the use of these devices, since drums
are audible throughout the entire community.
Except for the maruiga and sometimes the atchere, all Lucumi
instruments are played by men. Since the maruga is usually played
by the singing leader, who may be either a man or woman, there
appears to be no element of "maleness" or "femaleness" about it.
The chorus of singers who support the singing leader are called
ankolri, and a cycle of sixteen songs to the orisha, or deities, is

called an or'i.

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The Musical Quarterly


The Abakwa group appears to be an active secret society of

African character that cuts through other cults. For example, a
man may be a Lucumi and, at the same time, an Abakwa. The
term Caraball-probably referring to the Calabar region of West
Africa-is sometimes used synonymously with Abakwa but it
appears to be a rather broad and generic designation, inasmuch as
other groups of Cuban Africans were also called Caraball.5 Prob-

ably the Cuban term Abakwa is a derivation of Abakpa, the

name of a tribe of the Niger region. Fernando Ortiz points out

that residents of the Niger Valley used the term Abakpa to refer
to Haussas.6 In Cuba the members of this society are frequently
and improperly spoken of by outsiders as naniigos. The membership is exclusively of men, its secrets are carefully guarded, and it

retains some of the dramatic elements of African religious life.

Noteworthy among such elements are the masked spirit dancers,
called ireme', who in most of the literature on Afro-Cuban life are

inadequately designated diablitos, or devils. Dancing prerogatives

belong entirely to these figures, who execute highly stylized and
difficult steps and motions in the process of dramatizing their entrance, participation in, and departure from the society's rituals.
Each of these ireme' is identified with a different tree, and the
conical cloth masks, though generally similar, are distinct from
one another. More than anywhere else in the familiar Afro-Cuban

rituals one sees here the elements of theatre, in which most of those

present do not participate, or, at best, have somewhat passive roles.

There is no group dancing associated with Abakwa music, though
any member may join in the singing. While the ireme' dance in the
outside court or in the lodge, men crowd around the drummers
under one of the ireme"s trees and sing Abakwa songs. Some of the
musical activities take place in extreme secrecy within the lodge.
There are four drums in the usual Abakwa orchestra, complemented by a bell.
Three of them, of slightly different size and tone, are called
enkomo, or enkd. The largest is usually about ten inches high, and
of cylindrical form or with slightly tapering sides. The head, of
goatskin, is mounted on a hoop (made either of a green stick or a
5 For an analysis of African societies in Cuba, see Fernando Ortiz, Los Cabildos
Afrocubanos, Havana, 1923.
6 Los Negros Esclavos, Havana, 1916, p. 26.

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Mlusical Instruments of Cuba 233

rope), which is held tightly in place by cords and wedges (Plate

II, No. i). The largest of the three enkomo is called cotchierima,
the second endoga, and the third tetendoga. The fourth Abakwa
drum, called bonko, is about thirty inches or three feet in height,
and about ten inches in diameter at the head. Its sides are slightly
tapering. As with the enkomo, the drumhead is of goatskin, which
is held to the body by cords and wedges. Some enkomo and bonko
are hollowed from a single section of log, but the use of staves for
such drums is frequent. They are played only with the hands. As
in Haiti, sticks appear not to be used on goatskin. At certain times,
especially when the drummers are marching rather than standing,
sticks (palitos) are beaten upon the body of the bonko.

The bell that complements the drums has a decided African

character (Plate II, No. 5). It is usually made by fastening two
pieces of shaped iron together to form the two sides and affixing a

metal handle. The edges where the two pieces are joined (fre-

quently by rivets, but sometimes by forging or soldering) are flattened, and a cross-section of the bell has a somewhat oval appearance. Different tones can be struck from this single bell by hitting
it in different spots. The striker is usually a hardwood stick. The

Abakwa name for the instrument is banka, and it is also called

ekdn or ekong.
The morrwa, or chief singer, sometimes plays a pair of tubular-

shaped rattles with looping, basket-like handles. They are called

eriku'nde (Plate II, No. 4). Cloth-covered and gaily decorated

with rafia, they are held down at the sides when shaken. The bot-

tom of the ericzinde is made from an end section of gourd, inverted so that the concave surface is outside. The internal strikers
are not seeds, but small cubes of hard wood. Sometimes religious
objects, such as a picture of Christ, are inserted into the rattles
along with the strikers. Contemporary ericiunde in Cuba seem to be
made exclusively of cloth-covered cardboard, as was one acquired

by the National Museum in Havana about forty years ago. One

informant7 originally from Matanzas Province told me that these

rattles were previously made of woven cane. West African rattles
of this general form are known, and they are usually of basketry.

Another rattle, used by the mdrwa for the purpose of summoning the ireme, consists of a quadruple combination of small
gourds affixed to the four ends of two crossed sticks (Plate II,
7 Alberto Zayas.

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234 The Musical Quarterly

No. 2). Inside the gourds are small seeds or stones. The hand

and gourds are stained red and further decorated with rafia. Dr
Curt Sachs suggests that the instrument should be called a "cro
rattle" or a "rattle cross".

Throughout entire ceremonies one may hear the roaring and

wailing of the Abakwa friction drum which is hidden in the lod
Members of the society will not speak about it except to indica
it is one of their important secrets. It is called uyo. One of its p
poses seems to be the creation of an attitude of awe among wom
and non-members in general.
The ireme costume frequently includes a heavy leather belt
which many bells are attached. It is referred to as an akanika. Th

bells supplement the music of the drums and ekong when t

ireme' dances (Plate II, No. 3).
Bamboo whistles are said to be used sometimes in Abakwa

services, and the singers-known as ocobios (brothers) or abane'kwe (followers)-sometimes clap hands for rhythm.

One of the major African groups in Cuba is the one known as

Arara.8 It is primarily a storehouse of Dahomean religious beliefs

and practices, many of which are more readily recognizable as

such than are the beliefs and practices of the Dahomey cults

of Haiti. For example, among the Haitian dances of the Da-

homey cycle we find the Nago (Yoruba), the Mais, and the Ibo;

and among the deities are names which indicate provenience from
other regions of Africa.9 But the very existence of so many African

cults and societies during the recent past in Cuba obviated the
necessity for fusion of different groups. It is my feeling that the

Arara cult in Cuba is more homogeneously Dahomean-as dem-

onstrated in the deities of the pantheon and in the richness of the

ritual Arara language-than the comparable Arada group in Haiti.

As with the Lucumi, Arara activities extend from one end of the
island to the other, and they are particularly strong in Oriente
Province. The deities, or loa, as they are called in Arara, include
many names familiar in the literature about Dahomey. Legua, the
protector of gateways and crossroads; Damballa and Ayida, rain8 Known in Haiti as Arada, or Rada
9 It is recognized, of course, that the Arada and the Yoruba were close neighbors
in West Africa, and that there was some interchange of culture even there. Some of
the Dahomean deities bear the same names as those of the Yoruba.

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Musical Instruments of Cuba 235

bow-serpent deities; Sobo Bade, master of the temple; Nanan

luku; Xevioso; Loko; Ogun; Gungun-all are commonly know
The terminology and conduct of the ritual closely parallel w
is to be found in the Dahomey services in Haiti.10

While in Haiti the standard orchestra for Arara, or Arad

service utilizes three drums, in Cuba as many as four or five are

uncommon. In the last century a great deal of care was lavish

upon the making, designing, and decorating of these instrumen
as an inspection of the Cuban Arara drums in the National Museu
in Havana reveals. Many of them are beautiful examples of Afr
can handicraft, with carved designs and figures in an old traditi
They range from approximately cylindrical forms slightly taper
at the base to instruments with full wide bellies terminating in
delicate base or "foot" with a small opening. Few of the Museum
Arara drums are free of carving or painting. Such decorating c
sists primarily of geometric patterns, though the carvings incl

superb representations of snakes, faces of probable deities, e

The bellies on some of the painted drums appear to be built up

winding layer upon layer of cloth around the middle, the fi
surface being decorated so skilfully as to appear part of the wood
body. These instruments seem to be large bellied drums withou
being so in reality, and probably they are stylistic imitations of
earlier forms. There are two techniques apparent in the mounti
of the heads. In one case the skins have slits through which the
are pegged to the body of the drums, while in the other the sk
is mounted on a rope hoop, which in turn is fastened to the peg
by cords (Plate III, Nos. I, 2, and 4).

Today the Cuban Arara drums are considerably simplifie

Paint is the main medium for decoration, and, as well as I co

observe, carved motifs are a thing of the past. Yet my observatio

were limited to certain areas, and it may be that further east fin
specimens exist. Some of the Arara drums are made of sections
hollowed logs, but predominantly they are made of staves put t
gether in barrel form. The outsides are planed down so that the
are smooth, and the paint which is then applied usually disguise

the seams. The cowhide heads, as with the older drums, are h

10 For descriptions of Dahomey rites in Haiti, see Melville J. Herskovits, "Life

a Haitian Valley", New York, 1937; George Eaton Simpson's "The Vodun Service
Northern Haiti", in the "American Anthropologist", Vol. 42, No. 2; and my "H
Singing", Chapel Hill, 1939. For comparisons with ritual in Dahomey, see Melv
Herskovits, "Dahomey", 1938.

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The Musical Quarterly

directly to the body of the drums by the pegs, or they are mounted

on rope hoops and held to the pegs by cords.1l The pegs are important tuning mechanisms, since driving them down tightens the
skins. Persons outside the Arara cult often refer to Arara drums as

"French drums", possibly because in Oriente Province they are

associated with Haitians and Haitian cult music.

The four drums customarily constituting an Arara orchestra

are named, in order of size from largest to smallest, hugdn, xumpe,

hun-hogulo, and huni. Collectively they are called hun. Techniques of playing are approximately the same as in Haiti. A malletshaped or hooked stick is used on the largest drum, and it is characteristically struck from time to time upon the body of the drum
above the pegs. Drummers are called huntor, a term that in Haiti
signifies "spirit of the drum".12

Complementing the drums is an iron bell-or its

substitute-known as an ogdn, or oga. It is a single
inverted bell with an external iron beater, closely
resembling the bankd of the Abakwa. This form is
employed for ordinary ritual and social dances. A
double-ogan, consisting of two bells of different
size and tone, joined by an iron loop handle, is used
for mourning music, according to a humbdno of
Matanzas province.13 This device is strikingly West
African both in principle and pattern (Plate III,
No. 3). There are numerous variations of the loop
handle, one being where the two bells have straight
handles which are forged together so that the bells
are held as a cluster of flowers. According to my
11 Both of these methods of mounting heads on Arada or Arara drums are known
in Haiti. See my "Musical Instruments of Haiti", in The Musical Quarterly, July, I94i,
p. 373. A photograph in Herskovits, "Life in a Haitian Valley", p. 193, shows the cord
and peg combination. One of these forms may be a development of the other, and it
is easy to suppose that the skin-peg combination, being simpler, is older. The skin-peg
drum of Haiti, however, is embellished with cords laced around the pegs in such a
way that one may speculate whether they do not represent an archaic skin-rope-peg

combination. See the photograph facing p. 173 of Zora Neale Hurston's "Tell My
Horse", New York, 1938.
12 As Herskovits points out, hun is a Dahomean word meaning "spirit". It is in-

teresting to note that many Cuban Arara words are formed on this root. In addition
to the terms mentioned above, the Arara language includes bunsi ("spirit wife", or
servitor of the deity), bungenicon (Arara priest's chief assistant), and humbono
(Arara priest). The Dahomey cult in Haiti retains many of these Iun words and
others not mentioned here.
13 Esteva Baro.

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Musical Instruments of Cuba


informant, this instrument is used to announce the advent of a

feast. Where bells are not available for the more routine Ararai
music, simple makeshifts such as hoe-blades may be used.
The ritual rattles used by the Arara priest

and his assistant are designated by the name

assongwr.e. They are commonly made of

small perforated tin containers approximately

double-cone shaped, to which handles of

wood or metal are fastened.

The singing leaders use small gourd rattles, called marugas, for beating time.


The Kimbisa or Mayombe cult is only one
of the many Congo groups that are known to have existed in
Cuba.1' Numerous Congo "tribes" are spoken of by present-day
Cubans. They include Palomonte, Biyumba, Mosundi, Congo

Real, Mundeli, Loango, Mondongo, Bafiote, Musolongo, and

Macuta, but it is not clear that they exist as organized cults.

Among the better-known Cuban Congo deities are Ansasi,

god of the storm; Saravanda, deity of the mountain; Pasua, the
curer; Marelango, god of the ocean; Tchorla, a river deity; Tiem-

blaent6to, chief of the cemetery; Quatroviento and Ensambia,

crossroads guardians; and Kenge, god of war.

Kimbisa music employs three tall drums with goatskin heads,
mounted on hoops and held in place with cords and wedges. They
are played with the hands, and according to an informant16 it is
common for the drummers to wear rattle-bracelets of nuts and
seed pods on their wrists. A maraca-type hand rattle is sometimes

used also.

Some Congo dances, such as that designated as the Palomonte,

may use only two drums.

One of the Congo secular dances bears the name Djuka, or

Mani.17 It is a "war" dance in which the violent postures and
movements are representations of battle. Three drums are played,
14 Called asson in Haiti.

15 For a detailed list of tribes represented in Cuba see Ortiz, Los Negros Esclavos,

p. 24 ff.

16 Alberto Zayas.

17 The Djuka is also referred to as Yuka and Mula. Note that some Negroes in
Dutch Guiana are called Djuka.

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238 The Musical Quarterly

with sticks sometimes being struck upon the body of one of th

Cowhide heads are permanently fastened by nails. Djuka dr

are approximately six feet long and are played in horizontal p
tion, the drummers sitting astride them. One informant said

all Djuka drums are called mila, and another designated th

respectively as cachimbo, mula, and akadjd. It is not clear whe

these terms also apply to Kimbisa instruments.
















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Plate III

1, 2, and 4. Old Arara Drums 3. Double Ogan

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Plate IV

1. Large Marimbula 2. Giiayo (Gourd Scraper)

3. Quinto 4. Small Marimbula

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Musical Instruments of Cuba 239

which are beaten on the table, and a door, which is beaten by ha

by the fourth musician. Nothing, I was told, could be adequatel
substituted for the spoons or door. Another combination for t

Yambui was a grind organ and a giiayo (scraper). The Taona

formerly played upon two tumbas, claves, and a marimbula.

The essential form of the marimbula is a box-usually two fe
or more high (or long)--on which metal strips have been moun

so that they may be plucked with the fingers (Plate IV, No.
This instrument is known in Haiti as marimba, or malimba.

Cuba small marimbulas approximating the African "thumb-pian

in size are occasionally seen in the outskirts of Havana and

Matanzas Province, and in some instances they are held in

palms of both hands and played with the thumbs in the Africa
manner. The method of fastening the keys securely to the soun
ing box is almost identical to that observed on some African
struments of similar type (Plate IV, No. 4). One informant2' to

me that strips of reed or bamboo are still used on the smal

marimbulas where metal pieces are not available, but that they
not liked because they lack sonority. Reed keys are not unco
mon in West Africa. Metal keys for the Cuban instruments usua
consist of short strips of steel springs from clocks or phonogra
specially forged keys, as on the African m'bila, do not seem to


The old metal grater or scraper, known as giiayo, is no long

common in Cuba, and seems to be largely replaced in m

regions by the gourd scraping instrument, also known as giiayo

guiro. The gourd giiayo is generally long in shape and has t

holes, one in the back and one formed by cutting off the n

(Plate IV, No. 2). The front surface is incised deeply with parall

cuts, across which a wire or other scraping object is drawn.

cow's horn incised with marks also may be employed as a giiayo

Congas and Rhumbas often employ a large cow-bell, or ce

cerro, from which the tongue has been removed. It is beaten ex

ternally with a nail or specially fabricated striker. Different ton
are played on the cencerro by hitting it in different places, nea
and distant from the lip. In Havana, cencerros are made withou
internal strikers and sold as musical instruments, with no thoug
of cows or mules, for whom they were originally intended. Som
times the instruments are referred to as gangaria.
21 Alberto Zayas.

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The Musical Quarterly


One Son that I heard was played on a cencerro, a gourd

scraper, a clay blowing-jug (botija), and a bongo (the common

Cuban twin drum that is held between the knees and played with

the hands). The botija is played by blowing across the opening.

Sometimes it has an extra hole in the side which may be stopped
with a finger to produce different tones. Occasionally glass bottles

are substituted.

The Danson can be played on a botija, a scraper, a large

marimbula, and a tymbale (European twin drum played with

Pre-Easter processions known as Comparsas have a widely
varied assortment of instruments, including Conga drums, bombos
(European bass drums), snare drums, cencerros or double bells of

the ogan type (called San Martins when used for secular purposes), trumpets of the usual variety, and palitos. Available photographs of Comparsas show tambourines and still other types of

The Zapateo, a kind of country clog dance (from zapatear, to

strike with the shoe), may use guitars, claves, and scraping instruments.

The usual musical complement for the puntos guahir

peasant "ballads", consists of claves and a guitar, or its subst

which may be a seis (having six double strings), a tres (with
double strings), or a laud (with seven double strings). The

are played only between the "stanzas" or "arguments" o


The bamboo stamping tube known in Haiti as ganbo or

granbo, and the ground harp or earth bow referred to there as a

"mosquito drum" are not found in western Cuba, but persons

from Oriente Province affirm that these devices are known in that

region. An elderly informant in Santa Clara Province told me that

gourds inverted in water and beaten with sticks were previously
known in Cuba, but that he himself had never actually seen them.
Conch trumpets are used as signal horns on the coast and in the in-

terior of Cuba. A man in Havana referred to a banjo without

strings, called a biola, whose parchment head is beaten as a hand

drum. The burro's jawbone, or quijara de burro, is commonly

known but only infrequently seen in Matanzas Province. It is

played by shaking it so that the loose teeth rattle.

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