Edited by Joseph M. Murphy & Mei-Mei Sanford.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001

An excellent publication on the Orisha Oshun and her various representations in Africa and the Diaspora. The book features articles numerous scholars on Yoruba religion. At the expense of sounding biased, there are two articles that I especially enjoyed: Wande Abimbola’s “The Bag of Wisdom: Osun and the Origins of Ifá Divination,” and David O. Ogundigbe’s “Eerindinlogun: The Seeing Eyes of Sacred Shells and Stones.”

Joseph Murphy’s analysis of the Oshún/Caridad del Cobre relationship is a very important contribution toward further understanding the processes that reshaped Lukumí religion in the Diaspora. Likewise, Isabel Castellano’s “River of Many Turns. . .” continues to build upon her already established reputation as an excellent researcher and her analytical abilities. I have one issue though, and that is with my omó orisha Ysamur Flores. Yewandé and I need to discuss and compare Oshun’s and Shango’s throne! :-) Osun Across the Waters is a welcome and valuable addition to Orisha literature. I applaud Joseph Murphy and Mei-Mei Sanford for a wonderful and insightful contribution that will most definitely have an impact on Yoruba and Diasporan-Yoruba Orisha scholarship.

By Iyanifa Ileana S. Alcamo
Translated by Oluwo Cris Alcamo
New York, Athelia Henrietta Press, 2002

When I first received the email recommending this book, I was drawn to buy it on account of primarily one thing: the word “Iyanifa.” The title implied, at least to me, a serious study on the trials that a woman ordained to Ifá may encounter in the Lukumí world, something that is truly needed in this day and age. It is a well-known fact that the Lukumí tradition has always maintained that women should not be ordained to Ifá. In all fairness, we must emphasize that this belief was not a conspiracy by Cuban Babalawós motivated by sheer selfishness to purposely disenfranchise women. This proscription was handed down by the Lukumí progenitors of this religion. I believed Alcamo’s book would explore these issues and attempt to defend the ordination and argue her point convincingly by presenting the reader with solid facts, profound analyses based on odú, or interviews with Yoruba Babalawós and other Iyanifás, something that in many respects has already been done quite graciously by Chief FAMA Àìná Adéwálé-Somadhi.

Instead, Alcamo’s book turned out to be a true disappointment. Alcamo bit off more than she could chew and went to battle without offering ebó. While raising some valid points about the arrogant and self-centered nature of some members of the Lukumí priesthood, Alcamo’s book reads more like one of those new-age guides for Ifá and Orisha groupies. I believe that too many issues that Alcamo raises are allowed to lie fallow because so much of the book is dedicated to her complaints about her negative encounters with what sounds like a very limited sector of the Lukumí community. Alcamo loses out on wonderful opportunities to explore and analyze the state of the religion in terms of its representatives, some of which are often clearly known to be highly unscrupulous opportunists that, though ordained by Lukumí standards, are far from being true and sincere devotees. I must emphasize that this group does not represent the majority of the Lukumí community, something Alcamo does say at various points throughout her book. This group of iniquitous heretics is in fact a slim minority of the Lukumí population that because of their lack of religious scruples and basic human values, become the better known; the infamous representatives that detract from our religion.

Unfortunately, Alcamo’s book does not rate very high as a valuable contribution to the growing body of serious literature on Lukumí, Diasporan and Yoruba religion. Unfortunately, “The Challenge. . .” loses out on its opportunity to confront the serious issues by delving solely on complaints and “mystic” advice. These flaws place Alcamo’s book alongside the many “supermarket tabloid” publications that are filling the shelves of American mystic and occult bookstores spreading more misinformation on an already sufficiently misrepresented religion.

by Obá Oriaté Miguel “Willie” Ramos, Ilarí Obá.

English • EspañolPortuguês

As a young Olorisha in New York, I became aware of what I considered an urgent need to disseminate information to other Olorishas about our religious practices. By my sixteenth birthday, I had published the first edition of this book, 100 books, meant to circulate solely amongst my friends and the members of my ilé. Looking back on that book today, in many respects I feel embarrassed by it as the spelling errors and typos were so numerous that it still upsets me. In fact, I am often angered whenever I see the pirate copies of that edition that are still offered for sale, primarily in New York.

Dominated by religious fervor and an idealist frame of mind, I was very naive, gullible and inexperienced in the affairs of the “real” world and I paid the price. The printer, who according to our agreement was supposed to have edited the book, never did so. As a result, the book was printed with all the grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and even the crossed-out words—typos—that the printer was supposed to have edited but never did. When I saw the finished product, and the printer’s despotism-who after all was dealing with a kid- I was upset but naive, and the printer refused to repair the damage. I lost half my money which I gave as an initial deposit but I took the books as they were. The printer lost his work that I refused to pay for-I may have been naive but not stupid! Still, since the edition was for a small group of people, I did not make much of it and distributed as it was, with all the errors. Was that a mistake!

In spite of all these flaws, though, in a matter of months, the intellectual pirates somehow got a hold of one of the books and published and republished it over and over again, with all its errors, and most detrimental of all, without my consent! It was stolen! The lawyers I consulted suggested that it would be a waste of time to pursue any legal course of action because it was such a minor case-“small fry”- that it was not worth the time and effort. Thousands of pirate copies of the book hit the market and were on sale at botanicas all over the city. Surprisingly, in spite of all its errors, the book was very successful. For some reason, probably dictated by the little literature available during that early period of Lukumí religion in the U.S., the book was always well received. To this day, I come across people who tell me that thanks to this book, they learned to chant Osayín— chants are the book’s major emphasis— or that they use the book to consult some of the bead patterns I describe for some of the orishas. The fact that this book was influential to scores of Olorishas in many, many ways is my major reward. Modupé ó!

Since the first edition in 1975, the book has been reprinted two other times in this edited version advertised here—also being pirated by deceitful and petty thieves (of which there are many others today) who prey on intellectual property for their own financial benefit because they lack the intellect to do it any other way. The book is in Spanish, however I am currently considering a revised, English version. While I am aware that this book contains a number of flaws and errors, especially in terms of the Yoruba orthography, I cannot help but feel that it continues to perform the task I originally had in mind when I first published it: disseminate information. The book is a valuable stepping stone for the young Olorisha and for the aborisha as well in that it lays foundations for future edification.

Asé Omó Osayín. . . Ewé Ayé
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English • Español • Português

Desde que fui iniciado en la religión en la ciudad de Nueva York, me preocupé por lo que consideré una urgente necesidad de diseminar información sobre la religión lukumí a la creciente comunidad religiosa en Estados Unidos. Con a penas unos dieciséis años de edad, publiqué la primera edición de este libro, unos 100 tomos, los cuales pensé distribuir entre algunas amistades y los miembros de mi Ilé Osha. Actualmente, al revisar el manuscrito y el ejemplar de aquel primer libro, me siento un tanto abochornado, ya que los errores ortográficos y gramaticales fueron muchos y el libro se imprimió sin poderle hacer las debidas correcciones. Más me enfado cuando veo las copias piratas de aquella edición, que aun siguen vendiendo—especialmente en Nueva York—los ladrones y rateros baratos que se lucran del trabajo y esfuerzo de otros sin el más mínimo remordimiento.

Impulsado por el fervor religioso y una mentalidad idealista e ingenua, fui victima de mi propia falta de malicia e inexperiencia tocante a los asuntos del mundo “real”, y por lo cual pagué costosamente. El impresor, quien según nuestro acuerdo editaría el libro y corregiría los errores, nunca lo hizo. Resultó que el libro fue impreso con todos los errores y hasta las tachas y borrones que el editor se suponía que corrigiera más nunca hizo. Cuando obtuve el producto final, y tropecé con la defensa despótica del impresor, quien después de todo estaba tratando con un chiquillo inmaduro, este rehúso a enmendar su error. Perdí la mitad del dinero que me había pedido por el trabajo, pero me entregó los libros tal y como estaban, sin corregirlos. El también perdió pues nunca cobró la suma completa que había pedido por hacer el trabajo—yo sería ingenuo, pero no estúpido. Arriba de que había hecho el trabajo mal, sería yo demasiado tonto si le pagaba el balance. No obstante, como la idea inicial era de repartir esta edición a mis amistades y familia de Osha, no me preocupé tanto y los distribuí tal y como estaban, con un sin número monstruoso de errores. ¡Que metida de patas!

A pesar de sus faltas, en cuestión de meses, los piratas intelectuales lograron conseguir una copia del libro y lo imprimieron y repartieron por toda la ciudad de Nueva York, nuevamente sin corregir ningún error, y más indignante aún, sin mi consentimiento. Nuevamente caí de victima. Consulté algunos abogados, pero todos coincidieron en una cosa—perseguirles sería un proceso difícil y muy costoso para un asunto tan pequeño, pues perdería tiempo y dinero sin garantía alguna.

Se repartieron miles de ejemplares piratas a través de las botánicas de la ciudad. Para mi gran sorpresa, a pesar de todas sus faltas, el libro gozó de un gran éxito. Por razones inexplicables, posiblemente impulsado por la escasez de materiales sobre la religión existentes en la era, el libro siempre fue muy bien recibido. Hasta en la actualidad, constantemente me encuentro con personas que me confiesan que aprendieron los súyeres de Osayín y los orishas gracias a este libro o que consultan el libro cuando desean conocer los colores rituales para el ensarte de los collares de sus orishas. El mero hecho de que este libro haya influenciado la vida de tantos olorishas quizás sea mi mayor recompensa. ¡Modupé ó!

Desde aquella monstruosa edición de 1975, la edición revisada de este libro se ha impreso tres veces más. Lamentablemente, los piratas aun siguen al acecho. Carecen de la intelectualidad para producir trabajos de valor para la comunidad religiosa, pero más aún, carecen de el más básico sentido de la ética, pero les sobra inmoralidad y vileza. Deposito esta injusticia en las manos de Ogún, Shangó y Olodumare.

Aunque estoy muy consciente de que la edición revisada también contiene algunos errores, y que mi propia perspectiva ha evolucionado con el andar de los años y la experiencia adquirida, no puedo dejar de sentir que este libro logró cumplir con los deseos de aquel joven ingenuo de dieciséis años: diseminar información. Considero que el libro es una herramienta muy valiosa para el iyawó y el olorisha joven que están dando sus primeros pasos dentro de la religión lukumí, al igual que lo es para el aborisha o aleyó que está tratando de lograr una mejor comprensión sobre la religión en la cual se está introduciendo.

Asé Omó Osayín. . . Ewé Ayé
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EnglishEspañol • Português

Traduzido perto Ricardo Ferreira do Amaral, advogado, artista plástico e filho de Airá.

Desde que fui iniciado na religião na cidade de Nova Iorque, preocupei-me pelo que considerei uma urgente necessidade de disseminar informação sobre a religião lukimi à crescente comunidade religiosa nos Estados Unidos. Com apenas dezesseis anos de idade, publiquei a primeira edição deste livro, uns 100 tomos, que pensei distribuir entre algumas amizades e os membros do meu Ilé Osha. Atualmente, revisando o manuscrito e o exemplar daquele primeiro livro, me sinto um tanto envergonhado, pois os erros ortográficos e gramaticais foram muitos e o livro foi impresso sem que pudessem ser feitas as devidas correções. Mais me zango ainda, quando vejo as cópias piratas daquela edição, que ainda seguem vendendo – especialmente em Nova Iorque – os ladrões e gatunos baratos que lucram com o trabalho e esforço dos outros sem o mínimo remorso.

Impulsionado pelo fervor religioso e uma mentalidade idealista e ingênua, fui vítima da minha própria falta de malícia e pela inexperiência tocante aos assuntos do mundo “real”, pelo que paguei com muito custo. O impressor, que segundo nosso acordo editaria o livro e corrigiria os erros, nunca cumpriu o combinado. O resultado foi que o livro foi impresso com todos os erros e até com os riscos e borrões que o editor, supunha-se que os corrigisse mas nunca o fez.

Quando obtive o produto final e tropecei com a defesa despótica do impressor, que ao final das contas estava tratando com um pirralho imaturo, aquele se recusou a sanar seu erro. Perdi a metade do dinheiro que ele havia pedido pelo trabalho, porém, me entregou os livros tal qual estavam, sem nenhuma correção. Ele também perdeu, pois nunca cobrou a soma completa que tinha pedido para fazer o trabalho – eu era ingênuo, mas não estúpido. Ainda por cima de ter feito mal o trabalho, eu seria demasiado bobo se lhe pagasse o saldo faltante. No entanto, como a idéia inicial era a de repartir aquela edição às minhas amizades e família de Osha, não me preocupei tanto assim e distribui os livros tal qual estavam, com um sem número monstruoso de erros. Que mancada!

Apesar das falhas, em questão de meses, os piratas intelectuais conseguiram uma cópia do livro e o imprimiram e repartiram por toda a cidade de Nova Iorque, novamente sem corrigir nenhum erro e o mais indignativo: sem o meu consentimento. Novamente fui vítima. Consultei alguns advogados, mas todos coincidiram numa coisa: perseguí-los seria um processo difícil e por demais oneroso para um assunto tão pequeno, pois perderia tempo e dinheiro sem garantia alguma.

Foram repartidos milhares de exemplares piratas através das botânicas (lojas especializadas em artigos religiosos) da cidade. Para grande surpresa minha, apesar de todas as falhas, o livro gozou de um grande êxito. Por razões inexplicáveis – provavelmente impulsionado pela escassez de material sobre a religião naquela época- o livro sempre foi muito bem recebido. Até na atualidade, constantemente encontro com pessoas que me confessam terem aprendido os súyeres de Osayín e os orixás, graças a esse livro ou que consultam o livro quando desejam conhecer as cores rituais para confeccionar os colares de seus orixás. O mero fato de este livro ter influenciado a vida de tantos olorixás, quiçá seja a minha maior recompensa. Modupé ó!

Desde aquela monstruosa edição de 1975, a edição revisada deste livro tem sido impressa por mais três vezes. Lamentavelmente, os piratas continuam à espreita. Carecem de intelectualidade pra produzir trabalhos de valor para a comunidade religiosa, porém ainda mais, carecem do mais básico sentido de ética, sobrando-lhes imoralidade e vileza. Deposito esta injustiça nas mãos de Ogum, Xangô e Olodumarê.

Ainda que esteja muito consciente de a edição revisada também conter alguns erros, e de minha perspectiva ter evoluído através dos anos e da experiência adquirida, não posso deixar de sentir que este livro conseguiu cumprir com os desejos daquele jovem ingênuo de dezesseis anos: disseminar informação. Considero que o livro é uma ferramenta muito valiosa para o iyawô e o olorixá jovem que estejam dando seus primeiros passos dentro da religião lukumi, da mesma maneira que para o aborixá ou aleyô que está tratando de obter uma melhor compreensão sobre a religião na que está se introduzindo.

Asé Omó Osayín. . . Ewé Ayé
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Kabiosile Productions releases two of the most invigorating illustrations of orisha music and life to come out of Matanzas since Lydia Cabrera’s and Josefina Tarafa’s 1950’s recordings recently released by the Smithsonian Institute. The religious practices of Matanzas differ greatly from those of Havana. Olorishas in the primarily Havana-centric Lukumí Diaspora, unfamiliar with these variations, will appreciate these recordings that will permit a bird’s eye view into a familiar but distinctive Lukumí world, with a flavor all its own.

The listener (or viewer) will be immediately transported the town of Simpson, a close but distant world that has been called the heart of Africa in Matanzas, where life has changed little since time immemorial. In Simpson, the cultures of numerous African ethnic groups permeates the air. On any given day, walking the streets of the small town, one can hear batá, bembé, Egbado, or Yesá drums resonate on one block, Arará drums half way down the street, and bantú drumming on the following corner. Africa and her offspring burgeon in Simpson.

This CD and DVD are sure to become valuable contributors to the documentation and preservation of Lukumí religious music and traditions for all time. Do not miss out on your opportunity to own these one-of-a-kind historical collector’s items. Buy them today!

Bata y Bembe de Matanzas I: La Presentación de un Iyawo de Chango
Experience the power of Matanzas-style Orisha music as performed by Alfredo Calvo (one of the most knowledgeable and talented Afro-Cuban folkloric singers alive today) and his Añá Obá Tolá. The CD also presents, for the first time, the incredible sound of the sacred Lukumi Bembé Makagua, which were made in the early 20th century as war drums for the Orisha Chango. The drums are hot and Alfredo’s singing is amazing. A must have for all lovers of Orisha music!

Alfredo Calvo is the last surviving omorisha of Ferminita Gomez, Osha Bí, a Yoruba ex-slave who founded one of the most important branches of the Afro-Cuban religion popularly known as Santeria. Calvo, who just turned 73, was crowned a priest of Agayu by Ferminita when he was 12 and she was 102. It was foretold during his initiation that he would be the person to carry on the traditions of her house—and that he certainly has done. Hundreds of godchildren and many sets of Aña have been born in his house (including the first set of Aña ever brought to the United States, by Francisco Aguabella), and he has taught dozens of drummers, singers, and priests of the religion.
“Fifty years from now, this will be considered one of the most important recordings to come out of Matanzas,” says Michael Spiro, master drummer.

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Vamos al Tambor, volume 1: Presentations in Matanzas, Cuba
“Three Changos” is the presentation of three new initiates or priests to the sacred drums, known as Aña. It documents the traditional Matanzas style of presentation to the drums: the “kings” or “queens” are dressed in luxurious garments in the colors of their Orishas, and a complete sequence of praise songs is played and sung (as opposed to the cursory Havana style presentation in which only the initiate’s crowning Orisha is played to). The three Iyawos in this presentation (two men and a woman) were all “born” on the same day from the same Padrino’s Chango.

Alfredo Calvo is akpon (lead singer) and calls the Orishas down to Earth in his inimitable style (just the part where he sings to Chango is worth the price of the DVD). He is accompanied by three of his finest drummers and members of the Santeria community of Matanzas.

“Wonderful DVD….This is a very rare glimpse into the private religious practices of Santeria in Matanzas, and done with great respect. Excellent quality…. Highly recommended.”
Bruce Polin, Descarga.com

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Review by Miguel “Willie” Ramos, Ilarí Obá

Kabiosile Productions and Tina Gallagher have done it once again. The new ethnographic DVD, “La Fuerza del Tambor,” shot entirely on location in Matanzas, Cuba, is another captivating window into the world of Lukumí religion, and in this case Afro-Cuban drumming, in that other Cuban Mecca, Matanzas. For olorishas in the United States and elsewhere, unfamiliar with the variety and variations that exist in that city, this is a welcome addition to the Kabiosile legacy.

The DVD’s principal protagonist, Babalorisha and Olubatá Alfredo Calvo, Alá Aganjú, is one of Matanzas most respected and senior priests, descended from the renowned Egbadó priestess Ma Monserrate González, Obá Tero and her religious progeny, Fermina Gómez, Oshabí. Calvo’s insight and experience as a priest, a drummer and a living repository or Afro-Cuban culture in Matanzas is one of the highest peaks of this film. His ability to discuss numerous themes associated with Afro-Cuban religions, primarily Lukumí, Bantú and Abakuá, is remarkable and his interpretations are often ingenious and provocative.

Calvo’s abilities as a mentor and teacher are clearly exemplified by the other olorishas and drummers that participate in the interviews. They share Calvo’s insight, but also contribute their own understanding, their own visions of what Afro-Cuban culture represents, especially when viewed through the eyes of a member of the culture. For the foreigner, religious or not, this is an important insight into modern Cuba as it reflects African culture’s impressive ability to adapt to whatever circumstances it encounters and subsequently prevail.

One of the DVD’s high points is the description and demonstration of the Macagua Bembé drums, a specific drum ensemble that was given to the Lukumí priest Gerardo de Las Mercedes Valdez, better known as “Cheo Changó,” by the Arará Mahíno, a Dahomean sub-group, some time in the mid twentieth century. This gift may well mark the onset of collaboration between the Lukumí and Arará peoples in Matanzas that oral history tells us may have had a lingering rivalry in the nineteenth century. Though there are other bembé ensembles in Cuba, all of which consist of three peg-type drums, Macagua is unique among Cuba’s bembé drums because it has an additional drum, the reason for which I will not reveal here to maintain the element of surprise. Suffice it to say that this is another example of African ingenuity and adaptability.

Other high points in the film are the scenes from actual wemileres and bembés in Matanzas, which similar to Kabiosile’s first film, include actual possessions, possibly one of the first times that these are documented in Cuba. No doubt, these scenes alone will generate much conversation among the members of the religious communities outside of Cuba. But there are other surprises as well that will surely stimulate further conversation and discussion.

Though the film is highly educational and not meant to be controversial per se, it does raise important issues that must be considered in the light of the increasing internationalization of Lukumí religion and its encounters with other African religions and traditions in the Americas. This makes “La Fuerza del Tambor” one of the most important films to come out of Cuba in recent years. It is a must for the serious student of Lukumí culture and Afro-Cuban drumming. Modupé ó Tina Gallagher and Kabiosile Productions.

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