Ancient Text Messages of the Yoruba Bata Drum: Cracking the Code, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Ancient Text Messages of the Yoruba Bata Drum

Cracking the Code, 1st Edition

By Amanda Villepastour


192 pages

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Hardback: 9780754667537
pub: 2010-04-28
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The bata is one of the most important and representative percussion traditions of the people in southwest Nigeria, and is now learnt and performed around the world. In Cuba, their own bata tradition derives from the Yoruba bata from Africa yet has had far more research attention than its African predecessor. Although the bata is one of the oldest known Yoruba drumming traditions, the drum and its unique language are now unfamiliar to many contemporary Yoruba people. Amanda Villepastour provides the first academic study of the bata's communication technology and the elaborate coded spoken language of bata drummers, which they refer to as 'ena bata'. Villepastour explains how the bata drummers' speech encoding method links into universal linguistic properties, unknown to the musicians themselves. The analysis draws the direct links between what is spoken in Yoruba, how Yoruba is transformed in to the coded language (ena), how ena prescribes the drum strokes and, finally, how listeners (and which listeners) extract linguistic meaning from what is drummed. The description and analysis of this unique musical system adds substantially to what is known about bata drumming specifically, Yoruba drumming generally, speech surrogacy in music and coded systems of speaking. This book will appeal not only to ethnomusicologists and anthropologists, but also to linguists, drummers and those interested in African Studies.


‘… the book is a most important contribution not only to the study of bàtá message drumming, but to the study of the Yorùbá language, its representations on "talking" instruments, and many adjoining areas of research, including the organology of the bàtá set and Yorùbá culture history in general.’ Gerard Kubik in African Music

‘Villepastour’s research and analyses are remarkable for breaking apart and decoding the puzzle that is Yorùbá bàtá speech.’ Anthropos

‘… highly recommended for students in African ethnomusicology, drumming researchers, and those interested in learning a bit more about Yoruba drumming language. I guarantee it will speak to you.’ Inside world Music

'… this book is a tour de force. It is a welcome resource for organologists, ethnomusicologists, and drummers; and it also offers much of interest to linguists, anthropologists, and persons involved inAfrican Studies.' Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; The telegraph without wire; An extension of mouth: how the Bàtá talks; Other voices: the Omele Méta and the Ìyáàlù Dùndún; Speaking in codes: Enà Bàtá; Epilogue: Bàtá is the mouthpiece of Awo; Appendices; Bibliography; Discography; Index.

About the Author

Dr Amanda Villepastour, University of Cardiff, UK.

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General