Preserving a Tradition of Afro-Cuban Batá Drums

by Corinna Moebius of

MIAMI–Little Havana resident Ezequiel Torres transforms dead trees into musical instruments.

He is recognized as one of the top batá drummers, drum-builders and beaders in the United States.

At age 57, Ezequiel has been making drums for more than three decades, using techniques he learned as a youth in his hometown of Havana, Cuba and adapted in the years since he moved to Miami at age 25. In Cuba he also learned how to play these drums: the Afro-Cuban batá drums.

I say drums because the batá are always played as a set, with one musician playing the largest “mother” drum, or Iyá, another playing the “father” drum, or Itotele and a third playing the smallest, “baby” drum: the Onkokolo.

The three musicians play all three drums at the same time, using interlocking rhythms that change according to the lead of the Iyá drummer. As you can imagine, it’s extremely challenging to play the batá based on the number of rhythms one must learn and because of the importance of staying in sync with the other players.

For the full story, click here to continue reading at and enjoy a video clip of Torres’ drumming. -Florida PNC Editor 

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