Bembe Ceremony

Bembe Ceremony (Dylan Alvarez)

Title: Bembe Ceremony

General Information about Item:

  • Ritual, Sympathetic Magic
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Nigeria
  • Informant: Professor Hafiz Shabazz
  • Date Collected: 3/1/18

Informant Data:

  • Hafiz Farel F. Shabazz- Master drummer and Director of the World Music Percussion Ensemble, is an ethnomusicologist, percussionist, performer, and lecturer. He is an initiated member of the Ancestral Shrine of the Ashanti Nation in Ghana, West Africa. Professor at Dartmouth College.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Bembes are ceremonies that are of large importance to those who follow the IFA religion. These ceremonies are primary method by which they can invoke the Orishas, so it is a highly regarded part of the the religion.
  • Social Context: While the Bembe ceremonies are more of a serious religious manner than something that is discussed socially, there are social aspects after the ceremony.


  • Bembe is a cermony that is practiced once a week where three bata drummers play a certain rhythm while singing chants in order to invoke certain Orishas. If the Orishas are invoked, the person that has been filled with that Orisha will have particular success and good fortune in the area of that Orisha. For example, if a person invokes the Orisha of love, Oshun, that person will have particular success in their love life.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):


  • “Bata drummers have special rhythms that they play for each Orisha. Through the chanting and the drumming they invoke these Orishas, therefore the individual who worshipped these Orishas takes on the personification of that spirit.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • The Bembe ceremony is widely practiced part of the IFA religion. There are various aspects to the ritual, and if these are not followed, the Orishas will not be invoked.

Collector’s Comments:

  • The part that was most interesting to me about Bembes is that if the Bata drummers play the rhythm incorrectly, that is a serious problem and the ceremony must be started over.

Collector’s Name: Dylan Alvarez


  • Ritual
  • Sympathetic Magic
  • Bembe
  • Bata
  • IFA