Sacred Bata Drums

Sacred Bata Drums (Ty Vandenberg)

Title: Bata Drums

General Information about Item:

  • Folk Instrument, hand drum
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Nigeria
  • Informant: Hafiz Farel F. Shabazz
  • Date Collected: 2/29/18

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: Bata drummers share brotherhood IFA culture/society – believe they can invoke spirits that belong to individuals called “Orishas”. For example, the spirit of love can be called upon by one who is linked with the spirit, in order to have an increased chance of love. Three drummers with blessed hands play specific beats and chants that call upon the spirits to come down and hypnotize them.
  • Social Context: This folklore was given to us by Professor Shabazz when we picked his brain from a broader perspective about African Drumming Folklore. This immediately came to mind as he truly believes in all of the rituals and is a member of the IFA society and religion.


  • Bata drummers are gifted sacred drums called Bata Drums. These drums can not be touched under any circumstance by anyone other than its owner or the drum will bring bad luck upon each hit. The drums are warmed up by the rubbing and scratching of the drumhead and the spirits are awoken. The rubbing and scratching of the drumhead not only warms up the hands of the drummer but it also warms up the drum itself. Playing the bata drum without warming up first has negative effects and will not invoke the spirit in the correct way.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file): FullSizeRender-1

Transcript: “The Bata drums that are owned by their respective drummers are never to be touched by anyone else and they are always warmed up by the owner. If this does not happen, then the spirit will not be summoned and the hands of the drummer will not be properly blessed for the ritual”

Informant’s Comments:

  • Shabazz was very clear in the distinction between superstition and true religious belief when talking about the Bata Drums. He believes that the drums speak to the spirits and that this is a real belief of the members of the IFA culture, not just a superstition.

Collector’s Comments:

  • This folklore item was extremely interesting to hear about from Professor Shabazz specifically because of his passion towards the subject. As you can see in the video of him playing these drums, it is clear that he has an otherworldly connection with these drums. As he mentioned, the drums speak to him, and he speaks to the drum.

Collector’s Name: Ty Vandenberg


[Bata Drums, Folk Instrument, African Druming Folklore]