MAKU­TA DRUMS BEAT THREE TI­MES FOR BENNY MO­RÉ

Arte por Excelencias - - Cuba -

A few blocks from the His­to­ric Cen­ter of San­ta Isa­bel de las La­jas, we come to a hou­se made of rot­ting wo­od, pain­ted whi­te, with blue do­ors and lar­ge win­dows, and a ga­bled ro­of. On the last of the three steps of the en­tran­ce, a grayed­hair lady wel­co­mes us. She we­ars a brown skirt and a whi­te blou­se with a sharp neck­li­ne. She al­so we­ars a he­ads­carf and just be­hind her right ear she holds a whi­te ba­sil branch. Her na­me is Ma­de­lai­ne Hernán­dez and she is the di­rec­tor and cul­tu­ral pro­mo­ter of Maku­ta folk­lo­ric group, from the Con­go Chap­ter. To en­ter, she tells us that we should le­an and touch the sto­ne three ti­mes with the right hand, a sort of per­mis­si­on to be gran­ted by so­me deity; and, of cour­se, carry a ba­sil branch be­hind the ear for the du­ra­ti­on of the pre­sen­ta­ti­on. In­si­de we stand in front of an al­tar with ye­llow cand­les de­di­ca­ted to San An­to­nio de Pa­dua, Ogun the war­ri­or and, of cour­se, I could not miss the Eleg­guá, always be­hind the do­or. The Chap­ter, cre­a­ted in 1886, tre­a­su­res the maku­ta drums that we­re in the bar­racks of the Ca­ra­ca su­gar mill, whe­re the sla­ves would take re­fu­ge, to for­get about the whip­ping and to cre­a­te their art without res­tric­ti­ons or any con­si­de­ra­ti­ons. It was a true sa­cred tem­ple whe­re only one ra­ce mat­te­red: the hu­man ra­ce! The com­mu­nity pro­ject owes its ge­ne­sis to the res­to­ra­ti­on of the Chap­ter in 1998. It re­cei­ved the Pre­mio Me­mo­ria Vi­va Award from the “Ju­an Ma­ri­ne­llo” Cuban Cul­tu­ral Re­se­arch Ins­ti­tu­te in 2005, the Ja­gua Pri­ze, and it was al­so de­cla­red Gru­po Por­ta­dor. The dan­ce struc­tu­re con­sists of two parts: the Ce­re­mo­ni­al of the Flag, which con­sists of three chants for which do­ors and win­dows must re­main un­blocked, and a se­cond part na­med Jin­din­ga, in which the drums, pro­ta­go­nists of the show, oc­cupy the cen­ter of the sce­ne. The ce­re­mony ends. When le­a­ving, we fo­llow the tra­di­ti­on by le­a­ving the ba­sil branch, al­re­ady wit­he­red, over the sto­ne. But I am pen­si­ve, with desi­re ... and al­most by ins­tinct I ask Ogún for a wish, and then I fe­el that voi­ce in my he­ad that bewitc­hes me and in­vi­tes me to mo­ve again towards the three drum be­ats, this ti­me sin­ging with him.

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