Friday, January 18, 2013

Information & Videos About Abakuá Traditions

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about and seven videos of Abakuá traditional music & masquerade dancing traditions in Cuba and in the United States.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Abakuá - Abakwá - Abacuá – Ñáñigo

Abakuá members derive their culture from the Efik and Efo of the Cross River region in Nigeria, which Cubans call Carabali. They are organized in a set of over 150 potencias (lodges) located mainly in Havana, Matanzas, and Cardenas.

The people of Big Qua Town in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, Nigeria, are known as the Abakpa, the likely source for the name Abakuá. Big Qua Town is the home of the president of the Calabar Mgbe or Ékpè.

The Cuban Abakuá societies have a male-only membership, their Ékpè equivalent in the Cross River State are called lodges in English, they are fraternities. Both the Cuban and Nigerian lodges are Ékpè lodges.

There is also in Cuba an Efo cultural manifestation organized along family lines, the Brikamo, carried by the Calle family in Matanzas.

In 2001, the Efik National Association in the US began to have contact with Cuban Abakuá. There is evidence of prior contacts between the Abakuá and the Efik in Cuba, but the contact has not until now been sustained. Among such evidence is a plaque hanging on the walls of a potencia in Havana given by an Obong, a traditional leader of the Efiks.

The Abakuá gave us the rumba, one of Cuba's principal musical traditions. The Calle family, for example, is of Efo origin and is said to have invented the guaguanco, a type of rumba.

We can also note that the Carabali culture in Santiago (cabildos) and in the center of Cuba is also derived from Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. The name Carabali is derived from the slave port of Calabar, as distinct from the Karabali people of the Niger Delta."...
"Abakua or Abakuá (various spellings are used) is an Afro-Cuban men's initiatory fraternity, or secret society, which originated from fraternal associations in the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon. Known generally as Ekpe, Ngbe, or Ugbe among the multi-lingual groups in the region, these closed groups all used the leopard as a symbol of masculine prowess in war and political authority in their various communities...

The creolized Cuban term Abakuá is thought to refer to the Abakpa area in southeast Nigeria, where the society was active. The first such societies were established by Africans in the town of Regla, Havana, in 1836.[1] This remains the main area of Abakuá implantation, especially the district of Guanabacoa in eastern Havana, and in Matanzas where Afro-Cuban culture is vibrant. While Abakuá eventually came to include members of European descent, this was not accomplished without conflict...

Members of this society came to be known as ñañigos, a word used to designate the street dancers of the society. The ñañigos, who were also called diablitos, were well known by the general population in Cuba through their participation in the carnival on the Day of the Three Kings, when they danced through the streets wearing their ceremonial outfit: a multicolored checkerboard dress, with a conical headpiece topped with tassels[3] Initially, the Abakua accepted only blacks as members; however, in the late nineteenth century the admission policies of the society were liberalized to include mulatos and whites.[4]"

Example #1 Abakuá (1962) Dir. Bernabé Hernández

guarachon63, Uploaded on Oct 23, 2011
Here's a comment from this video's viewer comment thread:
Dan Wilson, 2011
"amazing footage of the result of over 200 years of preserved culture"


jgarcia1237,Uploaded on Sep 14, 2007

"Yoruba Andabo" is a well known Cuban folkloric group. The English translation for the group's name is "friends of Yoruba (culture).

Example #3 yoruba andabo 3 abakuá (1992)

guarachon63, Uploaded on Sep 28, 2011
Recorded 1992 at Quinta de los Molinos, Havana

Example #4: Una rumba abakua

MusicAllVideo1, Uploaded on Aug 26, 2010
Una rumba Abakuà nella plaza Jesus Maria in onore di Ignacio Pineiro fondatore del Septeto Nacional. Tra i protagonisti di questo homenaje troviamo "El Matador" Frank Oropesa e "El Goyo".
Regia: Roberto Ravenna
Riprese e montaggio video: Roberto Ravenna
[The music starts at 3:30]

Example #5: Roman Diaz at the abakua conference in brookling

jicamocubano, Uploaded on Sep 27, 2007
Roman Diaz perfoming for the abakua conference in new york
Here's a comment from this video's viewer comment thread:
eyenmmaba, 2010
"the moves and incantations very similar the those of the calabar people despite hundreds of years and thousands of miles of separation by slavery. amazing stuff"

Example #6: Dia Del Abakua 2013 Miami, Fl

N'dibo Yeve N'go, Published on Jan 8, 2013
This is a brief depiction of an Abakúa masquerade portrayed by Angel Guerrero. Members from most of Cuba's Abaküa potencias (lodges), exiled in Miami are present at this gathering which happens once a year in commemoration of Colonial Cuba's Three Kings Day processions, where all the Cabildos, Potencias, Ile's and various mutual aid societies would bring out their finest regalia, drummers , dancers and chanters in order to win favor with the Governor who would then bestow upon their coffers the Aguinaldo( gift of gold coins) which the members of each society would then use to buy the freedom of their enslaved compatriots.

Example #7: Echu Alabbony - Abakua en el Patio de la Rumba

atticchris, Uploaded on Mar 7, 2009
Echu Alabbony presenta el espectaculo de los Abakua llevado al arte.
Filmado en el Patio de la Rumba en 2007.
My Spanish is poor, but what I believe a number of commenters wrote in this video’s viewer comment thread is that this Abakua music & dance performance is a production of a children’s folkloric group and therefore isn’t authentic (particularly with regards to the involvement of children and females), but still should be respected as the group’s attempt to learn about Nigerian traditions.

Thanks to all members of the Abakuá culture. Thanks also those who are featured in the Abakuá videos that are presented in this post, and thanks to those whose information on Abakuá I have quoted. My thanks also to the producers and uploaders of these videos.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome

No comments:

Post a Comment