CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: On the path - a journy of learning the Oru Seco

Friday, August 22, 2008

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On the path - a journy of learning the Oru Seco

The ancestors have called for me, and they have work for me to do.

A couple of years back, i was guided to develop a better understanding of the tradition as a whole. So, I sold my Bata and worked to become more informed and familiar; to discover my role in supporting the tradition.

I worked with Sandy and others to become a more rounded musician, and worked on becoming familiar with the many folkloric traditions of Cuba, and the culture as a whole.

I also had to reconcile some of my spiritual beliefs, and gain an understanding of how my change in awareness has reshaped what i embody.

All roads have now led me to a comfortable and amazing place.

It reminds me of some of the experiences i have had in the woods. I love to hike, and i'm an avid naturalist. Ive been a natural history guide for years, and am at home in the mountains of California.

Several winters ago now, i was snow shoeing in the sierras in the middle of a storm. I found myself on a blind ridge, with almost whiteout conditions. So i hunkered down under some large Red Firs to wait out the flurry. Time slowly passed as i sat in the snow and listened to the wind. The storm was fierce, blowing horizontal sheets of ice laden snow through the trees.

Out of the wailing storm, a Coyote, one of my guiding spirits, started to howl.

She was to the west of me, up the ridge, hidden by the storm.

... then a second, to the east... a third to the north... followed by a fourth response just behind me. They were calling to each other to unite. I was among them, and they surrounded me with their calls.

They continued to call to eachother as they converged in a long, howling chorus of togetherness. Vibrant life proudly defying the deadly storm.

They sang much longer than i've ever heard before, a good long extended set of yipping and yapping, at times howling like wolves... and then they moved on.

I was drawn to find out what they had found, as it is often a kill, so i slowly shoed in the direction of the sound to find their tracks.

I came upon the signature path... The thin paws of the graceful animal had laid pin hole tracks in a perfectly straight line through the snow. I followed it, covering it with my shoes.

It lead up to a singular treeless knoll, overlooking the invisible Sierra's.

When i made it to the top, it was all packed down, where they had gathered to howl - no kill in sight.

There were four tracks up to the top, that all came from different directions, and after their homage, they all four headed east together.

I realized that i recognized this section of the woods. I had been there before, as a child. There i sat, and became inspired, once again.

I couldn't have designed a more perfect situation. Obatala has been kind, and i find myself among greatness.

Carlos Aldama is one of a handful of people who were guided to the sacred knowledge of playing Yoruban Bata by the great ancestor Pablo Roche Cunal: the grand master Akilakua : the singular person to bring this important facet of the tradition to Cuba from Africa.

Carlos is my guide in this journey. I will do my best to live up to my obligation.

I feel its the right time, and the right way to pay respect to the ancestors. The Orishas have opened the door for me, and given me the strength to endure whatever i must, to be a keeper of the flame.

Regino Jimenez told me once, the tradition is too important not to be passed to those who will nurture, respect and pass it on to the future of humanity. Additionally, I hope to honor his life, in my service.

I plan on documenting my experience in this quest. Its strange to think that someone in the far future, long after we are dead, might find these writings, and become inspired to continue the tradition. Who knows how long humans can keep the practice alive, in this form.



  1. Beautiful story Tony, I wish you strength and luck on your journey. Hope you reach the top! There are many ways up the mountain and whoever listens to their guides, as you do, will surely find their way.

    I talked with Roman Diaz a little about practicing one path while also holding the rhythms of the bata in my heart. There wasn't much else to say at that time. But I'm glad for you. One of my friends is getting initiated in Cuba right now. Even though it's not my path I was able to give him some things to support him on his journey in his new clothes. Thanks for sharing. Peace!

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  3. Thank you Jonathan,

    That was beautiful encouragement.


  4. Tony, good is not an easy task..but w/ Aldama as your guide i'm sure you will learn what you need to learn when you need to that mean's you'll be buying bata? who are you going to go w/? LP? Isla? hmmm?

  5. Thank you for the kind wishes Sentimiento,

    I am looking into a very special set of solid cedar. In due time.

    I was thinking of getting an Isla Onconcolo to get my chops up.


  6. Not a bad idea isla make nice bata drums...I have an isla okonkolo and I practice with it pretty consistently...has a good sound...


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