Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Many of Trinidad’s masking traditions have direct links to Africa, and many African masking traditions were connected to secret societies, these societies came to the Caribbean with the enslaved Africans, and the traditions continued in secrecy throughout slavery, only to re emerge on the streets after emancipation.  Many his-storians will have you believe the enslaved Africans mimicked their French masters in the development of the carnival traditions, as if they had no culture or traditions of their own, but they did, not just in Trinidad but all over the Caribbean and Latin America.    
Take a look at the video below on Cuba’s Abakua traditions its origins are in the secret societies of West Africa and  is directly linked to the Cuban musical tradition of Rumba.

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. Ekpe and related organizations in the Calabar region were heavily invested in the slave trade emanating from the Bight of Biafra, though high-ranking officials were themselves ultimately captured and sold into slavery in Cuba, where the society re-emerged. The term Ñáñigo has also been used for the organization's members.

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 are thought to have arisen around the port of Havana in the early part of the 19th century, and 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. Abakuá is sometimes regarded as evil malevolent sorcery.

Abakuá members derive their belief systems and traditional practices from the Igbo, Efik, Efut, Ibibio, spirts that lived in the ditey forest . Ekpe and synonymous terms like Egbo, Ngbe, and Ugbe were names of both a forest deity and a leopard related secret society. Robert Farris Thompson, an art historian and African Diaspora scholar, detailed the transformation and reemergence of this fraternal order in his classic Flash of the Spirit.

The rhythmic dance music of the Abakuá combined with Bantu traditions of the Congo contributed to one of Cuba's musical traditions, the rumba. The Calle family of Efo origin supposedly invented the guaguanco, a type of rumba.
Ireme is the Cuban term for the masked Abakuá dancer known as Idem or Ndem in the Cross River region. The masquerade dancer is carefully covered in a tight-fitting suit and hood, and dances with both a broom and a staff. The broom serves to cleanse faithful members of the fraternity, while the stick chastises both enemies and traitors to the Abakuá traditions. Thus, during initiation ceremonies it is called the Erí nBan nDó, while during mournings and wakes it is called AlanManguín Besuá.
Abacuá also describes a group of Afro-Cuban people of the carabalí as well as their style of music and their percussion instruments. Luciano "Chano" Pozo, conga drummer for Dizzy Gillespie, was a member of the Abakwa secret society.

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