Roots of Cuban Rumba

The World Music Central site reviews the Enyenison Enkama Project.

The Enyenison Enkama Projekt celebrates the African roots in Cuban music, specifically a style called Abakuá. This new project is a continuation of an earlier project by Cuban rumba group Yoruba Andabo, which released an album titled Enyenison Enkama in 1997. Enyenison Enkama Project is based in New York City, led by the core Cuban musicians Roman Díaz, Pedro Martínez and Angel Guerrero.

On Ecobio Enyenison, the participants celebrate the Nigerian and Cameroonian roots of some of Cuba’s population, which came from the Cross River are through the port of Calabar. The album features the vocals and drumming of Díaz, Martínez and Guerrero along with guest musicians Onel Mulet, Oriente López, Ruben Rodríguez and special guests Paquito D’Rivera and Steve Turre. The group combines traditional vocals and spoken word in Abakuá and Spanish, and ritual drumming with contemporary jazz elements in a direction similar to what Oma Sosa is doing. “The phrases of each composition describe sacred geographies (maps) of West African source communities, as well as histories (epic deeds) of the African founders,’ says Dr. Ivor Miller of the African Studies Center at Boston University. “By evoking these inherited chants, members of ‘Proyecto Enyenison Ekama’ praise their teachers, as well as all those Abakuá leaders of the past who maintained their faith in the teachings of those Carabalí migrants who established Abakuá. By chanting within the context of contemporary arrangements played by vanguard jazz musicians, they celebrate a cultural victory of continuity and evolution across time and space, as well as offer a vision of the expansion of their traditions into the future.”

The pieces are tributes to sacred lands, musical instruments of special significance and special people. “Eribó Eriboñé” is a tribute Homage to a mythic territory sacred to the Abakuá — ‘Orú’ — (known as Uruan in southeastern Nigeria), and to one of its sacred instruments, the Eribó symbolic drum. “Ekon Erimaó” features the ekon bell (‘nkong’ in Efik) which represents the community, being the instrument used to call people to order. “Itia Fondogá” is an homage to the Abakuá of Matanzas and to their music.

“Danza ñáñiga” by Ernesto Lecuona was originally titled “Danza lucumi,” according to maestro Paquito D’Rivera. This version also takes inspiration from Saldiguera, a founding singer with the Muñequitos of Matanzas, as well as from popular Cuban poetry from the early 20th century.

“Neri” is a tribute to the role of the river (Neri) in the development of Ékpè in communities along the Cross River.

“Mariba Konkai” means ‘the depths of the sea’. This composition is an homage to Nasako, the diviner.

“Isunékue” is dedicated to Isunékue Ernesto Sotolongo ‘El Zambo’, of the Havana potency (lodge) Itiá Mukandá.” ‘El Zambo’ was one of many colleagues who supported research for the book “The Voice of the Leopard” (2009).

“Iro Gañun” speaks of ritual acts in the African past, as well as of the contemporary Havana lodge Efí Nuróbia and its family (ritual linage): Efi Abaraká Itá, Efi Akwarayo, Efí Eru Kánko, and Efí Masongo.

For the original report go to

Find it at Ecobio Enyenison (Habana|Harlem 205976, 2009).

2 thoughts on “Roots of Cuban Rumba

  1. nasako family member in cameroon and working together with Dr miller to link the history of nasako in cameroon.we have some history to share on the origin of nasako and the butamu society called ekpe in calaba nigeria.

  2. the Nasako Foundation is born in cameroon to be a non profit organisation to spearhead the developement of the ekama community through realsation of projects with the help of benevolent individuals and donor organisations.This foudation shall organise the annual Nasako festival and ensure that the tradition of its poeple is fully revived and mentained.This is to immortalise the Diviner and founder of the ‘ekpe’ secret society called nasako.We therefore call on all who are associated in one way or the other to join us with the objective of alliviating poverty from the Ekama cummunity who happen to be the descendants of the Great Nasako.

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