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Villamil family video on Google, 9/06

Biography of Felipe Garcia: Drumming for the Gods
Temple University Press

Year 2000 National Heritage Fellowship

Contacting Felipe Garcia Villamil

Felipe Garcia Villamil
L.A. and Matanzas

Obal Ogun, Tata Nganga, Isu Nekue, Olu Ańa , Olu Iyesa, these are some of Felipe Garcia Villamil's titles from Matanzas, Cuba, where he was born into a family deeply rooted in African Cuban traditions. His mother, Tomasa Villamil, is the grand-daughter on both sides of Yoruba drummers/drum-makers from the city-state of Oyo in present-day Nigeria. His father, Benigno Garcia Garcia, was an adept in Palo Monte, a spiritual tradition of Kongo derivation, and also in the Abakua fraternity, a men's society brought to Cuba from the Calabar region along the border between Nigeria and Cameroon.  

From his Yoruba great-grandfathers Mr. Garcia Villamil inherited a set of bata drums, and he has been initiated not only as a drummer, but also as caretaker of these ritually prepared drums. He is a master of the Iyesa drumming and drum-making tradition, brought to Cuba from the Yoruba city-state of Ilesha and actively maintained in the Cabildo de San Juan Bautista in Matanzas, Cuba, since the mid-19th century. The Iyesa drums created by Mr. Garcia Villamil are almost certainly the only Iyesa drums in the United States. He has created bembé drums, another instrument of Yoruba derivation rarely seen in the United States, and performs as a master drummer in all the Yoruba-Cuban traditions, including the guiro ensemble.

Mr. Garcia Villamil performs as well the sacred and secular rhythms of Kongo derivation and the rhythms of Abakua. He has been described as completo, a complete percussionist, as he is also a master in the Matanzas style of rumba and comparsa, known for its unique sabor (flavor). Mr. Garcia Villamil is also a master singer in all these traditions, as well as a ritual artist who creates, not only drums, but altars, ceremonial objects and exquisite beadwork.

In Cuba, Mr. Garcia Villamil founded and directed the ensemble, Emi-keké in the 1970s. The group performed all over the island as well as internationally, and their recordings have been collected by aficionados of African Cuban music in the United States, Latin America and elsewhere.

Since 1980, Mr. Garcia Villamil has been in the United States. He now lives in Los Angeles where he has established an ensemble with his sons, Ajamu, Miguel and Atoyebi, and his daughter, Tomasa.

Mr. Garcia Villamil teaches, performs, gives lecture - demonstrations, and works as a spiritual leader and ritual artist in the Los Angeles area. Since his arrival in the United States, he has shared with many people his profound knowledge of African Cuban performance traditions which synthesize song, drumming and dance, incorporated into systems of moral and philosophical guidance and healing based in a deep reverence for nature and for those who came before.

Villamil family video on Google

The Villamil Family of bata drummers Filipe, Ajamu, Miguel, Atoyebi where videotaped by Handuma Video, Michael Morgan, at the Mamie Lee Isler Early Childhood Theater/St. Mark's Day Care Center 2008 East 12th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, 64127, on July 17th 2005.

Filipe's style is free of commercial interests and true to his religious heritage. The roots of this music can be traced to the Yoruba people of the African Congo. Not intending to merely induce excitement this music creates an environment or setting for relating with the Oricha. An Oricha is a spirit that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare (God) in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system.

The way this family functions is living proof of the validity of their religious tradition.

Filipe Garcia Villamil is a master craftsman who makes his own instruments. Notice, the drum’s splendid beaded garments.


On Sentimiento Manana


Drumming for the Gods
: The Life and Times of Felips Garcia Villamil, Santero, Palero, and Abakua (Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music)
by Maria Teresa Velez
Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours.

Paperback - 256 pages (February 2000) 
Temple Univ Press; ISBN: 1566397316 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.59 x 8.86 x 5.94 
Click here for  latest pricing and to order  ==>

Year 2000 National Heritage Fellowship
Wed, 24 May 2000

It was announced today that Felipe Garcia Villamil is one of the recipients of the Year 2000 National Heritage Fellowship in the Folk and Traditional Arts. The award is officially given in september, but there will be various news articles between now and then.


Contacting Felipe Garcia Villamil

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