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Contacting Ibbu Okun

Ibbu Okun

All-Women Afrocuban Percussion & Vocals Group Toured the US in '95

IBBU-OKUN, an all-women Afrocuban folkloric group from Havana, Cuba, made its US debut starting in March, 1995. Amelia Pedroso formed the group in Havana in 1993: they perform a varied repertoire of Afro-Cuban music and dance traditions: Palo (Congo), Yuca, Yoruba, Arara Ilosa (Dahomey), and the various styles of Rumba -- Yambu, Guaguanco, and Columbia. IBBU-OKUN is living proof of how strong African Traditions are in Cuba, where over 60% of the people are of African origin, a fact often obscured in US discourse on the country.

Amelia Pedroso, IBBU-OKUN's founder and director, is a highly respected percussionist, singer, teacher, and performer of Afro-Cuban ritual music. For more than 20 years she has taught and performed as a singer and master percussionist on stage, television, and radio as well as for recordings. She is an acknowledged expert in the texts of Yoruba ritual music in Cuba.

In 1985 Amelia joined CLAVE y GUAGUANCO with whom she continues to perform, record, and tour internationally. Their album, "Songs & Dances" (Green Linnet Records), was released in the US in the fall of '94. Amelia has also performed with Danza Nacional de Cuba and Danza Contemporanea.

In January '94, Amelia toured the US with Lazaro Ros. They performed concerts and workshops at schools and universities across the country, appeared in major clubs and concert halls, conducted master classes in instrumental, vocal, and dance techniques, and were guest performers at numerous ritual ceremonies in Cuban-American communities. In the summer of '94, Amelia was an instructor at AFROCUBANISMO, a 10 day international seminar and festival at the Banff Center in Canada.

Amelia Pedroso and the other members of IBBU-OKUN are participants in the Afro-Cuban ritual community for which music plays a fundamental role in communicating with the gods and for whom the drum is a voice. Raised during the period of enormous social change and egalitarianism engendered by the revolution, the women of IBBU-OKUN, despite an undercurrent of opposition from some orthodox male practitioners, felt empowered to access the traditionally male dominated domain of the Bata: a family of three double-headed drums which carry complex polytonal and polyrhythmic conversations. The Bata is the foundation for much of Cuban music. Only men play the ceremonial versions of the Bata in the ritual context where participants are mounted by the gods.

Like many other Cuban drummers, IBBU-OKUN's percussionists are performers of this music, and they have also appeared with groups who perform secularized ritual material. In Cuba, women have been denied access to the Bata drums, either to learn or to perform on them, but this is changing today, and a number of women in Havana, Matanzas, and other centers are learning Bata, drawn to the challenge of their language and their character as fount of Tradition. Before Westerners brought their male dominated culture to Traditional Africa, women percussionists played in many contexts as a part of every day life. This is still the case today in areas where traditional culture prevails.


Gainsville FL, March 18 University of Florida Harn Museum of Art Debbi Pacini 904 392-0375

Greensborough, NC March 20 Talking Drum, Hart Recital Hall Sandy Blocker 910 273-7470

Garden City, NY Nassau Community College Dance Workshop March 22, 1PM Concert w/Richie Havens March 23, 8PM 516 572-7153, admission free

New York City Boys Harbor workshop March 24 212 427-2244 x572

John R. Hansborough March 25 Recreation Center 718 773-3046 Dance workshop 1:30PM, 3:30PM

SOB (Sounds of Brazil) March 26 Houston & Varick, concert 212 243-4940

La Belle Epoque March 30, 6PM 827 Broadway, $10 212 995-8110

Woodstock, NY April 1 2 workshops, lec/dem 914 679-8669 Carol Chappel

Providence, RI April 4-6 RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) 401 454-6129 Don Morton

Burlington, VT April 7-9 802 649-1805

Philadelphia, PA April 11-12 215 898-1927 Elizabeth Sayre

Washington, DC April 19-23 Havana Village 202 462-6310 Eduardo Barada

Berkeley, CA April 27-May 1 (Amelia only) 510 654-8644

Additional concert, workshop, and private lesson dates available.

This is an extraordinary group which is being helped by friends and music lovers but has no institutional or corporate support.

Contacting Ibbu Okun

Through Amelia Pedroso at this web site.

Contacting AfroCubaWeb

Electronic mail [replace _AT_ with @]

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