The death of Roger Fixy in September 2008 marked the end of the group, although an offshoot, Alafia, continues to perform secular Cuban music in Paris. Iluyenkori performed sacred, ritualistic Afro-Cuban chants and rhythms. The new group's name was reputedly inspired (in part) by one of Havana's early rumba orchestras. However, the larger inspiration, according to Iluyenkori's web page, was derived from the Cuban dialect of African Yoruba used by devotees of the Lucumi religion; "ilu" means drum, "yen" means dance, and "kori" means song. Lucumi’s rituals and ceremonies depend on the interplay among drum, dance, and song as a mode for communicating with the orishas, or deities, and the name evokes that interplay. The "toques” (rhythmic songs directed at specific orishas) are played on the "bata," which are double-headed, hourglass-shaped drums.
The three different sizes of bata drums each play a unique role in the Yoruba-based Lucumi ceremony, and must be played as an interactive ensemble of three. The basic, stabilizing rhythm of any given "toque" is played on the smallest of the bata, the "onkonkolo". The middle-sized drum, or "itotele," also plays complementary foundational rhythms, but has some freedom to enter into circumscribed but improvisational "conversations" with the largest bata, the "iya." As lead drum, the iya has considerable freedom to improvise (within the structure of the liturgical arrangement), and to induce "conversational" responses from the itotele (and sometimes the onkonkolo), thus orchestrating a complex "call-and-response" rhythmic arrangement which is intended to attract attention from the orishas so that they will come down and "mount" the devotees. According to the blog "Echu Aye: Yoruba Music of Cuba," Roger Fixy was born in the small village of Marigot, Martinique. He later moved to France to create what was to be the first French group performing folkloric Afro-Cuban music. Roger Fixy had initially encountered the bata in 1975 during a performance by percussionist Bill Summers, at that time a member of jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's ensemble. In 1984, Fixy traveled to Cuba to pursue his interest in the bata, and finally stumbled upon a rehearsal by a group of bataleros and other musicians playing Afro-Cuban music in a suite at his hotel.
This afforded Fixy the opportunity to meet and study with several professional percussionists who had mastered Afro-Cuban rhythms. During his five return trips to Cuba, Roger Fixy continued his bata studies with Alberto Vilarreal, Alexandro Publ, Daniel Alfonso, Pancho Quinto, Ernesto Gatell, Román Díaz, “Sandi” García Pérez, Jesús Alfonso, Mario "Aspirina" Jáuregui, and the renowned “Changuito” (José Luis Quintana). Roger Fixy, passionate about the sacred rhythms of Cuba, was forced to work in something of a vacuum as he attempted to create the first folkloric Afro-Cuban ensemble in France. In 1987, none of the central Afro-Cuban sacred music groups had recordings available in Fixy’s country. Without being able to refer for authenticity to recordings of top-tier, folkloric groups such as Clave y Guaguancó, Yoruba Andabó, and the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional, Roger Fixy had to rely on his intensive studies in Cuba, and forged ahead with his own recordings and performances. In 1992, Roger Fixy became a fully consecrated omo-añá, or olubata, officially able to play in Santeria ceremonies, and was honored with a set of fundamento (anointed) bata that were made in 1954 in Cuba. One of the bata is named "Airakéré" and is dedicated to the orisha Shango, Yoruban god of thunder.
Having achieved this honorable status, Roger was able to record sacred Lucumi music with Iluyenkori, which released their first album in 1993. During this decade, Roger became known as the Ambassador to France of sacred Afro-Cuban music from Matanzas, Cuba. Before his death in 2008 at the age of 56, Roger Fixy had succeeded in facilitating much-needed information flows between France and Cuba regarding the complex liturgical bata repertoire, thus paving the way for today's second-generation musicians performing this Afro-Cuban music in France. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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