A set of batá consists of three drums of different sizes. The drums are similar in shape to an hourglass and each drum has two different sized heads. The batá are played sitting down with the drum placed horizontally on the knees. This allows the drummer to play with both hands.

The Iyá ("Mother") is the largest drum and leads the group, playing long, complex patterns with many variations and initiates conversations with the other two drums. Iyá are often adorned with a garland of bells and bronze caps called "Chaworo" which enrich the vibrations and the timbre when the drummer plays the instrument.

The Itótele is the middle-sized drum, playing long, but less complex patterns with some variations as well as answering and occasionally initiating conversations.

The Okónkolo is the smallest of the three playing short, simple patterns with occasional conversations and variations.

The six differently tuned heads are able to reproduce the tonal Yoruba language and speak directly to the Yoruba deities (Orishas) praising and invoking them. The bata are considered sacred because the deity AÑA lives inside the consecrated drum.

It will take years of dedication to execute the complex conversations on the bata drums.


Bata Djembe Dunun Mbira Talking Drum Supplemental Reading