Performing Belief: Representing Experience in Ocha-Ifa Drumming

By Robert Stephens.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 9, 2014 $US5.00

The purpose of this paper is to explore the boundaries and intersection of religion, ritual, music and imagination in Ocha-Ifa drumming drawing on Eliot Eisners’ "The Arts and the Creation of Mind", and Catherine Bells’ "Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions." Eisner believes that the arts transform consciousness by using the dimensions of representation, inscription, editing, and communication (Eisner, 2002). Bell locates performance in ritual symbols, syntax, and praxis. I apply these principles to the guild of drummers in the Ocha religion known as omo anya, who perform sacred bàtá drumming, and how ritual and their performance is framed by music. The theoretical principles advanced in these works help bring the “elusive” contents of the mind; ideas, images, and organized sound, to a state of stabilization that comes in many forms that allows us to dialogue with others. These “points of view” helps us express and understand social relationships in all aspects of the human endeavor. For example, Beliefs - as attitudes that we hold in response to how we think should be; aliefs – as expressions of how things seem. Beliefs may tell us we are safe - imagination; aliefs tell us we are in danger - reality. In short, the fine line between pretense and reality.

Keywords: Religious Community and Socialization, Sacred Sources, Sites, Narratives, Texts

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 9, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 384.812KB)).

Dr. Robert Stephens

Prosessor of Music, Department of Music, School of Fine Arts, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA

Robert W. Stephens is Professor of Music at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. Dr. Stephens has authored and presented a number of articles and chapters relating to a broad area of subjects under the umbrella of music education, diversity, technology and learning. He is currently working on a manuscript entitled “ The Brotherhood of the Drum: The Metaculture of a Religious Community.” He is also CO-PI of Gullah Voices: Traditions and Transformations, $179, 815 award the National Endowment for the Humanities, 2012.