Bembé . Party for the fun of the orishas , the gods belonging to the Yoruba Pantheon . In this festival, various types of percussion instruments are sung, danced and played .
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- 1 The bembé
- 2 Features
- 3 Possession through trance
- 4 Sources
During a bembé the Orishas are praised, greeted and implored to join the party by riding (possession through trance) one of their priests present. This is done through a confluence of song, rhythm and movement , calling on the orisha in a way that it recognizes itself in the lyrics, rhythms and dances that have been performed for them perhaps for thousands of years.
Rhythms play an important part in this equation and drummers practice assiduously for years to be able to play the intricate rhythms correctly. This is important because the drums actually speak to the Orishas because the Yoruba language is tonal, and the drums have been tuned to play the different tones of the Yoruba language. For this reason some rhythms are never played unless it is within a religious context or it would offend the orisha. These rhythms are actually prayers to the Orishas, each orisha having its own rhythms associated with them.
The dance or dance also becomes prayer within the religious context of a bembé. The dance movements are the same movements that have been associated with the Orishas for thousands of years.
As with the rhythms that are played with the drums, each orisha has its own dance, Yemayá’s dance emulates the movement of the waves , Oggún’s the cut with the machete, Oshún’s represents the way she preps in front of the hand mirror , etc. Therefore, these movements become more danceable prayers than what Western Europeans would refer to as a dance.
Everything that is present in a bembé, whether it be songs, dances, rhythms or colors that are used, is part of an intricate fabric of prayers, greetings, requests and calls to the Orishas, asking them to be present and calling the Orishas to to be with us.
Possession through trance
Possession through Trance is an important part of this religion . During a bembé or drum festival in honor of the orishas, an orisha may be persuaded to join the celebration and enter the body of one of the priests consecrated to that orisha. It is said that the person is being “mounted” by the orisha, or that the orisha has “come down” from heaven to be with us. The songs, rhythms and dances are really a deliberate plea to the orishas to come down and bless us with their advice, cleanings and their mere presence. When an Orisha decides to use one of our bodies for a while it is, of course, cause for great joy.
The orishas only rarely mount an aleyo or person who has not been initiated to the priesthood, and on those occasions they usually designate this person as a person who needs to be initiated into the religion as a priest or priestess. This is not imposed on people, nor is it something demonic as in the case of movies like “The Exorcist.” If someone is not ready, the orisha is delicately discouraged from leaving until the person is initiated and prepared for such an occasion.