Mark Danger Powers

drummer • educator • author

Witness to the sacred

Halfway through this Thailand trip, and just thinking how much I absolutely love to travel! And how much some people don’t. It’s very difficult to understand how there are some who truly fear the same experiences that have brought about some of my life’s greatest adventures, foods, friends, music and stories. The best of those experiences come as a complete surprise . . . unplanned, unexpected, and almost unbelievable!

An example that immediately leaps to mind, the following is taken from a travelogue entry from about a year ago. I was researching Bantu and Cuban percussion and vocal styles in Matanzas.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

After eating, I walked to Dolores and Omara’s for one last time, to say my ‘goodbyes.’ Omara invited me to accompany her to an event taking place across town. “An extremely serious part of our culture,” she cautioned- no photos or video allowed.

Serious it was. Santería. A young man had been initiated into the religion a few days prior and was, that evening, being presented to the local religious community for the first time.

What a colorful, celebratory, momentous occasion! To the sound of drums, the initiate was led out in a large, loud procession, carrying an enormous bunch of bananas in his left hand, a small wooden ax and chicken in his right. The fruit and bird were offerings to Shangó- god of strength and thunder. He was dressed in a lavish red and white robe, a crown and numerous necklaces hanging around his neck. After circling the room several times, he laid his offerings before the musicians, was caused to salute each of the sacred batá drums (one of which was being played by my teacher, Daniel Alfonso) and then danced with ax in hand. This symbolic ritual was then followed by much singing and dancing . . . an event full of rhythm, joy and beauty!

I was tucked out of the way, watching in awe from the doorway, when I realized exactly where I was and how very, very rare it is to get to see something like this. The only outsider in attendance at this most ancient and sacred of rituals- standing amidst something that many of us can hardly believe even actually exists. How do I always seem to find myself in situations like these in my travels?

Suddenly I shuddered and was covered with goosebumps, as I am right now while writing this. These are the reasons I travel and study as I do.