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Contacting Luis Calle's family

Luis Calle Garcia

Luis Calle died in the last week of November, 1997. He had a tremendous, irreplaceable knowledge of the Bricamo traditions and his loss is the very kind of thing we fear the most, as many elders are passing on without the opportunity of passing their knowledge on to others.

The Calle family is the holder of the Brikamo fundamento and carriers of this religion, whose African heritage comes from the Efo nation in the Cross River Delta (Calabar), close cousins of the Efik. In Cuba the Efik/Efo group is best known for having given us the Abakuá religion, a male society still strong in Cuba. Most of the Muñequitos, for example, belong to Abakuá temples.

The Calle participated in the Mambises, the army of run away slaves and freed blacks who supported the struggle for independence from Spain. The Calle family was strong in the rural areas of Union de Reyes in the Province of Matanzas.

Luis Calle’s great grandfather was Anselmo Calle, father of his grandmother. The Guaguanco, one of the principal forms of rumba, was invented within this family. Folklorists have known of a relationship between Efik/Efo dances and rumba, but this is a very direct indication of such a relationship.

Brikamo is closely related to Abakuá, also from the Niger Delta, except that Abakuá is entirely male oriented. Women play a leading role in Brikamo and are holders of the fundamento when they are the eldest in a family, the fundamento being passed on from eldest to eldest.

The Brikamo religion contains elements of

  1. Abakuá, without the secrecy of the Abakuá societies
  2. Espiritismo
  3. Catholicism
  4. Santeria (Yoruba)

In classic African fashion, where a people coming into a new area need to adapt to that area, the ancestors of Luis Calle adopted elements of Catholicism, Spiritualism, and of their Yoruba neighbors into their ancestral Efo religion. Sometimes this is referred to as syncretism, as if it were a blend. It is rather an adaptation of external elements in order to perpetuate the original genius of the culture.

Brikamo is not a religion with possession, as is frequently the case in Africa, for example with the Yoruba or the Bantu. Rather it is a religion where one calls the spirits thanks to the use of certain instruments -- the small drums also used in Abakuá and the marimbula, a piano made with steel bars (in Cuba, with steel bars from beds). One suspects that it is this tradition of calling the spirits which attracted members of the religion to adopt elements of espiritismo.

Today, perhaps the sole remaining expert in Brikamo rythms and instrumentation is Chacha. It was hoped that a documentary could have been made of Luis Calle and Chacha so as to pass this valuable knowledge on to future generations.

Luis Calle was a font of knowledge with respect to the ceremonies and traditions of the Brikamo. He was also Oba of the Cabildo Nilo Nille, Cucho’s cabildo. Oba is a Yoruba term meaning king and shows how the Calle family has adopted elements of their Yoruba neighbors in Matanzas.

Luis Calle had run across manifestations from the Cross River Delta in Brazil, in a a film called Gangazu, about the free communities in Northern Brazil. He would have been very grateful if anyone could obtain a copy of that film so as to further study the issue, as some of the songs it contains seemed to him to be directly related to the Brikamo tradition.

He has given courses in Caracas, Venezuela, which has a very active Yoruba community.

And he was keen on participatory research into his family’s roots and their African heritage.

-- Andy Petit, 12/1997

 

Contacting Luis Calle Garcia's family

Contrera 30230
Entre Compostela y San Carlos
Matanzas, Cuba

Telephone: 011.53.52.3882 at the house of a neighbor, Juan Ramon

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