Benta

Richard Doest is a Curaçaoan painter who also makes musical instruments such as the “benta”. When he was studying in Amsterdam, he became fascinated with his own Afro-Curaçaoan musical heritage. Many of Curaçao’s traditional instruments originated as practical tools for everyday life. The wood that is used for the “benta” needs to be bendable. In order to get the right branch you need to cut it during full moon, or otherwise it will not bend and will eventually break. The “benta” was used for a musical genre called “muzik di zumbi”. The word “zumbi” probably hails from the Ubundu people in Angola, where it means ‘spirit’.

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2:27 min

"The benta was derived from the hunting bow – so it goes back thousands and thousands of years – and has been preserved here on the island."

- Richard Doest

The benta is a unique instrument in the Caribbean. It came from Africa. Curaçao is one of the most developed islands in the Caribbean but on the other hand the benta which is a rudimentary instrument because it was derived from the hunting bow – so it goes back thousands and thousands of years – has been preserved here on the island. This shows just how complicated culture is and how people decide to hold on to certain things, store them, not tell anyone about it but keep it to themselves and so forth. The benta is part of the muzik di zumbi from the Bandariba region but a lot of times the person that plays benta just sits in the door of his house and plays for his own joy, not to impress people and to get applause. I was always intrigued by the benta. I lived in Holland for 11 years and then I saw a stamp with a man with a hat playing an instrument and I knew: this is the benta.