Tambú

Our participant Calviany Eleonora tells us: “I bought this tambú (drum) from the late Òmpi Tio, one of the best-known musicians from Curaçao, who was teaching tambú (music) at Kurá di Arte. This was the drum that Òmpi Tio used for rituals. He said there was something about this drum. First it was all white. I polished it, cleaned it and painted it red. The color red attracts festive, joyful energy. This is the first drum I ever bought. Before this I used everyday buckets to train with.”

The word tambú refers to both an instrument and a music genre. Tambú music originated in Curaçao in the seventeenth and eighteenth century from various West-African music styles, dances and rituals. Most of these cultural expressions came from the Congo and were brought to Curaçao by enslaved people. Through time the mix of African influences changed and adapted to local circumstances. Certain African elements such as repetition, polyrhythm and improvisation remained recognizable.

Tambú music has long been suppressed and was even forbidden in the 20th century. The condemnation of tambú was based on the racist idea that African cultural expressions were indecent and inferior to those of European origin. Until 2012 tambú-gatherings were subject to strict rules that did not apply to other music genres.

“Tambú music has long been suppressed.”

“Tambú music has long been suppressed.”