BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT ORISHA
As you may know, it is very popular to use Orisha (some people call it Afro-Cuba or Afro) moves in Salsa dancing. It came out that you should have some basic information about it in order to have rich visuality while dancing. The choreographies of Orisha are determined according to their characteristics and tasks.
A short quotation from the book We Cubans: “The most suitable gods to survive under slavery conditions are the perfectly carved gods of Yoruba Pantheon which were brought to Western Cuba by the Nigerian Africans (the neighbourhoods of Togo, Ghana and Benin). They were brought here the way as they were taken to the nothern east of Brazil. This perfect religious synthesis kept its survival in Cuba as well. Initially, the rituals were practised by projecting the appearance and behaviours of the Catholic saints onto the masks, however, later on they turned into a new cultural creation through socializing and even a cultural metamorphosis.” So friends, nowadays this belief has been called Lucumi, Santeria Cubana or La Regla de Ocha. Its Brazillian name is Candomble and in Trinidad it is called Shango Baptist. The believers follow different holy values which are the various powers of nature such as water, fire, earth and wind.
Just a while after the Cuban Revolution, these forms of dances were brought to the stage. The music is produced by means of bata drums. The most popular Orishas and their characteristics are as follows.
Endless thanks to Dear Oğuz Kurtili for the valuable information.
He is one of the big Orishas. He owns all human mind. He is the symbol of the purity of the world, peace, grey hair, respect and all the things that are white and pure on earth. His accessory is a white pony tail and white pigeons that make peace all over the world. He lives in the high mountains and he rules there fairly. As a Catholic believer, he is identified with Virgen de La Marced / Holy Virgin of Mercy.
Babalu Aye is the symbol of sickness and health. He is a miraculous and modest Orisha. He is associated with the skin diseases of leprocy and syphilis due to his disorderly life. He protects people from the illnesses and he is the salvation belief of sick people. The believers take a vow in order to have the miracles come true, but if they do not, he gets very angry. His accessories include a leaf of coconut palms, a bunch of plants and while dancing he moves by cleaning the acnes of the skin with these plants. A single move in his dance (arara) represents earth, stamina and health. In another move, he sends away the birds that come close in order to peck his diseased skin with his hands and arms. He is accompanied by the dogs which are the gift from Oggun. He wears trousers made from sack fabric with purple decorations. In Catholic belief, he is identified with Saint Lazarus.
His main dance steps include Arara variations and Tinyosa.
Chango is one of the big Orishas. He is a legendary king in Ancient Nigeria (Yoruba Kingdom). Fire, thunder, lightning, war, bata drums are the symbols of Orisha dances and entertainments. He is the symbol of masculinity and he thinks all women belong to him. According to Yoruba, he is a perfect fortune teller and his accessories include a sword, a double-sided axe, a fort and bata drums. In one of his dance steps, he symbolizes war and defence with the axe in his right hand. In another step, he takes the thunderbolts from the sky and draws them up to his pelvis and earth. His colours are red and white. He is called by playing the maracas. In Catholic religion, he is identified with Santa Barbara Bendita.
His main dance steps include Wemilere (Guenmilere Lube Omo Oyo), La Meta (Oba Ibo), Wolenche (sometimes called Bolenche and Lumbanche) and Chachalokuafun.
She is the only female combatant in Yoruba Pantheon. She protects the market places. Even though she is a very beautiful Orisha, most people are scared of her due to her dwelling at the grave door. She is the symbol of wind, spark and storm. She owns an army of dead people. She has a strong character and she is respectable. She has nine colours without black apart from the dominancy of wine red and mostly rainbow colours could be seen. She uses flamboyant tree bark, a dark brown pony tail and sometimes a chopper/scimitar. The pony tail in Oya’s right hand represents her domination against the wind and her use of skirt represents smooth and rough draft. In Catholic religion, she was identified with Santa Teresa de Jesus.
Her main dance steps include Kan Kan, Tui Tui, Chachalokuafun and Lambaosi.
She is the mother Orisha. She gave birth to all the Orishas in Yoruba Pantheon and raised them. She is the owner of the seas, oceans and all secrets. In her dance, she shows all the forms of the sea from the calmest to the swirl. All the riches and secrets of the sea bottoms are hers. She has to be respected highly, otherwise great punishments are miraculously given. She does everything with respect. She rules the ports. She is responsible from maritime profession. Her colour is blue with white decorations just like the waves of the seas hitting the rocks. White stripes also symbolize the depth level. In Catholic religion, she is identified with Virgen de Regla (Virgin Mary).
Her main dance steps include Yakota, Omolodde, Chikini and Chachalokuafun.
Ochun is the owner of love. She is the defender of women and maternity. She owns the rivers and the element of gold. When Ochun’s name is called, honey, pumpkin, cakes and desserts are the first things to come to the minds. Her dance is formed by the moves that symbolize the calmness in the rivers and women, slenderness, elegance, sex appeal, pride, pranking of the women and coqueting of the women. Her colour is golden yellow. She has got golden bracelets and tiny bells. In Catholic religion, she is identified with Virgin Mary (Virgen Guadalupe, Virgen de la Macarena). There is a belief that the island Cuba is ruled by Ochun. (Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre).
Her main dance steps include Rezo, Iddewere, Chachalokuafun and Eni Obomo Solo.
He is a warrior Orisha. He is the soul of the earth. He is the symbol of all metals, forges, the art of metalworking, the mountains, the forests, brute forces, intelligence and labour. He dwells on the most disordered and thicketed places of forested mountains. He is the protector of metal workers. He is the owner of dogs and he bestowed some of the dogs to Babalu Aye. His colours are black and green. He has got the accessories of snail shells. He carries a big scimitar called machete. He cuts the bushes or trees in the forest to open roads using this scimitar in his right hand. Besides, while hunting and protecting himself and while doing the actions of cutting animals to death and stabbing, with his left hand he cleans the things that may cause him trouble while working. One of his important cantos (songs) is named Aguanile Mai Mai. You may know this name as a Hector Lavoe song. In Catholic religion, he is identified with Saint Peter, Saint Pedro or Saint Pablo.
Agguere, Ogun de Arere and Con Su Lanca Ire Alla Viene Oggun can be counted as some of the basic rhythms and songs.
He is a warrior Orisha. He protects the universe. The path from the earth to heaven is in his power. He is the first and the last Orisha in Pantheon. Being the owner of life and death, truth and lie, he symbolizes the beginning and the end of every work. Owning the key of the door of fortune, he may either open this door or close it. He is the possessor of the roads of destiny. In his right hand, he holds a wooden stick named guayaba/garabato with a hook shaped tip to differentiate between the good and the evil. He cuts long bushes while walking in the forest using this wooden hook in order to open paths for himself. Just as he opens and closes the roads of destiny, he also opens and closes his arms to signify this in his dance. He has the colours of black and red and he is adorned with 21 snail shells symbolizing the roads. He also carries the symbol of a hellion. With the Catholic religion, he was called Child Jesus – Santo Niño de Atocha .
His main dance steps include Lubanche (Olumbanshe), La Topa, Chachalokuafun and Nyongo.