Skip to main content
Iluyenkori was co-founded in 1987 by French percussionist Roger Fixy and French singer-dancer-actress Daniela Giacone. Their mission was to perform sacred Afro-Cuban "cantos y toques a los orishas," the music of Cuban Lucumi (also called Santeria, or Regla de Ocha). Iluyenkori collaborated with an internationally-diverse group of musicians to release three albums between 1992 and 1999. Although there was significant turnover of its members, Iluyenkori always retained an international character, with musicians born and raised in various European and South American countries, including Italy, France, Argentina, and French overseas region Réunion. The death of Roger Fixy in September 2008 marked the end of the group, although an offshoot, Alafia, continues to perform secular Cuban music in Paris.
Iluyenkori performed sacred, ritualistic Afro-Cuban chants and rhythms. The new group's name was reputedly inspired (in part) by one of Havana's early rumba orchestras. However, the larger inspiration, according to Iluyenkori's web page, was derived from the Cuban dialect of African Yoruba used by devotees of the Lucumi religion; "ilu" means drum, "yen" means dance, and "kori" means song. Lucumi’s rituals and ceremonies depend on the interplay among drum, dance, and song as a mode for communicating with the orishas, or deities, and the name evokes that interplay.
The "toques” (rhythmic songs directed at specific orishas) are played on the "bata," which are double-headed, hourglass-shaped drums. The three different sizes of bata drums each play a unique role in the Yoruba-based Lucumi ceremony, and must be played as an interactive ensemble of three.
The basic, stabilizing rhythm of any given "toque" is played on the smallest of the bata, the "onkonkolo". The middle-sized drum, or "itotele," also plays complementary foundational rhythms, but has some freedom to enter into circumscribed but improvisational "conversations" with the largest bata, the "iya." As lead drum, the iya has considerable freedom to improvise (within t