The drums of Baena: Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Baena is one of the richest municipalities in Córdoba in terms of cultural traditions and its Holy Week drums are not far behind. Furthermore, the importance and significance of the Jews of Baena and their drum rolls is so great that Unesco has named them as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


This custom begins on the eve of Saint Joseph’s Day, likewise, it is carried out during five days of Holy Week, specifically from Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It should be noted that the Jews of Baena dress in red suits and long hair, differentiating themselves between the white-tailed and black-tailed ones. In addition to this, Baena drums or bass drums are hung on their shoulders, to play while they go on a procession through the streets of the town.


The peculiar touch of the Baena drum

This drumbeat is characterized mainly by beats and marching rhythms. Furthermore, as they walk, all Jews must follow the same rhythm, as if they were playing in an orchestra. However, most of those who play the drums are not professional musicians, but learn to play from their past generations, for example, their parents and grandparents. In this way, children, youth and adults can participate in this important tradition.

It should be noted that like other percussion instruments, Baena drums must be played with a pair of drumsticks, these accessories are used in each hand of the player, to perform the rolls with precision. In addition, at the time of playing, the participants rotate in terms of improvisation, performing authentic rolls while they walk through the streets in Christian processions. This means that they play drum solos when others have a fixed beat.  

Due to the name that Unesco has given to this cultural tradition, black-tailed and white-tailed Jews have been more concerned with preserving the custom of drums and the way they are played. Currently, the Jews are part of 16 gangs and have three thousand Baenenses. They participate in six processions each Lent, for example, those of Jesús Nazareno and San José.




Handcrafted manufacture of Baena drums

When making a comparison of drums ( Here you can find some options to buy ) , perhaps those from Baena can be part of the list, because, although different brands of instruments manufacture drums with industrial machinery, in this place they are made by hand. This is what characterizes much more the authentic sound emitted by the Baena drums in the Holy Week processions.

In addition, the manufacture of these drums involves various processes, for example, latería, art by which resonance boxes are created and carpentry, for the manufacture of the rings. The latter are made with beech wood, since it is moldable and can be bent in a circular shape. Consequently, a Baena drum is made of sturdy materials that produce a good bright sound at high volume.

In another vein, saddlery is involved for the construction of these drums, through which the rings of the tensioners are made. Likewise, the tannery is used, because through it the goatskin is prepared, providing the drum with that drummer sound. Another material that is used in the manufacture of these drums is the interlaced string, which holds the hoops and the goatskin to the metal box.

Finally, we mention the wooden drumsticks, which are the accessories with which the drum membrane is struck. All this means that the drums are handcrafted and with high quality materials.


The economic and social impulse of the Baena drums

The cultural tradition of the Jews of Baena and their striking drum rhythms have come to be known by many people in other provinces of Spain and the whole world, especially after this cultural celebration was named Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Thus, this appointment given by Unesco has been an impulse for the whole world to put its eyes and ears on this tradition of the Baenense idiosyncrasy. Guillermo Iván Bernal, who is the president of the Holy Week Guilds Association in Baena, thinks that currently the Colinegros and Coliblancos should do more to make this religious and folkloric activity much better every year.

Tourist visits at Easter in the municipality of Baena have been greater, so this tradition has brought an economic and social boost to this Spanish territory. In other words, due to the effort that the town of Baena has made to hold a different Easter, many people from other parts of the world visit the municipality. 




Passing on the legacy to the next generations

In the municipality of Baena the tradition of the drums is passed from one generation to another. It is possible to see a child with his father, grandfather and great-grandfather playing in the procession, because for all of them this cultural and annual festival is very important. In this place not only the rhythms of the drum are transmitted, but also the legacy of the black colinegros and coliblancos. This includes the way they dress, for example, their red and black clothes, the helmet with the feather duster and all the typical ornaments of the Jews of Baena.

The helmet is made of metal, generally made of gold-colored brass and has a design similar to the helmets of Roman officers. In addition, although they weigh a little, the inhabitants of Baena use them during all the processions from Wednesday to Sunday in the Semana Mayor.

The duster is located on the helmet, which can be of a single color or several. This accessory exerts a greater weight on the helmet, but in the culture of the Jews this is not an inconvenience, but they walk and play the streets with faith and enthusiasm.

Finally, it should be noted that the manufacturers of helmets and drums teach their children and grandchildren all the secrets of this art, so that they in turn do the same in the future. Baenenses not only love this celebration, but they respect all the cultural details.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *