As a Iyawo, one way I spend my time is through Facebook. I started two groups on Facebook and like to add photos to my online photo albums (I'm an amateur photographer).
One group I belong to is Orisha-Space. The group has nearly 900 members, and grows every day. It's basically an online crossroads for people to discuss anything related to Ocha/Lucumi/Santeria/Candomble/Umbanda/Quimbada/Ifa.
From discussion postings at Orisha-Space I learned about the "London Lucumi Choir," and then saw a video of the group on YouTube. Apparently, the group is in a national choir competition. On one hand, I feel the awe of the tremendous reach of the Orishas and their power to attract people of all backgrounds and nationalities ... including me. On the other hand, it was strange to see the songs sung as a "choir," when singing to the Orisha is not meant for the stage, or for spectacle.
I shouldn't talk. I've sung for the Orisha on a stage ... more than a few times, when I was the member of an Afro-Cuban dance troupe. But I think about the Tambors I've been to, where everyone is singing, and there is no stage, and if there were, the drummers would complain. Instead, everyone is crowded around the drums, facing the drums -- not the audience, and the only one who's looking out at everyone (besides the drummers) is the Apon, who plays a very sacred role.
It is a very Western thing to take something that is communal, where everyone responds to the call, and transform it into spectacle. I grapple with this issue, because I want to build respect and understanding of The Religion -- and because I myself discovered The Religion through dance and music. I can't be a hypocrite.
Still, I remember my surprise when I was in Cuba for my Initiation, and my most important elder, my abuelo -- the padrino of my padrino's madrina, said I knew too much. I knew too many songs. I knew too many secrets. I loved to sing these songs, but I hadn't realized that these too were secrets revealed in time, to those with lifelong commitment to the Orishas. The songs were to be treated with reverence. Once "inside," one had to learn songs the way we must learn our Ita.
I wonder how it would feel to be an elder in the religion, practicing the ways of my ancestors, and see the sacred songs presented on a stage. Would I be excited to see songs for the Orisha presented in such a "respectable" environment? Or is this the issue: respectable or respectful? Do we want "respect" from "outsiders" so much that we must sacrifice respect for our elders and our rules? And why is a stage considered the "respectable" place?
It would be a shame if the same people who paid for a performance of Orisha music turned around and complained about the Tambor in the house next door ...