Juan ‘El Negro’ Raymat Mora was born in Havana Cuba in 1942. He came to Miami as a batá drummer and drum maker during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. He is one of the principal figures in the history of oricha music in the United States and was responsible for opening the path for many who followed in his footsteps. Considering his role in the growth of this tradition in the United States, he has received surprisingly little media attention. This page is a homage to the enormous contribution he has made to the sacred music of Regla de Ocha and the brotherhood of Añá as it continues its epic journey forward.
See Raymat’s full interview in 7 parts: beginning with his experiences as a drummer and drum maker in Cuba; his first ceremonial experience in New York with Orlando ‘Puntilla’ Rios; the 80s in Miami; thoughts on the current status quo; in part 6 he expresses his deep connection to the drum and in the last clip he shows us his two sets of fundamento.
The man sitting next to Raymat is Awo Orumila ‘El Denny’, an American who began an apprenticeship with Raymat when he was nine years old.
The interview is in seven parts conducted by Vicky Jassey with David Pattman, Miami: 15th March 2017 .
Part 1: Raymat talks about his experience of being a batá drummer and drum maker in Cuba before coming to Miami. He then talks briefly about when he first arrived in the United States and some of the characters that were working with him. Describing himself more as a drum maker than a drummer he then tells the story of when he made his first set of consecrated drums.
Part 2: Raymat talks about making his first drum and meeting Juan Bencomo, arriving in Miami by boat with Pipo Peña, the first person to consecrate batá in the United States, and about some of the drummers and singers who were working in Miami at the time. He goes on to explain about bringing his drums to the US and the work that he encountered. He tells stories of his first experiences playing for the religious community in New York.
Part 3: Raymat tells more stories of his first experiences playing in New Jersey. I ask him when his first set of Añá were born and how many sets of fundamento he has made. He talks about how Orlando ‘Puntilla’ Rios came about ‘birthing’ a set of fundamento from Raymat’s drums and other sets of fundamento born from his first set. Raymat names the people he has sworn to Añá in Miami and explains the kinds of principles behind who he swears to his drums.
Part 4: He talks about the work that was available in the 80s. He talks about the first owners of fundamento in Miami and New York and then those who followed such as Ezequiel Torres.
Part 5: Raymat gives his opinion on the current status quo of ritual music in Miami and how it has become part of the epic journey of the batá over history. He talks about how protocols have evolved like the swearing of white men. He goes on to talk about the first fundamento tambor he played in his neighbourhood of Belen in Havana with Amelia Pedroso and Felipe Alfonso.
Part 6: Raymat gives a moving account of his personal connection to batá and Añá.
Part 7: Raymat shows us his fundamento.
Juan 'El Negro' Raymat: El Miami Herald 8th December 1986 (Clipping courtesy of Juan Raymat)
L-R: El Surdu, Juan Raymat and Lorenzo Peñalver circa 1980s.
(Photo courtesy of Jaun Raymat)
L-R: Juan 'El Negro' Raymat, Julito Balsinde circa 1980s
(Photo courtesy of Juan Raymat)
Juan 'El Negro' Raymat in his batá making workshop 2017
(Photo by Vicky Jassey)
New Times, Miami November 20-26 1991 (Clipping courtesy if Juan Raymat)