Daniel Alfonso Herrera, a batá master from Matanzas, Cuba died on December 19th of 2010 of an incurable cancer in the City of Matanzas, Cuba. I was informed about Herrera’s passing by his student, Tina Gallagher.
“I knew him as a Santero, drummer, and one of the best teachers I have ever known,” said Galagher. “The patience and teaching ability he showed during the filming, writing and editing of the Lenguaje del Tambor project was amazing, especially when you consider that I am not even a percussionist, much less a batalera. I am so grateful to have known him, and am so glad we were able to capture a bit of his vast knowledge for posterity.”
Born on July 20th, 1946, son of Miguel Alfonso Alfonso and Juana Herrera Villamil, Daniel began playing folkloric rhythms in 1957 with Jorge Villamil (deceased). In 1967 Daniel joined a folkloric drum group with Esteban “Cha Cha” Vega Vacallao.
He was a member of the group Cabildo de Santa Teresa de Jesús, of the Villamil family, in Matanzas. He was a priest of Oggun and preserved folkloric rhythms of Arara and Olokun with Cha Cha Vega’s group. He was also a member of the Abacuá Society from Efik/Efo.
Daniel was the director of many Afro-Cuban folkloric groups, including Radames y Sus Tambores, and instructional drummer for the video and book set titled El Lenguaje del Tambor (Kabiosile, 2007). El Lenguaje del Tambor includes 2 DVDs offering more than 5 hours of batá drumming demonstrations, tutorials, and interviews in Spanish with English subtitles; and a 116-page book of transcriptions presenting detailed documentation of the fundamentals of Matanzas-style batá drumming.