Tambu research and workshop


In the search for my roots and identity, I looked up “resistance” in music, and I found Tambu.

Tambu is a form of protest that simultaneously uses wisdom and humor. In Tambu art, music, dance and religion are interrelated, it arose from the plantations of Curacao. Tambu is a means of truth spoken amongst each other and between generations. A good Tambu-Pregone (lead singer) can portray a problem with only a few words; get to the core, make a funny comparison and give good advice. Inscribed in the music is the immensely rich history of Curacao. This is the art of Tambu. In essence, a layered and adaptive cultural form.

As a covert form of communication Tambu thrives in ambiguity — due to the tonality of the language the meaning of a word can vary greatly, depending on its stress and pitch. Tambu is therefore difficult to under- stand for an outsider. Tambu was seen as severely subversive hence banned by the state for centuries. During the times it was attacked by the Christian church, musicians and dancers were treated with violence. The songs were - and still are - a way to express emotions like anger, sorrow, pain and joy, to disseminate information.

Tambu song from 1795 sung by slaves revolting against the Dutch state following the example of the Haitian slave revolt in 1792 against the French colonizer:

Rebeldia na Bandabou

Diesshete di agosto ora bel a bati Henter Kenepa den tenshon. Katibunan a disidi ku t’awe,
Kos ta termina.

Katibunan a disidi ku t’awe: Libertad ta start.
Ora bel a zona
Henter Kenepa den tenshon. Katibunan a reuni,

I huntu nan a disidi, Ku awe tin rebeldia na

Rebeldia na Bandabou. Na kabes tin un kapitan, Rebeldia na Bandabou. Kaptan Tula ta na mando. Rebeldia na Bandabou. Na su lado Pedro Wacao.

Rebellion at Bandabou

August seventeenth when the bell rang There was much tension at Knip
The slaves have decided today,
Things will end.

Slaves have decided today Liberty will start.
When the bell sounded
There was much tension at Knip. The slaves have reunited,

And together have decided, Today there will

Rebellion at Bandabou.
At the head there is a captain, Rebellion at Bandabou. Captain Tula is in command. Rebellion at Bandabou.
At his side is Pedro Wacao.

Tambu represents the continuous bond with Africa, our African ancestors, and the Afro-Curaçaoan identity. Because of the condemnation and repression of Tambu by the dominant parties it hasn’t received the recognition it deserves.

See you around!