Meet our PhD supervisors: Dr Amanda Villepastour
BMUS University of Western Australia, MMus and PhD The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
(PhD thesis: Bata Conversations: Guardianship and Entitlement Narratives About the Bata in Cuba and Nigeria)
The music of Africa and the African diaspora (with a focus on the Yorùbá)
Religion and music
Amanda Villepastour is best-known as a scholar of Yorùbá music and religion in Nigeria and Cuba. Her regional interests, however, encompass the whole of Africa and its diaspora in The Caribbean, South America and North America.
Amanda is currently researching diverse comparative aspects of Yorùbá music including a linguistic study of speech tone and melody setting, gesture and dance which accompanies song, and drum vocables. Her research is interdisciplinary, reaching across ethnomusicology, linguistics, religious studies, and popular music.
Before coming to Cardiff, Dr Villepastour was curator for Africa and Latin America at MIM (the Musical Instrument Museum) in Phoenix Arizona, where she collected musical instruments for every country in Africa. She has also previously worked as an ethnomusicology instructor at BGSU in Ohio and course convenor for The Graduate Diploma in Music Teaching to Adults (Goldsmiths College, University of London).
Ancient Text Messages of the Yorùbá Bàtá Drum: Cracking the Code
Amanda’s recent monograph is an in-depth study of the bàtá as a sophisticated medium of communication used to encode the Yorùbá language.
The Yorùbá bàtá drumming tradition is at least five centuries old but both the drum and its unique language are now unfamiliar to many contemporary Yorùbá people. Bàtá drummers have devised a secret, spoken language called ẹnà which derives from drum vocables. Bàtá drumming is intentionally obscure as it was devised to exclude cult outsiders. Also a war drum, the bàtá would transmit military messages in former times.
Ancient Text Messages of the Yorùbá Bàtá Drum is the first academic study to examine in detail the history, musical grammar and drum language of this instrument. The book derives from a collaboration between ethnomusicologist Amanda, Rábíù Àyándòkun, a Yorùbá master drummer, and ’Túndé Adégbọlá, a Yorùbá linguist and information scientist.
The book includes a 42-track CD with bàtá repertoire and illustrative examples performed by Amanda’s primary research collaborator, Rábíù Àyándòkun during his residency at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Current book projects
- Speaking with Wood: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Orisha of Drumming (forthcoming, University Press of Mississippi)
Selected research papers
- “Two Heads of the Same Drum?: Musical Narratives within a Transatlantic Religion” in Journal of Transatlantic Studies Vol. 7, No. 3, September 2009, 343-362.
- “Leading from the Inside: The Voice of Cuban Priestess Amelia Pedroso.” Book chapter in Women Singers in Global Contexts: Music, Biography and Identity. Ruth Hellier-Tinico (ed.) Bloomington & Indianapolis: University of Illinois Press. (In Press)
Dr Villepastour would be happy to consider applications from students considering postgraduate research in the following areas:
Traditional and/or popular music in Africa and the diaspora
Linguistic studies in music
Interested in pursuing postgraduate research at one of the largest and most diverse music schools in the UK? The School of Music is currently offering three competitive Studentships that cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate. More information on our funding opportunities is available at: