They are three musical percussion instruments consisting of hollow cylinders with skin heads of different diameters, which are fastened using rings and belts or traces that take the shape of an N.
Although the term Bata is used in Cuba in a generic way, each drum has its own specific name: Iya, Okonkolo and Itotele. These words are unquestionably of Yoruba origin, and the instruments come from Yoruba-occupied Namibian territories. They were brought here by African slaves during the colonial period and have been re-built and refined to date.
Bata drums had for many years been used only for religious events (Santeria), but they have been lately introduced in Cuban and foreign music bands.
They are made by the players themselves using special materials and applying a know-how that has been passed from one generation to another in an empiric way.
The primary social and musical function of these instruments in Cuban folklore is to appeal to deities at Santeria events. They help close relations between deities and believers, and are played alone or in conjunction with songs and dances. They are also considered deities and constitute important religious objects in Cuban Santeria.