12 September 2011

Monday's mp3: The Creole Choir of Cuba

Some years back I was exposed to the music of the Garifuna people on the Atlantic coast of Central America. It was one of those "wow!" moments, finding an amazing new sound, and a compelling history, in an unexpected place. Now I eagerly nab any Garifuna music I can find. It's that different from other music in Central America, and it's a great, unique sound.

Swim east a bit, and there's Cuba. You know Cuban music, right? There's son and salsa and trova, Afro-Cuban jazz, and assorted related styles.

Now the Creole Choir of Cuba adds a category I didn't know existed on the island nation. On their new album Tande-La (which translates as "listen!"), their vocal songs evoke a bit of South African Zulu polyphony on the opening track "Edem Chante" -- then there's the nearly operatic (or musical theatric) sound, as on "Maroule." All mixed with plenty of Caribbean-sounding call-and response.

Where did this unusual music come from? I'm told it emerged with migrant Haitian workers, who blended musical styles as well as languages (they sing in Spanish, French, and Creole).

The Creole Choir - five men and five women - hail from beautiful Camagüey, Cuba's third city, an old colonial town, designated a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2008 for its iconic architecture. The group was founded in 1994 during the "Special Period" when the Cuban economy fell into a black hole following the end of the USSR and of Soviet support for the revolution. Food was short while homes and work places often went dark due to lack of electricity. It was at this difficult time that members of the Professional Choir of Camagüey who were descendents of Haitians, decided to re-forge the resistance songs and laments of their forebears. Lead by their Choir Director Emilia Díaz Chávez, Grupo Vocal Desandann, as they are called in Cuba, revived the songs of their ancestors for modern times. Desandann literally means ‘descendents’ and as the choir say: "For us music is like food, it feeds the spirit and is a major inspiration for everyday life". (source)

[mp3] The Creole Choir of Cuba: Maroule
from the album Tande-La

The Creole Choir of Cuba is touring the USA in September and November.

More Creole Choir of Cuba:
listen/buy CD
label website
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