Prepare to be blown away by the passionate melodies, wild harmonies and richly textured arrangements of ten inspiring vocalists. Real World recording artists The Creole Choir of Cuba are an entirely fresh export, easily the most original vocal sound to come out of their island country in many years.
“Desandann” — the Choir’s Cuban name – literally means “descendents,” and with the songs on their new album TANDE-LA (which translates to “listen”) they tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors who were brought to Cuba to toil in near slave conditions on the sugar and coffee plantations.
The Choir – six women and four men, aged 27 to 61 – hail from beautiful Camagüey, Cuba’s third largest city, an old colonial town designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its iconic architecture. All have studied music to university level in Camagüey and all are members of the Provincial Choir, directed by their leader Emilia Chavez. Desandann emerged out of this choir in 1994, a difficult time for Cubans when the economy collapsed following the end of the USSR and of Soviet support for the Cuban revolution. Food was in short supply, while homes and work places often went dark due to lack of electricity.
The singers decided to re-forge the resistance songs and laments of their forebears, to celebrate the history of their Haitian ancestors enslaved to the Caribbean from West Africa. To the songs that had been passed down in their families since the early 19th century, they added more modern Haitian sounds.
The Choir have just announced their first major U.S. tour, with 23 tour dates in autumn 2011. As anybody who has witnessed the vibrant Choir can attest, this is an experience not to be missed.
Their mesmerizing sound, jubilant dancing and deep spirit have made them a huge hit in England, where they have toured extensively since first appearing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. It was there that the producer of BBC 2′s Later … with Jools Holland saw the Choir and was so impressed by the cornucopia of remarkable voices that he invited them to appear on the popular TV show. They did, performing the uplifting and emotional freedom song “Chen Nan Ren,” denouncing neo-colonialism and colonialism with a celebratory and glorious feeling of resistance that evokes the songs of the 1960s civil rights movement in America. The similarities don’t end there.
In addition to Spanish and French, the Choir mainly sing in Creole, Cuba’s second language which is spoken by close to a million people. This pragmatic fusion of African, French and other tongues is the language of a people twice exiled: first to Haiti from Africa through the iniquitous slave trade, and then from Haiti to Cuba – tricked into a second slavery by their French masters after the Haitian Revolution of 1790. Other Haitians arrived in Cuba over the 20th century, fleeing political upheaval, poverty and oppression – especially during the barbaric regime of Papa Doc Duvalier from the 1950s to the 1970s, which was marked by reigns of terror and the brutality of his private militia, the Tonton Macoutes.
In a testament to their enduring relationship with their spiritual homeland, the Choir spent two month-long tours in Haiti as part of Cuba’s relief project following the January 2010 earthquake. Working in cooperation with the Haitian Cultural Ministry, the group ran workshops with children within displaced persons camps as well as performing for the public in specially arranged concerts.
With irresistible melodies driven by richly textured harmonies, shifting Caribbean rhythms with a very original root bass sound, their first U.S. release showcases the impassioned singing of a unique group celebrating roots, resistance and the irresistible rhythms of life. Audiences around the U.S. will have a thrilling opportunity this fall as the Creole Choir of Cuba traverse America.
The album “Tande-La” on Real World Records is digitally available now, with North American physical release set for September 13, 2011.
From September 21 to November 5, 2011, the Creole Choir will embark on a 23 date tour of the U.S.
The Creole Choir of Cuba are:
Dalio Arce Vital
Emilia Diaz Chavez
Fidel Romero Miranda
Irian Esther Rondon Montejo
Marcelo Andres Luis
Marina de Los Angeles Collazo Fernandes
Rogelio Rodriguez Torriente
Teresita Romero Miranda
Yara Castellanos Diaz
Yordanka Sanchez Fajardo
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