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Creole Choir of Cuba

Real World Records / 2011
Genres: ethno, vocals, world music
CD € 14.58


Prepare to be blown away: hear the passionate melodies, wild harmonies and richly textured arrangements of these inspiring vocalists and you will know this is something new from Cuba, the most original vocal sound to come out of the country in a long while.

The Creole Choir’s Cuban name Desandann means literally ‘descendents’ and with the songs on their latest album 'Tande-La' (which translates to 'listen') they tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors who were brought to Cuba to work in near slave conditions in the sugar and coffee plantations.
With heartfelt melodies driven by richly textured harmonies and shifting Caribbean rhythms, this is impassioned singing by a unique group celebrating roots, resistance and the irresistible rhythms of life. The Choir sing in Creole, Cuba’s second language, a pragmatic fusion of African, French and other languages. It’s the language of a people twice exiled: first to Haiti from Africa through the slave trade; then from Haiti to Cuba tricked into second slavery by their French masters after the Haitian Revolution of 1790. Other Haitians arrived in the 20th century fleeing political upheaval, poverty and oppression during the barbaric regime of Papa Doc Duvalier.
The Choir - five men and five women hailing from beautiful Camagüey - formed in 1994, a difficult time for Cubans when the economy fell into a black hole following the end of the USSR and of Soviet support for the revolution. Food and electricity were in short supply. The singers decided to re-forge the resistance songs and laments of their forebears, to celebrate the history of their Haitian descendents enslaved to the Caribbean from West Africa. To the songs that had been passed down in their families, they added more modern Haitian sounds.


1. Edem Chanté
A freedom song created during the dark days of the Duvalier regime. The cry
‘Edem Chanté’ means ‘Listen to Us’.

2. Se Lavi
Tells the story of a ‘pordiosero’, a poor person who has no one but God on their
side. Each day he takes to the roads, sack on shoulder in the hope of finding
food. Late at night he throws himself down in a doorway to sleep, feeling the total
indifference of all to his situation.

3. Maroule
This poetic song tells the story of a ‘maroule’, a drover who takes cattle through
the mountains at night often under a moon so bright that the cast of his shadow
and sounds he makes to his scrawny beasts make many mistake him for a bad
spirit. The words tell of the loneliness of the long journey across rivers, avoiding
cattle thieves, and of the wisdom that keeps him going ‘Moving on, moving on, I
will get there”.

4. La Mal De Travay
A song influenced by Haiti’s black Sanba movement - which created a new
identity for young Haitians while re-claiming the vodou religion from the ‘terror’
image given it by dictator Papa Doc Duvalier. The text says, I work and am
strong so no-one can touch me - I cry out that I have no fear…

5. Neg Anwo
This song denounces the minority of rich black Haitians who live safe high in the
hills looking down on the majority of poor blacks who live in the dust of the
ghetto. The song calls for co-operation between Haitians themselves to relieve
the poverty of their country.

6. Peze Café
Offering a snapshot of the difficulties encountered in everyday life. Peze Café
tells of a boy shouting for his mother after he is robbed when taking the family’s
coffee crop to be weighed.

7. L’Atibonite Oh
Named for a region in Haiti this song takes the appearance and disappearance of
the sun each day as a metaphor for life: L’Atibonite sent me to say that the sun is
sick, arriving the sun is found in bed and lamentably later is found dead…

8. Tande
This freedom song denounces the misery and suffering of the Haitian people
during the Duvalier Government.

9. Lumane Casimir
Tells the true story of a young peasant woman with a beautiful voice who arrives
in Port-au-Prince one day with a guitar under her arm. Although she becomes
famous and loved by the people, at the end of her life she dies impoverished and
alone back in her native village.

10. Fey
Fey (Faith) is a traditional vodou folk song released after the 1991 military coup
which ousted democratic president Jean-Claude Aristide. At the time it was taken
as an unofficial anthem of support for Aristide and was banned in 1992.

11. Dulce Embelezo
This classic love song captures the possibilities and illusions symbolised by a
tempting kiss.

12. Chen Nan Ren
This song means ‘chains around the waist’ and is a defiant cry for freedom,
protesting against the continued exploitation and suffering of the poor, from
colonial slavery to modern neo-liberal times. The real and metaphorical chains of
the poor demand they organize to achieve justice.


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