Creole Choir of Cuba

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1 University of Florida Performing Arts presents Creole Choir of Cuba Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 7:30 p.m. Phillips Center Sponsored by

2 Creole Choir of Cuba Song List Soufle Van Mangaje Preludio Llegada Pa gen dlo Simbi Balada de Annaise Boullando Tripot Marasa Elu Jubileo Tande Edem Chante Fey Oh Di Nou Lanmou Rive Panama Mwen Tonbe Pou Ki Ayiti Kriye? Veinte años El bodeguero Camina como Chencha Pale, Pale Juramento Program is subject to change. Program Notes Soufle Van Mangaje (Blows the Wind I am in trouble) A haunting song about being lost in a storm at sea. A mariner is lost and the only way to orient himself is by the sun, but it is night-time. Preludio (Prelude) The first of a series of songs based on Jacques Roumain s novel Masters of the Dew. Tells of the hard situation that people from village in Haiti are facing caused by the lack of water. Llegada (Arrival) Manuel s arrival has been announced. He is a brave man determined to find a source of water to quench his people s terrible thirst. He is the main character in Jacques Roumain s book Gouverneurs de La Rosee. Pa gen dlo (No water) The people, animals and crops have no water. Simbi Simbi, queen of clear waters, has been invited to a rite but decided not to go because there is something preventing her way and nobody knows what it could be.

3 Balada de Annaise (Annaise s Song) Words from a Clotaire Saint-Natus poem based on Jacques Roumain s novel. A love song, Annaise is Manuel s girlfriend. She is grateful to him for finding the spa that will water her garden. Boullando (Ball On My Back) A traditional Creole song with double meaning, telling the story of an adolescent girl who didn t listen to her mother s advice and got pregnant. Tripot A gossip is rejected by the neighbourhood because he always wants to know everything about everybody. Uses the Konpa rhythm, which is danced frequently in Haiti. Marasa Elu (A special child) Tells the story of an orphan child begging for help. Jubileo Another song with words from a Clotaire Saint-Natus poem. The whole town sings and dances because now they have water to drink, to cook and wash, and also for their animals. They have built canals to bring the water to their houses thanks to Manuel. Tande (Listen) A protest song denouncing the misery and suffering of the Haitian people during the Duvalier government. Edem Chante (Help Us Sing) A freedom song created during the dark days of the Duvalier regime. Fey Oh Di Nou (Oh Leaves Tell Us) A group of people get together to invoke the divine power of some medicinal plants in order to heal a very poor man. He shows no signs of improvement after much praying. Lanmou Rive A song about young love. Panama Mwen Tonbe (My Hat Fell Off) A traditional song from Haiti. A man riding a horse leaves Jacmel toward Lavale. Near Bene his hat blows off, then he asks the people coming behind him to pick it up for him. Pou Ki Ayiti Kriye? (Why Does Haiti Cry?) Written by Teresita Romero Miranda after returning from the Cuban aid mission to Haiti following the earthquake. The question is: Why does Haiti continue to suffer so much when it has such a beautiful natural and human gift to survive just like any other country? Veinte años (Twenty Years) El bodeguero (The shopkeeper) Camina como Chencha (Walk Like Chencha) A Guaracha is a genre of Cuban popular music usually with a humorous topic. This one is about a girl who has gambadas (bandy legs) like Chencha.

4 Pale, Pale (Talk, Talk) Traditional/Boukan Ginen arranged by Teresita Romero. A protest song based on a folkloric song condemning the Duvalier government s military atrocities. Also decrying the chaotic situation in Haiti and the misery the people have suffered. Juramento (A Promise) A traditional Cuban song that is known worldwide, rich with lyricism and poetry, written in the first half of the 20th century by Miguel Matamoros. About the Creole Choir of Cuba The Creole Choir of Cuba s remarkable singers come from Camagüey, Cuba s third city, down toward the eastern end of the island. The singers grew up and studied music in this colonial town which became a designated UNESCO World heritage Site in 2008 for its iconic architecture. The Creole Choir itself was founded in 1994, by Emilia Diaz Chavez, during the Special Period, when the Cuban economy fell into a black hole following the end of the USSR and 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 descendants of Haitians, decided to re-forge the resistance songs and laments of their forbearers, to celebrate the history of their Haitian ancestors enslaved to the Caribbean from West Africa. Haiti is the first country to have gained independence in Latin America and is the first black republic, formed after a successful slave revolt in the late 18th century. Haitian and Cuban history intertwine at many points, beginning in the 18th century when Haitians were taken by French colonists as slaves to Cuba. More migrations to Cuba followed; this time in order to escape oppressive dictatorial regimes at home. The Haitian immigrants would work on coffee plantations, as well as sugar cane plantations during harvest periods. With them they brought their language, rituals, religious ceremonies, food, fashion, arts and crafts as well as their music. Forming communities in different areas of the country, predominantly in the eastern side of the island in Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba, they integrated into the Cuban culture, enriching it with their rhythms and melodies. The Choir sings in Creole (a mixture of Spanish, English and West African languages) and Spanish. The Creole identity is one that unifies Haitians of all races. It s the language, music, food and culture that connects not only all Haitians but all people of the French West Indies. In Haiti, everyone is Creole, and Creole was the language of the Choir s parents, grandparents and great grandparents. There are 10 members (almost all are the original members) in the group; six women and four men: Emilia Diaz Chavez, Teresita Romero Miranda, Marina Collazo Fernandez, Yara Castellanos Diaz, Yordanka Sanchez Fajardo, Irian Rondon Montejo, Fidel Romero Miranda, Marcelo Andres Luiz and Dalio Arce Luis. Andres Ortega has replaced Dalio Arce Vital, who sadly passed away following the recording of Santiman in As professional singers who are actively involved in the Haitian community, they worked hard to find out as much as they could about their ancestral homeland and its musical and cultural traditions. It was very important to keep the essence of Haiti in their music and bring in the Cuban element of their identities. In January 2010, Haiti suffered an earthquake which destroyed its capital city, Port au Prince and caused 300,000 deaths. In the aftermath of this destruction, the Choir was sent as part of the Cuban recovery effort. Along with medical brigades, the Choir was asked to help keep spirits up. So they ran workshops with children and teenagers, singing and dancing with survivors of the earthquake. It was a

5 very difficult and emotional time, but the Choir pays homage to the strength of the Haitian people in a time of great difficulty. One of their lasting memories from that time is of the laughter that still prevailed despite the obstacles and disasters around them. The residents tenacity through the devastating earthquake gave the choir members an even greater sense of pride of their ancestral home. The songs form this new album are part of a long time dream to record part of our experience after the fateful earthquake, where we were providing our support to all survivors. We especially wanted to help kids that were left orphaned and homeless, to give them back their smiles and to use song and dance to help them to deal with this sad episode. Emilia Diaz Chavez, Choir leader The Choir s repertory comprises a mixture of their own compositions and arrangements of traditional Haitian songs. Emilia composed a series of songs based on Gouverneurs de La Rosée (Masters of the Dew) a novel set in nineteenth century Haiti, written by influential Haitian writer and politician, Jacques Roumain. She set to music the poems of contemporary Haitian poet, Clotaire Saint- Natus, whose has taken his own inspiration from Roumain s novel. The lyrics of many songs tell stories of important people and events in Haitian history. Common themes include oppression, misery, censorship and imprisonment; on a socio-economic and political level. Haiti s misunderstood religion called Vodou (or Voodoo ) has inspired a strong tradition of rousing folk songs, many expressing solidarity with the poor, and resistance to Haiti s equally vigorous tradition of tyrannical leaders. The Choir s songs often use humor to confront fears and problematic situations with strength, which is typically Haitian. The music is composed of rhythms and lyrics of Haitian and African origins accompanied by Cuban percussion instruments, chiefly the conga. Lesser known is the clave; a quintessentially Cuban instrument, used frequently in traditional Cuban music genres Son and Salsa. Several small, quirky handheld instruments from Haiti, originally made by plantation workers out of ordinary work tools such as the head of an axe or the removed bottom of a bucket include the tchatcha (sleigh bells), train (triangle), vadzin (bongo cowbell), guiro and pito (whistle). Santiman (the group s second album for Real World Records, following 2010 s Tande-la) features the addition of trumpet, flute and piano. Guest musicians Dramane Dembele (from Burkina Faso, Tripot), trumpet player Paul Bilson (born in Ghana now U.K.- based, Panama Mwen Tonbe ) and the brilliant jazz pianist Tom Cawley (U.K., Simbi and Balada de Annaise) lend their distinct virtuosity to enrich the vocal harmonies. The Creole Choir of Cuba s performances include striking choreography where movements give a very emotional and spiritual connection to the voices and music. With their bodies, they emphasize the songs rhythms and narratives, and in some songs they move and interact to act out a story. The costumes reflect the Choir s mixed background with elements typical of both Caribbean dress and the more elaborate and colorful costumes of West Africa. The Choir has performed in many different types of venues and settings all over the world including: Canada, Haiti, Cuba, U.S., U.K., the Netherlands, France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Singapore.

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