Monday, 22 June 2009

Cuba50 concerts this week

Cuba 50: Celebrating Cuba’s musical riches 50 years on from the revolution.

Fidel Castro’s revolution has reached in to every aspect of Cuban life, but nowhere more than in its musical culture. A combination of official support for folk forms and musical training, isolation from the rest of the world and a resourcefulness born of hardship and shortages has made the island a musical treasure trove, rich in classic forms and new innovations, powerful roots and free imagination.

We started yesterday with Cuba 50 in Paradise Gardens, Victoria Park (Orquesta Aragon + Changüi de Guantanamo + Charanga del Norte) - an open-air Cuban dance spectacular, featuring two of the greatest exponents of the island’s traditional music and dance styles.


Now marking their 70th birthday, Orquesta Aragon were founded by bassist Oreste Aragon in Cienfuegos and became international stars during the cha-cha-cha boom of the 1950s; they have come to exemplify the charanga tradition of the island – riffing strings and flutes giving a lighter, folkier and more rural sound than the brass sections of salsa. In the 1990s, the band regrouped under the leadership of Rafeal Lay Junior, returning to its roots and the recording studio to create a rich series of new albums, one of which, 2001’s En Route, received a Grammy nomination. Changüi de Guantanamo's home town may have acquired wretched associations in recent years, but it was the birthplace of the changüi at the beginning of the 20th century, generally seen as the first contemporary music to merge the Spanish guitar sound with African rhythm. Dancing is integral to changüi and is demonstrated by Changüi de Guantanamo's own dancers whose intricate slides, steps and hip movements uncannily follow the suggestions of the tres and the bongos. Changüi de Guantanamo have been performing the changüi repertoire for most of the century and are still based in Guantanamo, under the direction of bongosero Andrés Fisto Cobas.

Inspired by the flute playing of Richard Egües from Orquesta Aragon, the thrilling Charanga del Norte (‘Charanga from the North’) was set up by Leeds-based flautist Sue Miller in 1998. ‘The only 100 percent genuine Charanga and Pachanga band in the land’ – Dave Hucker, The Beat

Also Sunday 21 June @ Spiegel Tent in Paradise Gardens we witnessed the first of the dance workshops for beginners that will accompany all our latin concerts throughout Blaze - an Introduction to Cuban Popular Dance including mambo, cha cha cha and son, of which you can find some interesting pictures on our Flickr page!

Next in the Cuba50 celebrations:

Thursday 25 June 8pm (THE INDEPENDENT Ten Best Gigs critic's choice for Jazz, Blues, World & Folk)
Cuba 50 at Hackney Empire: Orquesta Aragon + Yoruba Andabo
Tickets £ 17.50
Produced by the Barbican
Part of Dance Nations: Roots, Rhythms & Rituals

A night of steaming Cuban dance music which showcase the African and rural roots of contemporary styles. Yoruba Andabo is a company of singers, percussionists and dancers performing original West African music styles preserved since the 16th and 17th centuries. The group’s name can be loosely translated as ‘Friends and followers of Yoruba lands and culture’. Born out of spontaneous musical get-togethers held at the Havana harbour in 1961 by a group of dock workers, Yoruba Andabo acquired professional status in the 1980s and began recording for EGREM with renowned singer Mercedita Valdes. The group preserves and celebrates the irresistible power of Cuba’s African rhythms, the source and backbone of the countless dance styles which Cuba has given the world. The group won a Grammy in 2001 for the album Rumba All Stars (La Rumba Soy Yo). For Orquesta Aragon see info above.

Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ
Box Office: 020 8985 2424

Saturday 27 June 4pm – 8pm
Cuba 50 in Gillett Square: Yoruba Andabo + Changüi de Guantanamo + Son del Tropico
Part of Dance Nations: Roots, Rhythms & Rituals

A chance to hear these masters of Cuban rhythm again – and learn some of their dance moves - in the open-air, in Dalston’s hippest square, home of the Vortex jazz club. There will be a road closure on neighbouring Bradbury Street with a range of food and music stalls, and DJs spinning tunes from Eldica Vinyl & Retro’s extensive funk, soul and jazz collection. African, Caribbean and vegetarian food will be available and the Dalston Jazz Bar will be open for Cuban cocktails. This activity is being co-ordinated by Hackney Co-operative Development's Dalston4London project with support from Hackney Council.

Gillett Square, Dalston, London N16 8JH

Saturday 27 June 2pm – 7pm
Cuba 50 moves to the Barbican Centre for a day of concerts, free music, workshops and family events.

See the programme of dance workshops by clicking HERE!

Saturday 27 June 7.30pm (TIME OUT recommended)
Cuba 50: Pablo Milanés + Harold Lopez Nussa + Son del Tropico
Tickets £10/15/20
Produced by the Barbican in association with Cuba50
Part of Dance Nations: Roots, Rhythms & Rituals

Singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés remains one of the undisputed giants of Cuban music. A major figure in the 1960s nueva trova song movement, he was strongly identified with the progressive aspirations of the government of Fidel Castro. Milanés gained renown for his highly poetic lyrics and gentle but emotional singing, and is now one of the most popular and respected Cuban musicians and songwriters alive.
Pianist Harold Lopez Nussa was born in a family of musicians in Cuba, the son of the drummer Ruy Lopez Nussa and uncle famous pianist Ernan Lopez Nussa. The winner of many classical piano contests, Harold opened up to Cuba’s jazz, traditional and popular music and in 2005 was declared the laureate of the Montreux Jazz Piano competition. His piano work reveals the development of another Cuban piano giant in the great tradition of Bebo and Chucho Valdes, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Roberto Fonseca.
The nine members of Son del Tropico, from Havana and Santiago, are masters of the Son style, the predecessor of Salsa and so many contemporary Latin styles.

FreeStage pre-show 2pm: Changui de Guantanamo, Omar Puente, London Lucumi Choir & Yoruba Andabo.

ClubStage (post-show): Kumar

Sunday 28 June: Cuban Dance Workshops

Sunday 28 June 7.30pm (TIME OUT recommended)
Cuba 50: Los Van Van + Yoruba Andabo
Tickets £ 10/15/20
Produced by the Barbican in association with Cuba50
Part of Dance Nations: Roots, Rhythms & Rituals

Juan Formell, bassist and founder of Los Van Van, is quite possibly the most important figure in the history of post-revolutionary Cuban music. In the late 1960s, when Cuban traditional music was at a low ebb and fascination with rock and soul was high, Formell broke away from Orquesta Revé to form Van Van and develop a whole new rhythmic approach for Cuban music. With drummer José Luis ‘Changuito’ Quintana, Formell created the Songo rhythm which incorporated some of the power and drama of rock and funk into Cuban music in a way which made Van Van the premier dance group on the island for the following three decades – and influenced all the Cuban dance acts who followed. With stars like dazzling pianist Cesar ‘Pupy’ Pedroso and larger-than-life vocalist Pedro Calvo, Van Van combined raw power – and a multi-trombone brass section - with clever musicianship and a quite unrelenting groove. Formell’s songs, full of wry observations and street slang, have repeatedly captured the Cuban zeitgeist as seen from the streets of Havana and earned the band dozens of hits. This is their 40th anniversary tour, and though many of the personnel have now changed, the band remains at the top of the Cuban music scene and one of the greatest dance bands in the world. ‘Los Van Van has held its place as Cuba's top band for decades’ - The New York Times

For Yoruba Andabo see June 25 above.

FreeStage pre-show 2pm: Son del Tropico + Osvaldo Chacon y su Timba + Charanga del Norte + Leo Duany & Tumbao Tivoli.


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