The Creole Choir of Cuba - Santiman (3 stars)

The Creole Choir of Cuba - Santiman

Second album of resistance songs and laments of their Haitian descendants

(Real World)

Formed in the mid-90s to celebrate its members’ Haitian roots, The Creole Choir of Cuba came to international prominence with their 2010 album Tande-La. Its follow up, Santiman, sees the Choir, who hail from Cuba’s third city, Camaguey, continuing to explore the resistance songs and laments of their descendants, as well as more humorous and upbeat numbers like ‘Camina Como Chencha’, a breezy Guaracha about a girl with bandy legs.

Their sound is quite remarkable, treating traditional folk melodies with a sophistication that is comparable in approach, if not quite sound, to Duke Ellington’s gospel suites. The contrapuntal arrangements for powerful female voices in protest songs like ‘Llegada’ are complex, yet open enough to leave space for the soloists to ring out clear and true. The dance tunes, meanwhile, see the choir wielding cowbells and shakers in classic Cuban fashion, with the male voices providing wordless basslines that simmer and swing.

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