The Creole Choir of Cuba – “Panama Mwen Tonbe”
The Creole Choir of Cuba are a dynamic ensemble that draws from Cuban music as well as the vodou folklore of Haiti. The group is composed of six women and four men. Led by Emilia Diaz Chavez, the choir includes Yara Castellanos Diaz, Yordanka Sanchez Fajardo, Marina Collazo Fernandez, Dalio Arce Luis, Marcelo Andres Luis, Fidel Romero Miranda, Teresita Romero Miranda, Irian Rondon Montejo and Dalio Arce Vital, although Vital is no longer with the group as he passed away after the recording of their latest album, Santiman. Following up 2010’s impressive Tande-La is no easy task, but Santiman succeeds in every way and is available now on Real World Records.
The group hails from Camagüey, the third largest city in Cuba. Each region in Cuba has their own choir which is government sponsored and fully professional, rather than being affiliated with a church. The members of The Creole Choir of Cuba are descendants of former freed slaves from Haiti. Mixing Haitian folk songs with Cuban flair results in a moving, soulful sound with outstanding vocal harmonies. Conga drums and Cuban claves accompany the singers, whose positive energy is inspiring. After the terrible earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, The Creole Choir of Cuba returned to Haiti to help out with the humanitarian efforts taking place. They also performed, bringing smiles to people in need while they sang and danced.
Santiman gives us great hope and joy. These songs are part of a dream of being able to record our experience after the fateful earthquake. We are certain that this record will be our best so far, because it comes from our hearts.” – Emilia Diaz Chavez
Listen to “Panama Mwen Tonbe,” one of liveliest tracks on Santiman, above. “Panama Mwen Tonbe” translates to “my hat fell off” in English and the song speaks of a horse rider who loses his hat to the wind and asks the people following him to pick it up. Losing your hat is a bad omen in Hatian folklore. This song is the Creole Choir’s take on a story about Florvil Hyppolite (President of Haiti 1889-1896). He disregarded this omen and paid the price in the end. An eclectic mixture of ska, highlife, reggae, Afrobeat and Latin music fills this song with a sonic slice of the African diaspora. Check out a great promo video The Creole Choir of Cuba put together for Santiman below and don’t miss their upcoming North American tour dates.