Future collaborations with the Cepeda family to 2001
Website in Cuba
April 99: Puerto Rico
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Afrocuba de Matanzas
AfroCuba de Matanzas is one of Cuba's top folkloric group, with an impressive knowledge of many of the African traditions. A lot of the members are Villamil, a family that counts both Yoruba and Congo ancestors. On the Yoruba side, they are descended from two Oyo musicians kidnapped in the 1880's and brought to Matanzas. One of them was a babalawo, an Omo Oggun.
Lisa Salb has written an excellent piece on the group, available below.
In their 1998 US tour, AfroCuba members were introduced to the Asipade of Oggun from Oyo and conversed with him in Yoruba. We see a group member, Pello Tapanez - also a Villamil - with the Asipade on the right. See the Villamil for more on that family.
Afrocuba, one of Cuba's most acclaimed folklore groups, performs the traditional African dances, percussion, and songs which still flourish as an integral part of the island's living legacy. The company was founded in 1957 in the city of Matanzas, known as one of the cradles of Afrocuban folklore. There, many of the centuries-old African based traditions have been maintained in their purest form, some existing presently only in Matanzas.
Afrocuba is widely recognized in Cuba and worldwide for their mastery of the full spectrum of Afrocuban folklore, including presentation of certain genres performed only by them. The group members are not only top-notch professional artists, but also practitioners of the religions whose music and dance they perform. Their instruments have been painstakingly hand crafted using centuries-old methods and original materials, making for an incomparable richness and authenticity of sound.
"The group's repertoire contains a wide and complete panorama of the traditions brought to Cuba by the African slaves, and the results of their evolution and integration into modern Cuban society", says director Francisco Zamorra Chirino. Their shows include music and dance of Lucumi (Yoruba), Arara (Dahomey), Bantu (Congo), Calabari, and other African origins, as well as the more Spanish and Caribbean influenced traditions. "Our goal is to keep the legacy of our ancestors alive, while enriching it with our creative interpretation", Mr. Zamorra explains.
A typical show opens with Eleggua, the Yoruba "trickster" deity of the crossroads, accompanied by the ceremonial hourglass shaped Bata drums. Next, the shekeres (beaded gourds) call in Oshun, the sweet goddess of love who dramatizes her ability to dance through provocative gestures. Finally Oggun enters, the warrior god of iron who moves with frightening power, machete in hand. Here the dancers are accompanied by the complex and uniquely Matanzan Iyessa rhythm, played on several bells and the special Iyessa drums.
Closely related to the Yoruban deities, those of the Arara pantheon dance to their own distinct rhythms, distinguished by a strong yet fluid movement of the shoulders. Afrekete is the ocean goddess whose majestic, maternal presence is marked by her whirling blue and white skirts. Jebiosso is the god of fire, lightning, and virility, sexy and boastful, whose mastery of dance is apparent in his forceful yet supple movements. Alu, the god of sickness and healing, makes a dramatic entrance crawling and trembling before he slowly transforms from a cripple into an upright warrior in the presence of his circle of devotees.
The Bricamo (another Matanzas tradition) is a ritual dance where participants cleanse themselves and their surroundings with branches of green leaves. The powerful presentation of the Abakwa, an all-male religious society, opens with a magnificent acapella section. Slowly the drums begin, and a dancer leads in the Ireme, the impressive masked dancers who represent the guardian ancestral spirits of the cult.
The group's riveting depiction of the Congolese-based Palo alternates between hand-clapping acapella invocation of the spirit of the nganga (magic pot) and lightning speed drumming with martial-like dances, climaxing in a frenzy of movement and sound.
Influenced by Spanish flamenco, the secular Rumba also draws heavily on African roots, but is unique to Cuba. Afrocuba presents the three variations of Rumba. The Yambu is played on wooden box drums known as cajones, highlighted by the elegantly sensual movements of the dancing couple.
The Guaguanco, a flirtatious parody of the mating ritual, is a wonderful interaction between the competitive spirits of two dancers. The woman, prancing seductively, must deflect the "vacunao", the symbolic gesture of sexual possession. The Columbia, a competitive solo dance for men, is a raw display of masculine prowess characterized by sharp athletic movements and precise interplay between the dancer and lead drummer.
The rousing, musically spectacular finale is their famous "BataRumba", something of the group's own creation. Here the rich polyrhythms of the Bata drums, which generally serve a strictly sacred function, are incorporated into the traditional Rumba, with a bit of the Comparsa (or Carnaval) rhythms thrown in.
Afrocuba has performed extensively to great acclaim throughout Cuba and worldwide, including Angola, Zaire, Finland, Italy, Brazil, England, and the United States. In 1989 they mesmerized audiences at the Smithsonian Institute's Folk Life Festival in Washington, D.C.. In Cuba in 1991 they wowed the public with their theatrical "Bata opera" based on the legends of Oya, Yoruba warrior goddess of the winds. They have been featured in several films and videos, and have made numerous radio and television appearances. They have several recordings, most recently "Rituales Afrocubanas"(1993 EGREM, Cuba), and "Oyelos de Nuevo"(1994 QbaDisc, recorded in 1968 under the group name "Folklore Matancero"). [to order from QbaDisc, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the group also offer lectures, classes, and workshops on Afro-Cuban culture, music, and dance. The touring group consists of 20 dancers and musicians, including Dolores Perez, Paula Perez, Zulima Echeverria, Mima Zamorra, Luis Cancino, Pedro Aballix, and many others.
"A folkloric ensemble in the best sense of the word, Grupo Afrocuba de Matanzas is a sprawling Cuban troupe in the midst of a rare American tour.... The group, best known simply as Afrocuba, performs ritual dance-music pieces based on ideas that predate the arrival of West African slaves in Cuba several centuries ago...
The call-and-response chants with which Zamorra and three female singers accompanied the stage action and the intricate rhythmic backbeats that a quintet of percussionists played on facsimiles of ancient instruments clearly suggested some of the earliest known forms of non-Western music.
Similarly, the ensemble of costumed dancers, which drew on the symbols of ancient African gods, evoked another, earlier age in world culture. The gently undulating motions of three women who personified Afrekete (the ocean goddess), the pranksterish fellow who taunted the audience as the "trickster" deity Elegua and the male dancers who brandished machetes as the warrior god Oggun all offered a beguiling glimpse at the origins of African ritual.
The concert at the DuSable, with a large crowd in attendance, hardly could have been
more striking, with the performers using not only the stage but every inch of a long
walkway that thrust into the audience. The theatricality of this staging, as well as the
opulence of the costumes and the folk-like unpretentiousness of the choreography, made
this a performance as believable as it was effective." -- Howard Reich, Aug 14, 1996
Raices Africanas (African
|List Price: $16.97
Our Price: $12.99
You Save: $3.98 (23%)
Audio CD (August 18, 1998)
|OYELOS DE NUEVO
QB 9013 / CD only
List Price: $16.97
|Francisco Zamora - Director
Sara "Mima" Gobel - singer
Dolores Perez - singer
Paula Perez - dancer
Yeniel "El Chini" Perez Domenech - dancer
Zulima Echeveria - dancer
|Luis Cancino -
singer, percussionist, dancer
Reynaldo "Naldo" Gobel - percussionist
Pedro "Pello" Tapanez - percussionist
Pedro "Regalao" Aballi Torriente - percussionist
|Danilito Perez, dancer||Teresita Perez Dome, dancer|
|Lilian Oviedo Aldama, dancer||Ramon "Sandy" Garcia - percussionist|
|Reynaldo "Rey" Gonzalez Fernandez - dancer and percussionist|
The collaboration between the Cepeda Family, one of the top roots groups in PR, and AfroCuba has more steps already planned, according to Jesus Cepedas:
Apr 2001 - Afrocuba does a 1 month residency in PR
Oct 2001 - La Familia Cepeda visits Cuba!!!!!
For more info call the Fundacion Cepeda at 1-787-757-1672 in Puerto Rico. The Cepedas and Afrocuba toured the US together on several occasions, in 1998 and 1999, thereby setting the stage for this close collaboration. See the Dos Alas Tour for information on the tour and on the Cepedas.
Puerto Rico: April '99
|Afrocuba de Matanzas visitan a Puerto Rico invitado por los Hermanos
Cepedas y el Fundacion Rafael Cepeda, Inc.
Tienen la planificacion siguiente:
Para informarse, favor de llamar a Luis Alberto Ramirez, 797 776-3386, al Fundacion Cepeda
|Afrocuba de Matanzas visits Puerto Rico
as guests of the Hermanos Cepedas and the Fundacion Rafael Cepeda, Inc.
For information, call Luis Alberto Ramirez, 797 776-3386, at the Fundacion Cepeda
Their rep, Ileana Hernandez, can be reached via her phone, 011.53.52.35.91
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