Just when you think you know Cuban music, along comes the (Haitian) Creole Choir of Cuba. This group sprang from the ashes of Grupo Vocal Desandann, a small vocal outfit created in the late 1990s to celebrate traces of Haitian culture in eastern Cuba. That history dates back to the late 18th centuray, when slaves from Haiti were delivered to Cuba to harvest sugarcane after successful slave revolts in Haiti. A long-lost culture was reviatlized by the group through music performed largely a cappella and entirely in Haitian Creole.
As with other forms of music associated with the African diaspora, The Creole Choir of Cuba’s work resonates with songs of resistance and celebration of community life, which offered hope and relief from the bitter realities of slavery. The African song form of call-and-response is there, and floating harmonies seem to emanate from within a vast church. The rhythms evoke Afro-Cuban traditions but remain distinctly Haitian, with echoes of other Afro-Caribbean cultures.
The Creole Choir of Cuba is on a mission to recover a tradition that was almost swallowed up by modern times.
Watch NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, featuring the Creole Choir here!