Tande-la

The Creole Choir of Cuba, 2010

The Creole Choir of Cuba are called 'Desandann' in their home country which means 'descendants' and with the songs on their forthcoming album 'Tande-La' (a title which translates as 'listen') they tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors who were brought to Cuba to work in near slave conditions on the sugar and coffee plantations.

The Choir - five men and five women - hail from beautiful Camagüey, Cuba's third city, an old colonial town, designated a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2008 for its iconic architecture. They have studied music to university level in Camagüey and are all members of the Provincial Choir, which their leader Emilia directs. Desandann emerged out of this choir in 1994, a difficult time for Cubans when the economy fell into a black hole following the end of the USSR and of Soviet support for the revolution. Food was short while homes and work places often went dark due to lack of electricity. The singers decided to re-forge the resistance songs and laments of their forebears, to celebrate the history of their Haitian descendents enslaved to the Caribbean from West Africa. To the songs that had been passed down in their families since the early 19th century, they added more modern Haitian sounds. With irresistible melodies driven by richly textured harmonies, shifting Caribbean rhythms with a very original root bass sound, this is impassioned singing by a unique group celebrating roots, resistance and the irresistible rhythms of life. In the words of the glorious 'Edem Chanté' - Help Us Sing!

Words by Jan Fairley

Reviews

  • One of Mundofonías' Favourite Records of 2011 Mundofonías.com
  • One of World Music Centrals Top World Music Albums of 2011 World Music Central (USA)
  • Voices are full...Harmonies are tight...honest & soulful... Instumentation here is minimal, but the songs dont suffer for the lack of it. Voices are full, the women's anchored by the bass of the men. Harmonies are tight and the delivery honest & soulful, at time soaring in diffidence or triumph Carribean Beat (USA)
  • The group's bicultural orientation resulted in fascinating music... The Creole Choir's experience is just as much for the emotions and gut as it is for the ears and eyes. ...their delivery was full of exuberance, passion, and pride. The members of the group showed distinct personalities... Philly.com (Live review of performance at the Painted Bride) (USA)
  • Live from Strathmore Whether you came to hear something new or to join in as part of the entertainment, the exhilarating concert by the Creole Choir of Cuba at Strathmore on Wednesday was a real winner. Whatever the topic, percussive-driven sound dominated the singing even without instruments, though hand drums and other percussion were frequently used. And the singing inevitably evolved into dances full of hip-grinding movements and hand motions that intensified the story in body language. The Washington Post (Live review from Strathmore) (USA)
  • ...a broad sweep - a tour of the island's Creole heritage rarely heard Christian Science Monitor (USA)
  • Heartbreakingly lovely. Village Voice (NY) (USA)
  • Exhilarating... and meticulous at the same time...particularly strong and moving. The Boston Globe (Massachusetts) (USA)
  • Few groups inhabit their songs so well. Be careful: this album can wring you dry-it's compelling and remarkable throughout. Valley Advocate (Massachusetts) (USA)
  • Radiantly intelligent and humane. Santa Barbara Independent (California) (USA)
  • Spectacular harmonies. The Chicagoist (Illinois) (USA)
  • ...supreme... The power packed Tande-La is a spiritual soaked, rip-roaring, riotous musical punch straight to the gut....the Haitian soul reigns supreme throughout World Music Central (USA)
  • An intoxicating blend. NUVO/Indianapolis (Indiana) (USA)
  • Their mesmerizing sound, jubilant dancing and deep spirit... have made them a huge hit in England... Audiences around the U.S. will have a thrilling opportunity this fall as the Creole Choir of Cuba traverse America... The choir's album Tande-La on Real World Records, has been playing in our sound system constantly for the last month - let's give them all a big SonicScoop welcome to NYC! Sonicscoop.com - Preview (USA)
  • what is already amazing on disc is sure to be even more wondrous in person. ...If you think it's all been heard, the songs "Neg Anwo," "Fey," or "Chen Nan" will sail in on a carpet of newness and float right through the head. The Morton Report Online (USA)
  • Real Creole - With a powerful new album... ...a 10-member vocal ensemble from Cuba is winning hearts well beyond its homeland. The group is at its dynamic best when it sings of the lives, loves and losses of everyday Haitians, and of their defiance in the face of oppression. Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine (USA)
  • ...they pull from somewhere deep-as if channeling the ancestors that inspire them. ...you'll hear the opening choral chant of "Edem Chante" ("Listen to Us"), written "during the dark days of the Duvalier regime." A powerful solo cadence punctures the group's breathy, harmonious chanting, ending in a guttural chuckle. That's the format of many of the choir's compositions, yet they employ diverse styles and voices that make each song distinct. Mother Jones Online (USA)
  • Prepare to be bewitched... Prepare to be bewitched by the ensemble's mesmerizing sound, jubilant dancing and electric spirit. ...there are solos and choral responses that are both defiant and heartfelt sung over a subtle Caribbean percussive beat. SunTimes Online (USA)
  • ...their vocal and percussive expressions are rousing ...and contagiously empowering. Even without understanding a word, their up-tempo material comes across as rallies to resistance, as in live concert favourite and record opener "Edem Chanté. ...their chants build up to an exquisite frenzy of pure emotion, ebbing into calmer verses and then building up again. exclaim Online (Canada)
  • a soundtrack for the 21st century Caribbean... On Tande-La, the complex, earthy vocalizing manages to be at once elemental and cinematic, a soundtrack for the 21st century Caribbean....now's the time to steep yourself in their radiantly intelligent and humane recordings. Santa Barbara Independent (USA)
  • ...soaring voices uplifted one and all... I found myself before the fabulous Creole Choir of Cuba, who I'd also enjoyed in concert at Theatre Royal, Stratford East last year. In African patterned robes, the choir swayed in time as their soaring voices uplifted one and all and their inter-lopping percussions inspired fervent dance. Live review Extra! Extra! (WOMAD Charlton Park Festival 2011) (UK)
  • ...they are indeed an extraordinary choir with powerful vocals wrapped around rhythms that speak to your very soul. The power packed Tande-La is a spiritual soaked, rip-roaring, riotous musical punch straight to the gut. Stunning sound of resistance songs, laments, prayers and hero songs of the choir's Haitian roots...West African, Caribbean and Cuban influences wend their way through, but the Haitian soul reigns supreme throughout the music of Tande-La. ...the group exudes a majestic power...To say that the vocals of The Creole Choir of Cuba are awe-inspiring is putting it mildly. Exotic, richly colored with Haitian and Cuban rhythms entwined with some extraordinarily dynamic vocals makes the power of Tande-La beyond words. The Creole Choir of Cuba is a group not to be missed. worldmusiccentral.org (USA)
  • ...technically impressive harmonic intricacy. Few groups are capable of sounding as celebratory as the Creole Choir of Cuba, who combine a raw, urgent tone with technically impressive harmonic intricacy. Their debut album offers a Caribbean analogue of American gospel music, recorded cleanly, with a simple production style that relies almost entirely on a cappella vocals: cries, solos, grunts, chants. It's a cathartic, joyful listen, even if you don't have a clue what they're saying. NowToronto.com (USA)
  • Live review from WOMAD Charlton Park Festival 2011 They are the other-worldly Creole Choir of Cuba, whose Haitian-infused sounds are a reminder of theempires which forever bonded this part of the world to Africa, a story told in words, rhythms and spirit Morning Star Online (UK)
  • the Creole Choir of Cuba merges spirit and showmanship. The (Creole) choir (of Cuba) made its exhilarating United States debut on Saturday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the ¡Sí Cuba! Festival. From a repertory of old and recent Haitian songs it has developed a traditionalist hybrid that is sleek, theatrical, socially conscious and full of joyful life. The performers have eye-popping, African-patterned costumes and strutting, hip-grinding dance moves - some coordinated, some solo flourishes...The choir's arrangements are meticulously multilayered. The choir also brought familiar Cuban songs, like "Son de La Loma," as well as an elegant close-harmony version of "Unforgettable" and a Ping-Ponging arrangement of "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho." By then its Creole songs had long since won over its first United States audience. The New York Times (USA)
  • ... passionate, dulcet and textured harmonies... The Creole Choir of Cuba's invocatory, cultural whirlwind of a performance at the RNCM left me both astounded and invigorated; grateful that at least in other parts of the world there are musicians who stick to their roots rather than becoming over-produced and losing that raw 'spirit' of music. The Mancunion (UK)
  • sublime, breathtaking...frightening in its flawed perfection. ...from the opening number onwards, these four men and six women demonstrated they were going to live up to the hype...last night at the Barbican they were fantastic. throughout the evening I simply forgot I was listening to no more than just 10 human voices, two congas and some hand percussion: the inventiveness of the choir's arrangements gave the impression that a full band was churning away behind them. When those 10 voices came together to create one blazing pitch-perfect chord it was as if two hands had come down hard on the keys of a sizeable church organ' ...what's their secret? Well, somehow this choir have melded the austere linearity of the classical tradition to the full-on emotionally cathartic power of gospel, before finally giving the whole thing some Cuban and Haitian sweat and swing (these guys can dance too). In other words, it seemed like all humanity was here in this music, happily battling it out just to say, "This is who we are, where we've come from, and where we are going." So although I go along with "jubilant" and "vibrant" I would also add sublime, breathtaking, and almost frightening in its flawed perfection. The Arts Desk (Live review from the Barbican) (UK)
  • ...inspirational joy. For a band so deeply rooted in historical misery, The Creole Choir Of Cuba certainly put on a euphoric live show....their well-drilled mix of sublimely blended vocals and rousing carnival rhythms earned a rapturous welcome when their first full British tour came to Bristol. Adorned only by minimal percussion, the choir's close-harmony vocals arw a warm-blooded fusion of their Africa & Latin roots. Full of sun-drenched sensuality and operatic emotion, much of this set was essentially secular gospel music....unforgettable...this is their regular party piece, but it still felt enchanting....an evening of uplifting sadness and inspirational joy. The Times (Live review from St. Georges, Bristol) (UK)
  • ...operatically joyous... The Creole Choir Of Cuba has become the island's most celebrated export narrowly edging out cigars and rum. The music was almost operatically joyous, as music sprung from unhappiness often has to be. The Financial Times (UK)
  • Glorious... ... without other sensory distractions their stirring harmonies and impassioned singing have a visceral impact. There's variety here: songs such as the glorious opener 'Edem Chante (Help Us Sing!) and the uplifting, lump-in-throat causing 'Chen Nan Ren' have all the hallmarks of 1960s-era black power anthems... Jazzwise (UK)
  • A triumph... ...the impassioned voices of this vocal group tipped for global success flooded the auditorium of Birmingham Town Hall with the sounds and colours of Cuban life and history. ...stories of humour and love found in everyday life, by the end of the set the group were out in the stalls, shaking hands with the audience who were on their feet dancing. The Birmingham Mail (Live review from The Birmingham Town Hall) (UK)
  • A sublime jazz/classic. This deliciously cinematic collection of jazz-infused tunes evoke the intricate musicality and boundary-breaking ambition of Radiohead as much as they suggest a night at Ronnie Scott's. Long, trippy, free-form sax solos and confident playing underpin inventive jazz/classical noodlings while the production of Stone Roses and Radiohead knob-twiddler John Leckie adds depth and complexity. Shropshire Star (UK)
  • ... rich melodies. The music was almost operatically joyous, as music sprung from unhappiness often has to be. Financial Times (UK)
  • ... extraordinarily fiery performances. Wow. Just when you thought you know all about Cuban music, along comes this steaming hot release to prove you wrong. If the incredibly spirited music of the Creole Choir is distinctly different to the Cuban dance music of the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, it's for a good reason. limelight (Australia)
  • ... sublimely blended vocals and rousing carnival rhythms earned a rapturous welcome. ... their remarkable album, Tande-La (which translates as "listen"), a rich and eclectic melting-pot that earned them critical applause far beyond world music circles. The Times (UK)
  • A triumph... The Creole Choir of Cuba put on a performance on Tuesday night that has got to be one of the best I have seen at the Barbican for some time. The standing ovation at the end was not just the usual applause but a real appreciation of a wonderful evening of song and soul....some numbers such as 'Edem Chante' or 'Tande' tell their stories with a bounce and an uplifted sense of defiance. The songs were accompanied by a constant moving and dancing by the whole troupe and the individuality in the dancing as well as the voices really focused you on the performers as people rather than just as a collective.The second set was more uplifted with the women in more individual outfits and a greater sense of fun and mischief about some of the numbers. The dancing was free and sexy and when they played a few Cuban numbers, including a lovely Cha Cha, their smiles widened and the audience were encouraged to join in. The smiles and the general buzz of appreciation at the end told a tale of a brilliant troupe... MusicNews.com (UK)
  • ... a treat for fans of world music, who thrilled to their latin beat. Colourful costumes, passionate harmonies, and richly-textured arrangements were the foundations for their songs. Which was sung in Creole, Cuba's second language. Shropshire Star (Live review from Birmingham Town Hall) (UK)
  • A spine-tingling moment comes when the group sing... Such is the group's talent and artistry that the emotions - sometimes sad and desolate, sometimes infused with laughter and elation - hold the audience absolutely rapt. Morning Star Online (Live review from the Barbican) (UK)
  • ... huge talent, showmanship and warmth. All the songs were sung superbly and the sound the choir created was astounding. There are ten voices - six women and four men - but at times it sounded as though they had an orchestra up there as well. It was simply amazing what they could do with only some percussion as accompaniment. The Africa Channel (Live review from the Barbican) (UK)
  • ...show-stopping stamina. The Creole Choir of Cuba possesses so much joie de vivre as to lend an evening in their company a celebratory air, despite the heavy subject matter of their songs. In their own exuberantly polished way, the group convey the quintessentially African ethos that regardless of life's many tribulations there's reason enough to feel jubilant and victorious about staying alive to fight another day. A world class act. Soul Culture (Live review from the Barbican) (UK)
  • ... remarkable album. ... the 10-person ensemble's repertoire features songs about the ordinary lives of Haitians and Cubans in styles that range from folk simplicity, through the funky grooves of Se Lavi, to the Porgy and Bess-like elegance of Maroule and the beautiful, melancholy harmonising of La Mal de Travay. The Sunday Morning Herald (UK)
  • Passionate melodies and hormonies... ... the only sounds you'll hear on this extraordinary release emanate from the throats of this troupe (five male, five female). Music Australia Guide (Australia)
  • Prepare to be amazed by the sweet jubilant sounds... ... this ten-strong choir now bring their voices to the masses. This group are thrilling to watch, as they sing songs celebrating their roots, resistance and the rhythms of life. Pride Magazine (UK)
  • ...powerfully evocative. Tande-La presents a dozen of the choir's magnificent ballads, love songs, protest pieces and selections from the vodou folk tradition. fROOTS (UK)
  • ...a joy to experience. ...the choir have no fixed plans to return to Haiti but their championing of the beleaguered island and its rich cultural history is tireless - and a joy to experience. The Metro (UK)
  • "Tande-la is an outpouring of strength" New Internationalist (UK)
  • Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 1 "A really great album on Real World. Worth investing for something a little bit different - wonderful and spiritual." BBC Radio 1 (UK)
  • Tande-la makes number 6 in The Sunday Times Top Albums of the Year! Descendants of Haitians who made the journey from one island to the other, the university-trained singers have made it thier mission to unearth work songs and resistance anthems. Sunday Times (UK)
  • This is, quite simply, stunning... ...a cappella and voices-and-percussion music from this mixed male and female ten-voice choir from the city of Camaguey....their music is dense, complex, committed, and exciting....obvious sense of passion, resistance, and celebration of the performers. Rock 'n' Reel (UK)
  • The Creole Choir of Cuba: Tande-la, CD review These descendants of Haitian migrant labourers long resident in Cuba make a powerful, invocatory sound that has a huge impact live. There's still plenty of brio on this disc, a blend of haunting, near-operatic Christian fervour and visceral African drive, bellowed out by big, charismatic voices and an equally spirited chorus. The Daily Telegraph (UK)
  • ...this album leaves me utterly speechless - and with a huge feeling of satisfaction. ...haunting and beautiful. When the music lifts itself towards joy the congas propel the singers to a complex contradiction of the male and female parts and I found myself gobsmacked by how beautiful both sets of voices are. They can do sweet, rich and worshipful, often simultaneously, and the variety in the voices is as much as any orchestra could present; this is a choir of the finest quality. MusicNews.com (UK)
  • The title of this album means, simply, "listen": it's pure pleasure to do so The music this wonderful choir purvey is bewitching - it has a feline delicacy entirely unlike anything else to have come out of Cuba. The nearest thing I can think of is township singing in South Africa, but in contrast to the earthy harmonies of Black Mambazo and co, this group's are infinitely lighter and more airborne. Their polyphony is complex, their tessitura - no other word will do as well as this, which is normally applied to opera - has a high-pitched grace, and the voices of their female soloists have a treble-like purity. No wonder they were such a big hit in Edinburgh last year, and that they are now back in the UK for the London jazz festival. The Scotsman (UK)
  • Free-flowing...uplifting...utterly distinctive. They sing with vibrant intensity of love and homesickness, heroes defying colonial monsters, and survival against the odds. Their rich, textured harmonies and brash percussion make them thrilling in live performance. Mojo (UK)
  • ...heroic...romantic, uplifting the soul. Listen to this album of twelve Haitian freedom songs and you understand why they received a five-star review. Individual voices within stirring choruses texture songs that reach from the heroic to the romantic, uplifting the soul. The List (UK)
  • An instantly striking release! Captivating:interlocking vocal melodies the move between rousing defiance on Peze Cafe and heartfelt lament on L'Atibonite Oh; all sung over subtle Caribbean percussion that knows better than to get in the way of such beautiful voices. Q Magazine (UK)
  • The choir blend several strains of music... ...the heavenly harmonies of US gospel, the baritone grunts of southern African choirs and the call-and-response hollers of Caribbean folk music, all superimposed over complicated Afro-Cuban beats. You'll notice some fascinating sonic quirks with every repeated hearing. Uncut (UK)
  • Review from the Financial Times The music is a thrilling vocal mixture of gospel and voodoo, Spanish and Creole call-and-response over deep bass voices and massive drums. The FT (UK)
  • ...dramatic and distinctive melodies... ...a sensational cocktail of Zulu-like voice-thrumming from a male bass section, a tight harmony female response chant and, fronting it all, the high-octane wailing tenor of one of the terrific soloists who are the clinching attribute of the choir. Track two ushers in a no-holds barred rendition of a folk tale about a lonesome cattle drover roaming zombie-like through the moonlit landscape....with its dramatic and distinctive melodies, is rendered in a mixture of Creole abd Spanish, and one can easily see how BBC producers and live audiences have been captivated by the choir's even more dynamic live act... Songlines (UK)
  • ...one of the outstanding releases of the year If their residency at next months festival doesn't sell out, then something is drastically amiss in this universe. The compact ensemble from Camaguey taps into on of Cuba's best-kept secrets. Little wonder that the singers - who perform in Creole - were sent to Haiti on a morale-raising tour after the recent earthquake. Some of the exuberant, rough-hewn harmonising could be taken for an a cappella group from southern Africa, but there is no mistaking the Sierra Maestra romance of Dulce Embeleso, a song associated with troubadours of the stature of Carlos Puebla. Sparse percussion adds atmosphere to one of the outstanding releases of the year. The Sunday Times (UK)
  • The delivery is so invigorating... This ten-strong choir from Cuba are known there as Grupo Vocal Desandann (Descendants) - a reference to their Haitian roots. Here, the islands' tangled history finds an astonishing voice through this group, who revive resistance and freedom songs with minimal instrumentation. An arresting blend of recognisable Latin rhythms, potent Haitian drumming and choral work....the tracks on Tande-la are melancholic and uplifting, and speak of struggle and solidarity with a compelling immediacy. The delivery is so invigorating, its easy to see why they were sent to Haiti as part of Cuba's disaster relief effort. The Metro (UK)
  • ...always thrilling. This dynamic 10-string vocal group is unlike any Cuban music you've heard before. And with good reason - the music actually originates in the neighboring island of Haiti. There are full throated solos and passionate choral responses in Creole, creating a rich, ringing sonority which is sometimes defiant, sometimes soothing, but always thrilling. The London Evening Standard (UK)
  • ...gorgeous harmonies... This is a wonderful mix of lilting melodies, gorgeous harmonies and underpinning it all some terrific pan-Caribbean rhythms....a more comprehensive UK tour will be required in the future once a wider public becomes aware of their undoubted talents. UK Vibe Online (UK)
  • There's a slick, well-oiled quality to the performance... Their one-hour performance at Wilton's, a cappella but for the occasional conga rhythm, is by turns romantic, comic, turbulent and celebratory. There's a slick, well-oiled quality to the performance as, after each song, they milk the audience for every drop of applause. Finally, they leave the stage via the crowd, still singing and shaking hands as they pass down the aisle. After the rubble of Port-au-Prince, a show like this must be as easy as breathing. The Guardian (Live review from Wilton's) (UK)
  • ...be ready to enter a whole new universe of sound. Cuban culture is a dizzy mix of European and African traditions rooted in a deep spirituality that is both unique and vibrant having been born in the conditions of resistance to colonial oppression and slavery. Prepare then to be swept off your feet by this new and exciting sound from a choir of five men and five women celebrating the stories of their Haitian ancestors...this multitalented and inspirational group from Camaguey brings us a heady fusion of mesmerising melodies, entrancing harmonies and richly textured arrangements that will break the mould of all that has gone before, and open up a whole new chapter in Cuban music. ...Chen Nan Ren is an uplifting and intensely emotional song...So "tande-la" - listen - to these irrepressible rhythms of life rooted in struggle and resonant with the love of freedom, and be ready to enter a whole new universe of sound. The Morning Star (UK)
  • ...joyous and rich The Creole Choir Of Cuba brings us Tande-La. Full of amazing harmonies and enough passion to start a small family...the music itself is joyous and rich. G3 (UK)