Saturday, August 9, 2008

Changui & the Origins of Afro-Cuban Music

Youtube is the wave of the future. It's like we're coming out of the dark ages, when people from different parts of the world were living in isolation. Well no more.

I get on Youtube pretty much everyday to see what's new. One of the jewels I discovered there recently was Cuban Changui music. I've been playing Mbira (Kalimba) for a number of years and decided to look it up on Youtube the other day. When I did I was overwhelmed at the number of videos that were up there. But the one from Guantanamo Bay by the Changuieros was outstanding. This video shows some Cubanos on the docks playing the traditional instruments for this genre. These instruments include the tres (a three stringed instrument similar to a guitar), a hand-made pair of tack-head bongos, a marimbula (the large bass mbira originating from Cuba), a pair of maracas and of course the guiro (metal scraper).

The music is designed to accompany the vocals, which are the focal point of the music, as is so often the case. They were smoking! The vocals were hot, hot, hot! Done in a rap style, they covered a familiar Cuban tune called El Chan, Chan. Take a look at the video to see what you think.

They say this music is the ancestor of the Son, which is still the most popular type of music in Cuba today and has been for almost 100 years. What's so special about this music, both the Son and Changui, is that they represent the earliest attempts to mix the Spanish heritage with the African heritage. The result has been with us for a long time in the Cha, Cha, Cha; the Mambo; Guanguanco; Salsa, etc. The mixture of Spanish vocals with stringed instruments, drums and other percussions instruments lends itself to some hot rhythmic combinations that somehow always seem to talk about "mi corazon," or my heart. Yes, it's all about those pesky male-female relationships. They're going to break your heart, one way or another.

Sit back relax and check out the video. Let me know if you like it as much as I do.

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