Creole Choir of Cuba ‘Santiman’ (Real World) CD/Digital 4/5

A triumphant 2010 UK tour helped introduce this most intriguing of Cuban music forms, the choir having Haitian roots which is quite typical of the eastern part of Cuba, and they are well versed in their ancestors music having studied the subject up to university level. The group follow up their first international album ‘Tande-la’ and this time it is more varied than the first with various instrumental accompaniment yet, as before, arresting storylines that immediately capture one’s attention. Sung mainly in Haitian Creole (with elements of French, English and West African languages creeping in), there is a healing quality to the music within such as on the reposing vocals to ‘Fey oh di nou’ (‘Oh leaves tell us’) and especially on the passionate lead voice on ‘Soufle van (mangaje) (‘Blow wind’)’. That said, in a more uptempo vein, there is the catchy rumba ‘Camina como chencha’ (‘Walk like Chencha’) with stunning call and response vocals and collectively the Creole Choir of Cuba are heard to their best effect here. On a more serious note, their songs can have a strong political message as on ‘Pale, pale’ (‘Talk, talk’) which tells of the atrocities committed by former dictators against the Haitian people. This protest song is itself based on a folk song. Creole Choir of Cuba, known also by their Cuban name Desandann, present a different side to Cuban music and performed to great acclaim as part of the London 2012 cultural Olympiad celebrations. Production duties come courtesy of John Metcalfe who has worked with Peter Gabriel, Blur and John Cale among others.

Tim Stenhouse