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. The voice-and-percussion group from eastern Cuba is made up of descendants of onetime Haitian slaves who emigrated from their homeland and settled in Cuba in the early 1800s. Over time they have fused their Haitian cultural heritage with that of traditional Cuban styles, creating a unique Afro-Cuban blend of music making. Now on an American tour, the choir is giving 30 performances in 21 cities, singing mostly in Creole.
Dressed in vivid African attire with bold geometrical designs, the choir sang socially conscious texts on up-to-date topics. The program’s first half brought songs of lament, vibrating with tragedy and grief, in the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and cholera epidemic. After intermission, the music of mourning yielded to joyous celebrations of life (sung partly in Cuban Spanish), sometimes pervaded by humor. 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 event had its theatrical side, too. The performers often summoned audience members, who clapped along most of the time, to join the dancing on the stage, and some listeners gyrated in the aisles.
Porter is a freelance writer.