The legacy of Changui – the roots music with a huge influence in Cuban music today

The actual fact is that changüí is a tradition in this eastern area of the Island. As the researcher Sosa José Cuenca explains, its emergence dates back to 19th Century in the mountains of Guantanamo, and then later it settled down in the outskirts of the city.

Rafael Inciarte, who is also the director of the Center for Information and Documentation affirms that the preference for this genre was incremental during that century, and that in the first decades of the 20th Century, the changüiseras parties (party where changüí music is played) were held in different houses located in the outskirts of the city. And this is the point of germination of a phenomenon that nowadays reaches high levels of popularity.

In those spaces, he outlines, one could see important musicians like the brothers Arturo and Chito Latamblé, this latter being the owner of a great skill to play the Tres, and Elio Reve Matos, among the main diffusers of this musical style that brought it Havana and the World scenarios.

With a long history and a National Festival, changüí seduces those who come from other regions and from other countries. If one carefully listen the melody, one can perceive some elements that connect it with our known Son, but there are a lot more in that harmony and lyric. It takes an authentic message to the people of this region. Thus, listening to country music singer Stars like Nengón Imías or Changüí Guantanamo become an exquisite journey to our most genuine roots.

The cultural institutions in that Province generated a strategy of development related to changüí. The initiative goes back to the 80´s of the previous Century, when municipal and provincial festivals started to be held, direct antecedents of this nation-wide Event that is holding its 7th Edition and it is presided over by Elito Revé director of the Charangon Orchestra.

To Cuenca, "changüí is a family matter". The genre has lasted because it has been passed from one generation to another, and the people from Guantanamo greatly identify itself with all this."

As this scholar has commented, at present, a changüisera community has been formed. It is perceived through the competitions held with the different instruments used to play this genre and this has been the core around which not only musicians, composers and dancer, but also researches and the public in general gather.

Guantanamo´s Night is the ideal moment to introduce those groups that defend that type of musical style, which is generally the day with the greatest attendance on the part of the public. But there are other elements that help us understand why changüí beats in the soul of the people from Guantanamo. One of them is the concern of artists to include it in their repertoire.

To Yasser Eden Garcia, director of the Zona Franca hip hop group, it has been significant that his last phonogram carries those concepts within. The Changüí de Hoy, nominated for the Cubadisco 2014 Award has in his 14 singles that essence combined with an urban discourse like rap, to link the genre with the younger audience.

His colleague Ariel Taidinot, director of Mezclan, conceived the song Me llamo changüí -nominated in the category of folk music-, with examples that illustrate the purest features of this style and its fusions with Mambo, Pilón, the plena, the sucu suco; the tajona, from Santiago de Cuba; the bombo camará, from Maisí; and the Puntillita, from Baracoa.

Ariel thinks that young composers shall have it in their repertoire because "the changüí is the unexplored Cuban music. Now everybody wants to play it, but it shall not be forgotten, that it comes from Guantanamo and one have to learn how to play it here".

Although we have not had the possibility of lively enjoying both recording projects, the radio has broadcasted these themes and their protagonists have found that there is a positive response on the part of the public, in spite of that additionally they want to present as soon as this way of approaching this so peculiar style and of considerable wealth.

Another attractive way to appreciate the changüí is in concert music. The composer Conrado Monier sees changüí as a very ductile genre. Out of his creativity stems Inspiración de los pueblos, a completely changüisera work, sang by the Male Choir from Guantánamo.

There are many other examples that legitimize this Sosa José Cuenca thesis that changüí potentiated a habit of cultural consumption that has rooted in the population. Here that process has evolved from a purely folk music, to become a popular phenomenon.

Original article here