Cuba´s Changui music proposed as Cultural Heritage

The House of Changui and UNEAC in Guantanamo province are sponsoring and honoring Guantanamo Culture Week.

A strong backer of the proposal, musicologist Jose Cuenca, one of the specialists of the Changui genre of music, highlighted the legacy of the 200 year old music that has survived in its birthplace and other areas like the Loma del Chivo neighborhood, which is commemorating the 10th anniversary of the centre dedicated to this musical genre.

The expert thanked Miguel Barnet for his recent statements in Guantanamo who called for the support of Cuban culture after recognizing the importance in protecting forms like this complex music-dance expression of local identity that is enjoyed across the country and abroad.

Revitalizing the traditional genre with high ethno-cultural values, said Cuenca, has reinforced the pride of the people from Guantanamo and supports the idea of having the rhythm declared national heritage. This is the first step of a long process towards forming a proposal to UNESCO for the incorporation of the music in the list of 'the world's intangible resources'.

The music expert pointed out that the Changui is currently expanding on the Cuban music scene and specialists are looking into its true values and as an alternative to current tendencies.

Cuenta, who is also general coordinator of the National Changui Festival referred to the validity of the rhythm not only for its most pure exponents, but also in its incorporation of a more modern expression and other musical genres like rap, trova, jazz and even classical music.

Outside the country, he says the Changui has also attracted admirers. Renowned musicians like Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic has become interested in it, while others use it like Canadian clarinet player Jane Bunnet and US Benjamin Lpidus who learned to appreciate the genre in Guantanamo and learned to play the three string guitar.

The rhythm, he recalled, has been made known internationally by the success of the Cuban group El Charangon de Reve. The rediscovery provoked looking into its remote origins; an example of this is the use by young artists of rhythms like the Nengon.

The specialist said that the Changui maintains its identity, and its approach to popular performances: fun with music and dance in pairs while maintaining their feet on the floor, with a harmony and an enjoyable beat that resembles the movements of coffee plantation workers in the eastern mountains where the rhythm originated.

To play Changui, common instruments were used but the method of playing the three-string guitar is different as well as the beat of the bongos – similar to the rumba beat and first drum in Tumba Francesa – and also the use of the marimbula, which is almost extinct in Cuban music and formats.

Link to original article here

WATCH the mighty Changui de Guantanamo play in London at the Cuba50 festival in 2009.

Watch this video demonstrating the Changui, introduced by Jose Cuenca, mentioned in the article.

Facts about Changui

Changüí is a style of Cuban music which originated in the early 19th century in the eastern region of Guantánamo Province, specifically Baracoa. It arose in the sugar cane refineries and in the rural communities populated by slaves. Changüí combines the structure and elements of Spain's canción and the Spanish guitar with African rhythms and percussion instruments of Bantu origin. Changüí is considered a predecessor of son montuno (the ancestor of modern salsa), which has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Cuba throughout the 20th century.

Changüí is related to the other regional genres of nengón and kiribá and is descended from nengón.Technically, the changüi ensemble consists of: marímbula, bongos, tres, güiro (or guayo) and one or more singers.Changüi does not use the Cuban key pattern (or guide pattern) known as the clave. The tres typically plays offbeat guajeos (ostinatos), while the guayo plays on the beat.