Creole Choir of Cuba

Santiman

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The Creole Choir of Cuba, made up of ten singers descended from Haitian slaves (six women and four men), bring a joyous bounce and groove to everything they touch, as well as a gospel-like intensity. This isn't a choir in the gospel sense, though. In Cuba each region has its own professionally supported choir, not associated with any church, capable of singing at weddings, funerals, birthdays, parties, parades, or anything else that pops up, so these guys are a different kind of choir, and an amazing one. Formed in 1994, the choir set its purpose to revive the old Haitian songs for a new era, and the choir members sing in Creole, so they are less a Cuban choir in practice than a transplanted Haitian one. Signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World Records, the choir's first album, 2010's Tande-La, presented them as sort of a counterpart to South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and featured songs of hope and freedom set against a world of poverty, abandonment, and displacement, all delivered with an infectious joyfulness backed with sparse but rhythmic percussion accompaniment. Released in 2013, Santiman, the choir's follow-up album, produced by John Metcalfe and recorded at Real World Studios in England, strikes the same emotional territory but adds in additional instruments, including trumpet, piano, and flute (as well as wind and bird sounds), that fill out the arrangements more, making the album sound a bit more Cuban in style, but the gorgeous harmonies of the vocals are still the centerpiece of everything. That's as it should be.

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