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The Creole Choir Of Cuba: Reviving Caribbean History In 'Santiman'

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The Creole Choir Of Cuba: Reviving Caribbean History In 'Santiman'

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The Creole Choir Of Cuba: Reviving Caribbean History In 'Santiman'

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Creole Choir of Cuba performs songs about history, faith and social change in the Caribbean. Members of this vocal and percussion ensemble are known in Cuba as The Descendents. Their music recalls Haitian ancestors who were brought from West Africa as slaves. Banning Eyre has been listening to the Choir's new album. It's called "Santiman."

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BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: The largest ethnic minority in Cuba is people of Haitian descent. That's the history behind this choir of six women and four men who sing in tribute to the migrations of their ancestors.

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EYRE: There are clear echoes of Christian church music in this arrangement of a Cuban folk song but elsewhere, the focus shifts to pre-Christian sources, as in this ode to "Simbi," a Haitian spirit.

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EYRE: The percussion and lead male vocal here evoke the feeling of a Haitian voodoo ceremony, with ties to ancient spiritual practices in West Africa.

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EYRE: The history of Haitian immigration into Cuba goes back to the Haitian Revolution over 200 years ago. But it was only in the '90s that members of The Creole Choir of Cuba made the short trip back to their ancestral home. They've since returned often, particularly in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake. This song asks how such a beautiful country could suffer so much.

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EYRE: The Creole Choir of Cuba has matured artistically since their first international album. The new CD "Santiman" has a satisfying flow from celebration to solemnity, nostalgia and even playful humor. This Haitian folk song pokes fun at a horseman whose Panama hat has blown off in the wind.

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EYRE: A dash of trumpet here and piano there adds welcome texture to the group's sound. But in the end, it's all about the vocals - clear, strong, committed and deeply informed by Caribbean history.

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CORNISH: Banning Eyre is senior editor at AfroPop.org. He reviewed "Sanitman" by The Creole Choir of Cuba.

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