Changüí is a little understood, loose and lively, community-based music of eastern Cuba. In this program we sample recordings from the 2021 box set Changüí: The Sound of Guantánamo, and hear from Gianluca Tramontana, the man who made the recordings. Rooted in Afro-Haitian music, pan-Caribbean styles, Spanish poetic traditions and more, Changüí emerged in the mid 19th century in plantations, not unlike the blues. We also hear from musician and scholar Ben Lapidus, author of the only English language book on Changüí, and we update the story with Changüí fusions into jazz, salsa and hip-hop. Prepare to dance! Produced by Banning Eyre
WINDOW: M01_Medley_ Mi cafetal-Sarandonga 1.m4a, Mikiki with his Brothers, Changui: The Sound of Guantanmo, (Petaluma Records, 5 059033 593251) (top to 0:14, then to bed)
GEORGES: HELLO, GEORGES COLLINET WITH YOU ON AFROPOP WORLDWIDE FROM PRX. I BET YOU CAN GUESS WHERE THIS MUSIC COMES FROM. IF YOU’RE THINKING CUBA, YOU’RE RIGHT. BUT THIS IS NOT RUMBA, NOT SON, NOT CHARANGA, CERTAINLY NOT TIMBA. THIS IS A SOUND UNIQUE TO EASTERN CUBA. THIS IS CHANGUI!
WINDOW: emerge 0:33-0:49, then to bed
GEORGES: WE’RE HEARING TRES PLAYER AND SINGER MIKIKI PERFORMING WITH HIS BROTHERS AT AN INFORMAL GATHERING NEAR GUANTANAMO. THE RECORDING COMES FROM A LANDMARK BOX SET CALLED “CHANGUI: THE SOUND OF GUANTANAMO.” MUSIC JOURNALIST GIANLUCA TRAMONTANA RECORDED ENOUGH TRACKS LIKE THIS TO FILL THREE CDS, AND THE BOX SET COMES WITH A GORGEOUS 120-PAGE BOOK FULL OF PHOTOS, ESSAYS ABOUT THE MUSIC, AND NOTES ON ALL 50 SONGS IN THE COLLECTION.
TODAY WE’LL HEAR FROM GIANLUCA AND FROM ETHNOMUSICOLOGIST BEN LAPIDUS AS WE OPEN YOUR EARS TO A HIDDEN TREASURE OF CUBAN MUSIC: THE FREEWHEELING, STORY-TELLING, PARTY-HARDY, COMMUNITY-BASED, RURAL-URBAN SOUND THAT IS CHANGUI!
WINDOW: M02_Changüí en Yateras 1.m4a, Grupo Estrellas Campesinas, Changui! (just a few notes)
GEORGES: TO START, LET’S HEAR THE LEAD TRACK ON THE CHANGUI BOX SET, GRUPO ESTRELLAS CAMPASINAS WITH “CHANGUI EN YATERAS.” YATERAS, YOU MAY KNOW, IS A TOWN IN THE MOUNTAINS OF EASTERN CUBA, KNOWN ESPECIALLY FOR PRODUCING FANTASTIC COFFEE.
MUSIC: Changüí en Yateras (up to 2:58, then to bed)
GEORGES: “CHANGUI EN YATERAS!” STARTING TO FEEL THE VIBE? GRUPO ESTRELLAS CAMPASINAS IS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST CHANGUI GROUPS ON THE COLLECTION WE’RE SAMPLING TODAY. SPEAKING OF WHICH, LET’S MEET OUR GUESTS.
ACTY: 01_GT_intro.wav: I’m Gianluca Tramontana. Music journalist, radio broadcaster, independent radio producer, radio host, and coproducer of Changui, the sound of Guantánamo.
ACTY: 02_BL_intro.wav: My name is Ben Lapidus, musician. I'm an ethnomusicologist. I wrote a book about Changui that was published in 2008, probably the only one, but it shouldn't be that way. There's a lot to be done, and everything I've done is by no means the final word.
GEORGES: MAYBE NOT, BUT IT’S A FINE START. MORE FROM BEN IN A MOMENT. BUT FIRST, GIANLUCA TOLD US ABOUT THE PATH THAT LED HIM TO CHANGUI.
ACTY: 03_GT_SRosenthal.wav: In the 90s, I worked at the Magic Shop for a couple of years. Magic Shop was a recording studio on Crosby Street. Sonic youth, Ramones, Lou Reed did a couple of albums there. David Bowie did his last two albums there, and the owner of that was Steve Rosenthal, who coproduced this changui set with me. And he's worked also with Alan Lomax, restoring his catalog and now he works with the Lomax foundation.
WINDOW/BED: M03_Cuidao con la Lengua 1.m4a, Las Flores Del Changüi, Changui (short window)
ACTY: 04_GT_Oriente.wav: I've been traveling through Cuba since the periodo especial in the early 90s. And I pretty much gravitated almost immediately to the Oriente, the Eastern region. Because everyone goes to Havana. And it's often said that in Cuba things start East and they move west. And Guantánamo province, or the oriented is far east. Yes, there's rumba in Matanzas. There's other stuff. It's not that cut and dried. But a lot of what we listen to that comes out of Havana and that landed in America as an extension originated around the Eastern region. Havana is the cocktail, but a lot of the ingredients come from the oriented. So it's sort of like it's a source. And most of my time as a music journalists has been about roots music. So for my perspective the orientation is the roots of the root.
GEORGES: BEN LAPIDUS HAS SOME DOUBTS ABOUT THIS “EAST TO WEST” THEORY, AND YOU CAN READ ABOUT THAT IN BEN’S INTERVIEW ON AFROPOP.ORG. BUT STICKING WITH GIANLUCA’S STORY, HIS DISCOVERY OF CHANGUI CAME AT AN UNLIKELY MOMENT. HE WAS IN A CUBAN RADIO STATION ABOUT TO GO ON AIR, WHEN THE BROADCAST WAS INTERRUPTED BY A SPEECH FROM EL PRESIDENTE FIDEL CASTRO.
ACTY: 06_GT_start-end.wav: And surprise, surprise, he overshot, and we never got on. [laughs] You know, he was famous for his speeches. Kind of like Changui. You always know when it starts. You don’t know when it ends…
GEORGES: WHILE THEY WAITED, THE LOCAL DEEJAY POPPED ON A CASSETTE OF CHANGUI MUSIC, AND GIANLUCA’S EARS PRICKED UP.
ACTY: 07_GT_swing.wav: I'd never heard anything like that before. You know, Cuban music is quite metric generally, and it’s on the clave and it’s tight. But what they played me was syncopated, and it swung off its hinges. It was sort of loose and it had really weird rhythms and that sort of bounced around like a three-legged horse. And it was call and response, and it was sort of ragged but right. And no one could tell me anything about it. I kept asking people about Changui. And the names that kept coming up were Elio Reve, Elito Reve, and Los Van Van. They really great, but they're sort of modern urban Changui with horns and keyboards and drums and again their fantastic, but it's like if it was blues and I was asking American about blues because I'd heard Son House or Robert Johnson.They were pointing me to maybe the Rolling Stones. Or the Allman Brothers. Or maybe Eric Clapton. But I had heard Robert Johnson.
GEORGES: MORE ABOUT THAT URBAN CHANGUI LATER. BUT AROUND THE SAME TIME, BEN LAPIDUS IN NEW YORK WAS HAVING A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE.
WINDOW/BED: M04_Guajiro guapo en Yateras 1.m4a, Grupo Familia Vera, Changui! (again, short window)
ACTY: 08_BL_mystified.wav: I kept hearing the word Changui on records and I had heard it and I was just mystified by the way the music was put together. I couldn't really figure out what was holding it all together. The parts were independent enough and there was enough freedom in a few of the parts, but there was a lot of cohesion in the groove. And I kept asking a lot of people in New York and elsewhere who are great musicians, and they couldn't really answer the questions that I had.
GEORGES: SO BEGAN BEN’S YEARS OF GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH. AS FOR GIANLUCA, IT TOOK AWHILE FOR HIM TO CIRCLE BACK TO CHANGUI.
ACTY: 09_GT_CDs.wav: Yeah, so 2017 in February I went out and I thought all just go to Guantánamo and I'll figure out what this Changui is so I can do a five or six minute PRI's The World or something like that. You know, “Guantánamo it's not just the bay.” So I talked to a couple of musicians and I asked them for a CD so I could lift some tracks and they just looked at me like they didn't quite understand the question so I thought, "oh, they don't have CDs.”
GEORGES: WELL, THERE WERE A FEW CDS, BUT VERY FEW. AND THAT’S WHEN GIANLUCA DECIDED TO MAKE RECORDINGS OF HIS OWN. WHEN HE SENT A SAMPLE TO STEVE ROSENTHAL IN NEW YORK, THE GRAMMY-WINNING PRODUCER WAS ECSTATIC. FROM THERE, WHAT STARTED AS A BRIEF RADIO REPORT BEGAN ITS EVOLUTION INTO THIS INCREDIBLE BOX SET, LIKELY THE MOST EXTENSIVE AUDIO DOCUMENTATION OF TRADITIONAL CHANGUI. LET’S HEAR ANOTHER TRACK. THIS ONE, BY LAS FLORES DEL CHANGUI. IT BEGINS WITH A SLOW INVOCATION TO THE YORUBA ORISHA, OSHUN.
MUSIC: M05_Ochun, Las Flores del Changüi, Changui! (top to 2:35, then to bed)
GEORGES: LAS FLORES DEL CHANGUI. SO BY NOW, YOU’RE GETTING A FEEL FOR THIS MUSIC. TIME TO ASK THIS QUESTION: WHAT EXACTLY IS CHANGUI? FIRST HERE’S BEN LAPIDUS WITH A LITTLE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND.
ACTY: 10_BL_mix.wav: Changui is a really fascinating, groove oriented music, and it's a reflection of a bunch of different cultures and languages and musical traditions coming together. Your Afro Haitian, English Caribbean folks who came back and forth. Between 1789 and 1803, roughly 30,000 people came from Haiti to eastern Cuba. Roughly. And of those 30,000 people, 20,000 of them were either enslaved or free people of color. So they brought this entire new cultural phenomena to eastern Cuba. There was French language, French culinary style, French architecture, plus the Haitian French concept of sugar production and coffee. And then, on top of that, you had Haitians, and Jamaicans and Beijans and people from anywhere in the Caribbean coming to cut sugarcane. There's this whole history that you have to acknowledge. It's not convenient for people who write history to acknowledge that, because it gets away from the national project. It gets away from the simplicity of "we are this country and this is what we do". But it is undeniable.
ACTY: 11_GT-blues.wav: Changui wasn't really a genre or codified until after the war. There were no groups officially. It has a similar timeline to blues music in America. So it comes, historians imagine, around the mid-ish 1800s out of the plantations. The Guantánamo region, the Eastern region, was mostly coffee plantations, sugarcane plantations, and then further east around Baracoa it would've and chocolate plantations and I think maybe coconut plantations too. It sort of riff-based, call and response, rural dance music, which is what blues is really. So that's sort of the setting that it comes out of. The word Changui is thought to two Congolese word sort of mushed together meaning “jump for joy.” Changui means party. And in old school Guantánamero dialect it would be used, and some people still use it, let's go to a Changui, meaning, I don't know, let's go clubbing. If we were in Kentucky, let's go to a hoedown maybe.
WINDOW/BED: M06_Los santos mi están llamando 1.m4a. Mikikí y su Changüí, Changui! (Nice if the last bed makes it through these last 2 speeches, but if not, find an ok window here from this one. It can be 10-15 seconds.)
GEORGES: SO WE START WITH A MID-19TH CENTURY MULTI-CULTURAL CARIBBEAN HOEDOWN. BUT BY THE MID 20TH CENTURY, CHANGUI IS A BONA FIDE GENRE.
ACTY: 12_GT-instruments.wav: As far as repertoire goes, it got codified after the war. A musicologist and composer, Rafael Brioso, actually formed the group with the five instruments, bongos, marimbula, tres, maracas and guayo.
GEORGES: GOT THAT? BONGOS, MARIMBULA, TRES, MARACAS AND GUAYO. THE GUAYO IS A SERRATED GOURD THAT YOU SCRAPE WITH A METAL ROD—SOMETIMES A SCREWDRIVER OR A KNITTING NEEDLE. AND THE MARIMBULA IS A GIANT, METAL-PRONGED BOX THAT YOU SIT ON AND PLUCK OUT A BASS LINE ON THOSE PRONGS, WHILE SLAPPING THE SIDES OF THE BOX TO KEEP TIME. THE ONE MELODIC INSTRUMENT IS THE TRES, A DISTINCTLY CUBAN LUTE WITH SIX STRINGS ARRANGED IN THREE PAIRS. ITS HIGH-PITCHED, MELODIOUS JANGLE IS ALSO THE SIGNATURE OF SONMUSIC, PROBABLY THE BEST KNOWN STYLE FROM EASTERN CUBA.
ACTY: 13_GT-tres.wav: The tres player is the riff-carrier, the song-carrier, at least conditionally. So he would turn up after the people work the fields either invited, or he might just turn up uninvited. And he'll start churning out riffs and singing, and then everyone would join in. People would pick up whatever was lying around, a machete and machete sharpener for the guayo, or maybe some gourds for the maracas, or they might take the skull of a cow or a horse and shake the teeth for the maracas too.
WINDOW: whatever works. Short.
ACTY: 14a_GT-bongo.wav: And then things got particularly interesting when a bongo players started playing. And at that point, because space frequencies carry, people from surrounding communities would hear the bongos and they would go, "Oh, there's a Changui happening over there."
M07_Al festival de Yateras 1.m4a, Popó y su Changüí, Changui! (Let’s hear some of that crowd sound, and after the bongo comes in 00:08 or so, go to bed)
ACTY: 14b_BL_Bongo.wav: You have the bongo, and it's a really deep sound, and at a certain point of the bongosero or bongosera makes a roaring sound with their fingerstick goes across the drum, where the drum goes Woooooo, like that. And in Haitian religious music it's to summon the spirits.
WINDOW: short, nice to have a vocal emerge here if we can.
ACTY: 14c_GT-bongo.wav: And before you knew it, you had a whole ton of people joining in. A pig would end up on a spit. People would turn up with cakes and things. More dancers would come in, and it would carry on.
ACTY: 15_BL_communal.wav: This could go on for hours or days. If the conditions were correct, there is enough food and alcohol in people, this could just go on and on. And if you talk to people in the past, people will say, yeah, this lasted from Christmas all the way through the other eight days past Three Kings Day. Or we would go to weekend your pack your close up in a bundle and cross rivers and get muddy and clean yourself off and clean yourself off and put on your clothes and be ready to dance. People would come with children, pr women who were nursing, and take turns while somebody could dance. It was a real communal coming together around music.
WINDOW: more vocal
GEORGES: CHANGUI SINGERS IMPROVISE RHYMING LYRICS, OFTEN TELLING STORIES ABOUT THE PARTY AND THE PARTYERS. MUSICIANS FLIRT WITH DANCERS. IT’S TRULY A COMMUNAL HAPPENING. AND OUT OF ALL THIS, COMES A REPERTOIRE OF SONGS.
ACTY: 15a_GT_improv.wav: They improvise like crazy. Everyone is building the plane while it’s in midair. Even on the stuff that’s actual repertoire, they still improvise like crazy. The bongo, the marimbula and the tres lock into each other, and when they take a break, they really get into it.
WINDOW/BED: M07a_A mi madre lloraba 1.m4a, Mikiki with his Brothers, Changui (crossfade under last speech and emerge 2:17—2:50)
GEORGES: MIKIKI AND HIS BROTHERS, HAVING AT IT DURING A FRONT PORCH JAM. BY THE WAY, MIKIKI HAS 17 BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND THEY ALL PLAY CHANGUI! GIANLUCA MENTIONED THEGROUP THAT RAFAEL BRIOSO HELPED TO FORM BACK IN 1945, GRUPO CHANGUI DE GUANTANAMO. THE GROUP IS STILL AROUND—THOUGH NOT WITH THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF COURSE.
ACTY: 15b_GT_GrupoChangui.wav: Grupo Changui Guantanamo are quite modern sounding. They’re quite slick. They even got nominated for a Grammy, a Latin Music Grammy. You know socialist governments; musicians are sort of the diplomats. The government designates a group. So is the ambassador, I suppose.
GEORGES: LET’S HEAR A GRUPO CHANGUI TRACK GIANLUCA RECORDED FOR THE BOX SET. HERE’S “TOCA MARIMBULA, OLIVARES.” “PLAY THAT MARIMBULA, OLIVARES.”
MUSIC: M08_Toca marímbula, Olivares 1.m4a, Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo, Changui [4:44]
BED: M09_Hay un no se qué 1.m4a, El Guajiro y su Changüí, Changui
GEORGES: OH, I LOVE IT! GRUPO CHANGUI DE GUANTANAMO. NOW, EARLIER IN OUR PROGRAM, WE HEARD GIANLUCA TRAMONTANA DESCRIBE CHANGUI AS BOUNCING AROUND LIKE A THREE-LEGGED HORSE. AND BEN LAPIDUS TOLD US HE WAS AT FIRST MYSTIFIED BY THE MUSIC’S STRUCTURE. THIS BRINGS US TO A CRUCIAL CHARACTERISTIC OF CHANGUI.
(Note: when Ben starts singing, we’ll have to pretty much lose the bed. Might be good to go with no bed from there until the next music)
ACTY: 16_BL_timeline.wav: It fits within the scheme of Cuban music to a certain degree, but it also completely breaks the scheme of Cuban music. Because there's no clave. There's no timeline. When a Changui song starts, the tres starts by itself. It does a couple of repetitions of the chorus of the song. And then the whole band jumps in on the very last beat. The drummer will come in with a five stroke roll. The scraper player will shout out “Ya!” And the maracas start right away. [sings rhythm], right away. What’s fascinating about the tres is that it’s playing all upbeats. For the most part it's playing off the beat. [SINGS] The position is always off. Everybody else comes in on down beats. So that's another twist. There's no clave. There's no timeline. Everyone has to have such a good concept of where the downbeat is, from hearing the upbeat, that when they all come in, it all has to fall into place.
GEORGES: LET’S CHECK THAT OUT. HERE’S A CLASSIC FROM A 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF THE BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB ALBUM, INCLUDING PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED TRACKS, LIKE THIS ALTERNATE TAKE OF “CANDELA.” IT STARTS WITH THE TRES, LIKE A CHANGUI, BUT LISTEN TO THE WAY THE BAND COMES IN.
WINDOW: M10_Candela (alternate take).wav, Buena Vista Social Club, 25th Anniversary Edition. (World Circuit,B095GDFGNT)
GEORGES: CAN YOU HEAR THE WAY EVERYTHING IS ORGANIZED AROUND THE CLAVE?
ACTY: 17_BanningClave.wav (I play it first with the track just to confirm orientation. Then the clave alone, the part you should use mixed it in briefly with track 10 to demonstrate)
GEORGES: NOW LET’S HEAR A TRACK FROM THE CHANGUI BOX SET BY GRUPO CHANGUI. AND I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIND CLAVE IN THIS ONE!
WINDOW: M11_Latamblé tocando el tres 1.m4a, Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo, Changui.
GEORGES: COMING UP: MORE FROM GIANLUCA’S ORIENTE RECORDINGS, AND BEN LAPIDUS ON THE POPULARIZATION OF CHANGUI IN CUBA. BE SURE TO VISIT AFROPOP.ORG TO READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH BEN. I’M GEORGES COLLINET AND YOU’RE LISTENING TO AFROPOP WORLDWIDE FROM PRX.
WINDOW: 20-second break: M12_Introduction Song 1.m4a, Mikikí Y Su Changüí, Changui! (I am hoping this break is not coming too late. If so, I have an idea of what to do…)
WINDOW/BED: M13_La rumba te llama 1.m4a, Grupo Familia Vera, Changui! (short. time to next emerge)
GEORGES: THE CHANGUI WE’VE HEARD SO FAR WAS RECORDED BY GIANLUCA TRAMONTANA AT LOCAL HAPPENINGS, MOSTLY USING HAND-HELD MICROPHONES. THE CHALLENGE IN MASTERING THE SESSIONS WAS THE FACT THAT THE RECORDIST COULD RARELY KEEP FROM DANCING!
WINDOW: emerge on vocal (0:17-0:24)
ACTY: 18_GT-dancing.wav: Steve Rosenthal and the engineer Ed McEntee are brilliant, brilliant at this. We didn't really add anything actually. There's no reverb. There's no fade outs. There's no nothing. So it's really thanks to them. And they even managed to make it sound like I was almost still.
WINDOW: M14_Alto Songo 1.m4a, Las Flores del Changüi, Changui! (top to at least 0:34, if time, longer, maybe to 1:04)
ACTY: 19_GT-popsong1.wav: Changui is set up like a pop song in a way. They sing a first verse that no one ever remembers. And then they sing the chorus that just goes on forever, and that's what everyone remembers. Changui has that too.
WINDOW: crossfade to chorus vocals at 3:32—4:42 (time this so that the last line of the next acty: “I think that the…” comes AFTER the song ends over silence)
ACTY: 20_GT-popsong2.wav: There's a verse, and then there's the chorus, and then it goes into call and response. And that could be anything. I think the idea of “this is how a song goes” is a very modern idea.
WINDOW: M15a_La sardina rumbera 1.m4a, Grupo Familia Vera (10 seconds then to bed)
GEORGES: CHANGUI LYRICS TALK ABOUT PARTYING, LOVE OF MOTHERS, WARNINGS ABOUT GOSSIP, CUTTING “TOUGH GUYS” AND BOASTERS DOWN TO SIZE. BUT MOSTLY, AS BEN LAPIDUS NOTES…
ACTY: 21_BL_lyrics.wav: Changui songs talk a lot about Changui. They tell you how to play it. What's the best Changui. Who were the best musicians. Who played the best tres Who danced the best. You are the best parties. Was there a pig there? Who got in a fight with who. That's the whole piece of Changui that you don't really have in son.
ACTY: 22a_GT_sardine.wav: There's a hysterical one, “La sardine rumbera de Caimanera.” The dancing sardine from Caimanera, or the rumbaing sardine from Caimanera, which is a fishing village near Guantánamo Bay.
WINDOW: Sardina (crossfade to emerge 1:13—1:32)
GEORGES: ALL THIS LOCAL STORY TELLING DOES NOT KEEP CHANGUISEROS FROM SINGING ABOUT BIGGER TOPICS. HERE’S A SONG BY POPO Y SU CHANGUI THAT TALKS ABOUT THE COPENHAGEN CLIMATE ACCORD AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE OZONE LAYER.
WINDOW/BED: M15b_Cuidemos la capa de ozono 1.m4a, Popó y su Changüí, Changui, (If time, up to 1:33, then to bed; otherwise a window with the “ozono” refrain.
ACTY: 22b_GT-local.wav: The knowledge and acknowledgement of Changui is very, very local, very based run Guantánamo city. Actually, once you leave Guantánamo city, people don't even know what Changui is. Inf you go the next province over, people will say it's Elio Reve and Elito Reve.
WINDOW/BED: M16_Los Teenagers Bailan Changui.mp3, Arsenio Rodriguez Quindembo - Afro Magic - La Magia de Arsenio Rodriguez (1963. Columbia Records, YouTube) (just a few notes)
GEORGES: OKAY, WE KEEP HEARING ABOUT ELIO REVE AND HIS SON ELITO REVE. BUT BEN LAPIDUS SAYS THERE’S AN EARLIER LINK BETWEEN CHANGUI AND URBAN CUBAN POP. AND IT INVOLVES THE ARTIST WE’RE HEARING NOW, THE GREAT ARSENIO RODRIGUEZ.
WINDOW: (emerge 0:17-0:28 then to bed)
BED: M17_Lili_Solo.wav, Concierto a Tres Pianos: Frank Hernandez, Chucho Valdez, Lili Martinez (YouTube, 1955) (crossfade this in under the line “the guy was a total genius”)
ACTY: 23_BL-Lili.wav: There's one other person, a key intermediary between Reve and the tradition was Luis Martinez Griñan. His nickname was Lili He was a piano player who was originally from Guantánamo. The guy was a total genius. And he was eclectic. He was into a lot of stuff. He had a degree in fingerprint technology. He had done a correspondence course. He spoke a number of languages. He played classical music. He played jazz. He worked on the naval base and he would slip people money to watch his shift so he could sneak inside and play piano instead of doing his job. And apparently, I think it was in 1944, was one the great tres player and bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez sent for him. He sent him a telegram and said, “I want you to join my band.” And that is when Luis Martinez went to Havana from Guantánamo in 1944. And on Arsenio's recordings, he started adding patterns that a tres player would play from Changuiand he mixed that with a little bit of jazz, a little bit of classical music, and he developed this very unique personal sound which then became the piano sound that every piano player imitated.
WINDOW/BED: M18_Lili_Verdad.wav, La Verdad Sobre Lili Martinez e Luis Grinan Camacho (YouTube) (up to 0:34, then to bed)
BED: M19_Arsenio Rodríguez & su Conjunto - Cero Guapos en Yateras.mp3, Cero Guapos en Yateras, Arsenio Rodríguez & su Conjunto, The Music of Cuba, Arsenio Rodríguez, Vol. 1 / Recordings 1944 – 1946 (Orchard Sound) (go right into this when prior bed ends. Should work with next emerge)
ACTY: 24_BL-Lili2.wav: If you look at the great Arsenio Rodriguez recordings of the 1940s and early 50s, he is name checked all the time. They always say “Lili!” They called him la perla de Oriente “the pearl of eastern Cuba.” And then he would do his solo. And if you listen to his solos, it's like really intricate classical piano stuff thrown over a Cuban groove a little bit of jazz here and there, very impressionistic, very unique. Arsenio recorded a lot of his songs. “Ceri Gyapus en Yateras,” which talks about some tough guys who got beaten up and couldn't go back to Yateras. Arsenio didn't have any experience with any of that. That was all Lili’s influence.
WINDOW: Cero Guapos en Yateras (emerge on vocal 0:26—0:56)
GEORGES: AND THAT BRINGS US TO ELIO REVE.
ACTY: 25_BL_Reve1.wav: What Elio Reve did, and what really was one aspect of his genius is to take what he heard the tres playing and to put it in the violins. His group was a charanga. So he had the violins played exactly what the tres was playing, that kind of montuno section. And then he had a wooden guiro [sings]. And that was kind of doing the part that you would hear in traditional Changui, and then he was taking riffs from the bongo and playing them on his timbales. So he took elements from traditional Changui and stuck them into his modern group and called it Changui.
MUSIC: M20_ELIO REVE - RICO CHANGUI - GALERIA CAFE LIBRO.mp3 (YouTube) (crossfade under prior speech, emerge 0:14—3:00, then to bed)
GEORGES: ELIO REVE CIRCA 1956 WITH “RICO CHANGUI.”
ACTY: 26_BL_Reve2.wav: And Reve went with it until he passed in ‘97. And his son is still going with it. Reve, I mean, he said, "I'm the father of Changui." And he just kept going with. And the music by then sounded really nothing like Changui at that point, but you could tease out what the elements were that he had. His brother played Changui. They’re from Guantánamo. His father was a bass player in Guantánamo. So it's not that he was fibbing. He knew the tradition.
GEORGES: THE NEXT STAGE IN THE POPULARIZATION OF CHANGUI IN CUBA CAME FROM AN ALUMNUS OF ELIO REVE’S BAND. BASSIST, COMPOSER AND ARRANGER JUAN FORMELL WENT ON TO BECOME THE MUSICAL DIRECTOR OF LOS VAN VAN, SOMETIMES CALLED THE ROLLING STONES OF CUBA. AND THEY FAMOUSLY ADAPTED A CHANGUI CALLED “EL GUARAREY DE PASTORA” OR SOMETIMES JUST “PASTORITA.”
MUSIC: M21_Los Van Van - Guararey de Pastora.mp3, El Guararey de Pastora, Los Van Van, Cuba Classics 2: Dancing With The Enemy, (Luaka Bop, 72438-49027-2-8) [3:58]
GEORGES: THE IMMORTAL LOS VAN VAN WITH THEIR HAVANA TAKE ON CHANGUI, “GUARARAY DE PASTORA.” NOW BEFORE WE HEAD BACK TO GUANTANAMO CITY WITH GIANLUCA TRAMONTANA, CHECK THIS OUT. THE LATEST EVOLUTION OF CHANGUI IN CUBA IS CHANGUI RAP. BUT OF COURSE! IT WAS INEVITABLE…
MUSIC: M22_La rumba está buena - ZONA FRANKA ft. José Andrés EL SINSONTE (de Changüí Guantánamo) en vivo LIVE.mp3 (YouTube)
GEORGES: A FUSION OF RAP, RUMBA AND CHANGUI FROM ZONA FRANKA FEATURING JOSE ANDRES “EL SINSONTE” FROM CHANGUI GUANTANAMO. MEANWHILE, BACK IN ORIENTE…
BED: M23_Hidden Track 1.m4a, Changui! (this is short. Mix in as a transition into next track)
BED: M24_30 de agosto 1.m4a, Armando “Yu” Rey Leliebre, Changui
ACTY: 27_GT-lineage.wav: Changui is a lineage. No one does Changui. You are born into it, and you know, when a Changuisero die, fellow Changuiseros play around the casket, and the play at the burial. So you are a Changuisero from cradle to grave.
WINDOW: 30 de Agosto (short)
GEORGES: THIS IS MIKIKI ON TRES ACCOMPANYING SINGER ARMANDO LILIEBRE. NOTICE THE WAY THE VOICE AND TRES MELODY GO TOGETHER. THAT’S ANOTHER SIGNATURE OF CHANGUI.
ACTY: 28_GT-terroire.wav: The French have this term with wine drinking, terroire. If you drink the wine from a region, the taste tells you everything about the region. So folk musics I find like that. History books are written from the top down, and the songs are from the bottom up. In Guantánamo, history books tell about sugarcane and coffee. But the sugarcane and coffee didn't run to the boats and jump on. People put them in the boats. And those people are not written about. So Changui is kind of their history. It's the terroire of the region.
WINDOW: M25_Guararey de Pastora 1.m4a, Grupo Estrellas Campesinas, Changui (just a bit of intro)
GEORGES: NOW AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE, YOUNG GUANTANAMEROS ARE MORE APT TO TUNE INTO TIMBA AND REGGAETON FROM HAVANA AND BEYOND. CHANGUI IS THEIR GRANDPARENTS’ MUSIC. STILL, THERE ARE YOUNG CHANGUISEROS KEEPING THE TRADITION ALIVE.
ACTY: 29_GT-Estrellas.wav: Oddly enough, the most traditional band, who are the flagship rural band, Estrellas Campasinas, they’re actually all young.
GEORGES: HERE THEY ARE WITH THEIR VERSION OF “GUARARAY DE PASTORA,” THE SONG WE HEARD LOS VAN VAN COVER.
WINDOW: Guararay (edit to emerge on vocal at 0:46—1:27, then to bed)
GEORGES: IN 2018 THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED CHANGUI AS PART OF THE NATIONAL PATRIMONY. AND AS BEN LAPIDUS TOLD US, THAT MEANT A LOT TO FOLKS IN EASTERN CUBA.
ACTY: 30_BL_history.wav: Son is the national genre of Cuban music from the 1920s on. There's the poetry about son, and the government pushes it. It's exported throughout the world as the rumba. But there's this whole history that you have to acknowledge, the Afro Haitian and Afro Caribbean component, especially in eastern Cuba, in Oriente. So it's a fascinating history. It's an understudied region. It's a misunderstood region. And it's so much like what the Mississippi Delta is to the blues, this region is to Cuban music.
WINDOW/BED: M26_Ven cubana ven 1.m4a, Celso Fernández Rojas, “El Guajiro” And José Andrés Rodríguez Ramírez, “El Sinsonte” Backed By Grupo Changüí De Guantánamo, Changui.
GEORGES: MEANWHILE, GIANLUCA TRAMONTANA LIKES TO THINK OF THE COLLECTION HE CO-PRODUCED AS A “PARTY IN A BOX”
ACTY: 31_GT-party.wav: Roots music is really very, very cool, and very hip. And it's dance music. For the longest time, we have associated artistic merit to suffering. Even blues music, which is dance music essentially. Robert Johnson was there to make you dance. If you went to a juke joint, it wasn't to moan about how rotten life was, it was to dance. So these songs have historical value, and historical context, and from an academic standpoint, they have a lot great deal of value. But it's also very hip and cool and catchy music. It's loud. It's really thrilling and exciting. There's hooks galore and choruses that stretch on forever and you listen to it once or twice and you can hum it all day long. I wanted to present that. I love that expression “party in a box.”
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