Creole Choir will perform lively rhythms, dancing

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PORTLAND — The Creole Choir of Cuba will bring its harmonies, Caribbean rhythms with an original root bass sound and jubilant dancing to Merrill Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 14.

Desandann, the choir’s Cuban name, literally means descendents. And, with the songs on their new album “TANDE-LA” (which translates to “listen”), the singers tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors, who were brought to Cuba to toil in near slave conditions on sugar and coffee plantations.

The choir is made up of six women and four men, ages 27 to 61, who hail from Camaguey, Cuba’s third largest city, an old colonial town designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its iconic architecture.

Together, they celebrate roots, resistance and the irresistible rhythms of life.

All have studied music at the university level in Camaguey and are members of the Provincial Choir, directed by Emilia Chavez. Desandann emerged out of this choir in 1994, a difficult time for Cubans when the economy collapsed following the end of the USSR and Soviet support for the Cuban revolution. Food was in short supply, while homes and work places often went dark due to lack of electricity.

The singers decided to reforge the resistance songs and laments of their forebears, to celebrate the history of their Haitian ancestors enslaved to the Caribbean from West Africa. To the songs passed down in their families since the early 19th century, they added more modern Haitian sounds.

The choir has toured extensively in England since first appearing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. Besides Spanish and French, the group sings mainly in Creole, Cuba’s second language. Members spent two months in Haiti as part of Cuba’s relief project following the January 2010 earthquake. Working in cooperation with the Haitian Cultural Ministry, the choir ran workshops with children within displaced persons camps and performed at public concerts.

Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert at Merrill Auditorium are $36-$46. Call 842-0800 between noon and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, email [email protected] or visit tickets.porttix.com.

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