Wednesday, January 10, 2007

La Rumba: Part 3 of 3

Here is the 3rd and final excerpt from the "La Rumba" documentary, notable for its rare presentation of two direct ancestors of rumba popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries: the coro de guaguancó (by Rafael Ortiz's group), and el baile de yuka.

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Coros de guaguancó seem to have evolved from the coros de clave, an urban musical phenomenon which arose towards the end of the 19th century in the marginal port neighborhods of Havana and Matanzas, and also to some extent in Trinidad and Sancti Spíritus.

Robin Moore describes both very well in his book Nationalizing Blackness:

Coros de clave, the more European-influenced of the two groups, developed in the late nineteenth century and remained popular throughout the 1910s. Famous coros de clave from their initial period of popularity (1880s-1890s) include El Arpa de Oro, El Botón de Oro, La Moralidad, and La Juventud (León 1961). Some coro ensembles contained as many as 150 members (Reyes 1994; Urfé 19984, 183). They were comprised primarily of male and female vocalists who sang two- or three-part songs in 6/8 time with simple European harmonies, accompanied by instrumentalists playing the "viola" (a banjo with the strings taken off that was played as a percussion instrument), guitar, clave, and occasionally the botija, harp, or other instruments (Orovio 1981, 103). A clarina (lead female singer) would typically begin with a solo, followed by responses from the chorus. Ten-line décima poetry served most often as the lyrical form of the text. By 1902 there were fifty or sixty coros de clave in black working-class barrios, and at least two groups in Havana—La Yaya and El Jiqui—were comprised entirely of white members who publicly denied any African influence inthe music they performed (León 1985, 61).

Coros de guaguancó (also called agrupaciones de guaguancó), by contrast, seems to have been a slightly more percussive, African-influenced variation performed largely by men. Their instrumentation often incorporated the drums and other percussion instruments associated with traditional rumba (see chapter 6), yet were also known to include European instruments. Songs of the coros de guaguancó tended to be in 2/4 time and are said to have first become widely popular in the early twentieth century, somewhat later than those of clave groups. Among the earliest coros de guaguancó were the Azules Amalianos from the barrio of Jesús María, which formed in 1862. Most of its members worked as stevedores on the docks of Havana (Ramirez n.d.). Famous coros de guaguancó of the twentieth century include Los Roncos, Los Apaches, and El Paso Franco (Hernández Cuesta 1994). Los Roncos are especially noteworthy for their leader, Ignacio Piñeiro, who became one of the best-known son composers of the 1920s.

Ned Sublette, in his book Cuba and its Music notes that the Cuban coros de clave find their origins (and perhaps even their name) in the working-class choral societies started in Barcelona by Catalunyan composer José Anselmo Clavé. While contemplating the access of the working classes to great music Pablo Casals recalled:

My thoughts on the subject had been influenced by the achievements of that remarkable Catalan patriot and lover of music, José Anselmo Clavé. Clavé had died in 1874, two years before I was born, but I felt toward him as if he had been my close friend. He came from the working class and was a weaver by trade. He played the guitar and taught himself to compose music and songs. His songs dealt with simple, tender themes-with experiences of poor children, with stories about peasants and fishermen, with the beauty of nature and love of Catalonia. Gradually his songs became known among Barcelona workers, and small groups began meeting in the factories to sing them after working hours. Clavé knew what bleakness and poverty existed for the working class, and he wanted to help bring some beauty into their lives. He conceived the idea of organizing permanent choral groups among the workers. And he achieved fantastic results. Under his inspiration, wonderful choral societies of workers and their families evolved not only in Barcelona but in towns throughout Catalonia. Their membership grew into thousands, and their movement had a major impact on the cultural awakening then under way in Catalonia. Such world-famous choral societies as the Orfeo Catala and the Orfeo Gracienc were part of the legacy of Clave's work.

Robin Moore also writes that "[Odilio] Urfé suggests that both began as afrocuban imitations of the recreational choral societies established in Havana by the sociedades españolas." I would be interested to know if any melodic, lyric or stylistic similarites exist in the repertoires of the coros in Cuba and the choral societies from Barcelona.

The narrator in the video states that the coros de guaguancó came from Abakuá societies. Indeed, he declares that "it can be said that not a single popular artistic organization can be found which has not been promoted and directed by members of an Abakuá society, or linked to one." Given the Abakuás prevalence in Havana and Matanzas around the time the coros flourished, it seems likely, but I haven't found any other references to this.
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The Atlas de los Instrumentos Folklórico-Popular de Cuba tells us that throughout the mid-nineteenth and into the early 20th century, Yuka was perhaps the most popular Bantú (Congolese)-derived music and dance form in the central and western regions of Cuba. Yuka is a secular genre incorporating a percussion ensemble consisting of three drums generally called (from lowest to highest) "la caja," "la mula" (or "llamador") and "el cachimbo" (or "tumbador"), as well as a guataca (hoe blade) or cowbell and the "coco" or "guagua" part, typically played on the side of one of the drums with two sticks. The caja player would sometimes use little maracas on his wrists, called nkembis.

The yuka drums accompanied call-and-response songs with (usually) Spanish lyrics which typically dealt with historical themes or daily life.

The dance is by single couples, and incorporated the pelvic thrust which is today found in guaguancó.

Download a higher-quality version (74.6MB) of this clip here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this video with an excellent beginning showing Carlos Embale.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Guarachon:
The male dancer in the Yambú portion of this clip is Lázaro Galarraga.

Barry said...

Beautiful, thanks Flaco. I saw his name in the credits but couldn't figure out where he was...