The African presence in the Americas. More than nine and one-half milion slaves were taken to the Americas from Africa during the colonial period, roughly from the sixteenth century until the mid-1800s; it is estimated that over 90% of the slaves were taken to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America. The slaves represented a wide range of ethnic groups from various regions in west and central Africa, and they brought with them a rich cultural legacy, part of which can be clearly seen in the many musics played today throughout the Americas.
“Maquinolandera” (bomba, Puerto Rico)
(composed by Margarita Rivera)
The Puerto Rican bomba shows strong African influences. It was developed in black communities along coastal towns in the 17th or 18th centuries as a secular genre accompanied by social dancing, being the equivalent of the Cuban rumba. The modern bomba was popularized by Ismael Rivera (1931–1987), one of the giants of Latin music, who along with Rafael Cortijo brought back the traditional Puerto Rican genres, the bomba and the plena. This piece was written by his mother, and it features the call-and-response pattern seen in so many other genres of the Americas.
“Chachachá" (cha cha cha, Cuba)
(composed by Enrique Jorrín)
Enrique Jorrín (b. 1926) is credited with having invented the cha cha cha with his 1951 composition “La engañadora” (The Liar), its name derived from the sound of the dancers’ shuffling feet. Based on the mambo section of the danzón, Jorrín added short vocal interjections, slightly shifted the beat, and eventually made this section independent from the other sections of the danzón. After “La engañadora” was recorded in 1953, the cha cha cha became popular in Cuba and later became a fad in the United States.
“Berimbau” (samba/baião, Brazil)
(composed by Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes)
The berimbau (also called uruçungo, gobo, matungo, etc.) is a bow-shaped instrument that was brought to Brazil by the Bantu people of Angola. It is used to accompany the capoeira dance. Although to the uninitiated observer the capoeira appears as just a dance, it is also a martial art that can be deadly when used against enemies.
This song was written in 1962 at a time when some Brazilian musicians were becoming disillusioned by the commercialization of bossa nova (roughly a hybrid of jazz and samba). The composers, Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes, shared an interest in earlier Afro-Brazilian musical forms such as the capoeira. The berimbau figure used to accompany the capoeira is frequently quoted throughout the song, most clearly in the last two lines.
“La candela” (songo, Cuba)
(composed by Juan Formell)
The songo is a genre that combines elements of the Cuban son with American rock and roll. It was popularized primarily by the bands Irakere and especially Los Van Van, whose leader, Juan Formell (b. 1942), wrote this piece. The songo is an example of a recent hybrid in a musical world that keeps itself vibrant by combining and recombining styles.
“Obsesión” (bolero, Puerto Rico)
(composed by Pedro Flores)
Perhaps the universal ballad style throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the bolero is found in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and throughout Latin America. Its origins are somewhat obscure, although it seems to be unrelated to the much earlier Iberian form of the same name (upon which Ravel’s famous piece is based). This immensely famous bolero was written by Puerto Rican composer Pedro Flores (1893–1979).
“Kara ka tis ki” (plena, Puerto Rico)
(composed by Efraín Ramón “Mon” Rivera)
The plena developed among lower-class blacks and mulatto communities in Puerto Rico’s coastal towns, particularly in Ponce to the south and Loíza to the north, during the end of the colonial period, but its heyday was in the 1920s and ’30s; in the 1960s it regained popularity in a more modernized version. This song was composed by Efraín Ramón “Mon” Rivera (1925–1978), long a cultivator of the genre. Notice, once again, the call-and-response patterns, with a repeated chorus interspersed with improvised lines.
“Kili bois” (Haiti)
(traditional; lyrics by Luc R. Mesadieu)
Featuring Raphäel Benito on lead vocal
This traditional folk song reflects the influence Cuban music has had on other Caribbean islands, for “Kili bois” is essentially in the form of a Cuban son. It has two distinct parts: a “structured” song, and another, the montuno, that includes repeated parts from the chorus and improvised solo lines from the vocalist. Such a dual structure is found often in musical expressions of the Americas, including some ring shouts in the southern United States.
“Canto de afoxé" (Brazil)
(composed by Caetano Veloso and Moreno Veloso)
The afoxés are groups that play during the carnival of Bahia in northern Brazil. They can include hundreds of members that parade and drum through the streets. A syncretist phenomenon parallel to that of Santería in Cuba occurred among the African slaves in Brazil, and the afoxés play candomblé chants to different orixas (African gods). Caetano Veloso wrote this piece for the Ilê-Aiyê afoxé, the most famous in Bahia.
“Toque Eléggua/Toque Changó" (Cuba)
Featuring Del Sur y del Caribe (Juan B. Fuentes, José Gregorio Hernández, Javier Gonzaless) on batá drums
The Yoruba people from western Africa were taken as slaves to sugar plantations in Cuba late in the slave trade, which provided a constant influx of African slaves until the 1860s. Although originating from several regions in Africa, they came to be known collectively as the Lucumí (after Yoruba oloku mí, “my friend”). Those Lucumí developed Santería, an African-based religion with a thin Catholic disguise. They gathered in cabildos, religious societies analogous to the New Orleans knewes, the Brazilian samba schools, the Trinidadian nations, and so-called “societies” in 18th-century New England. As part of the Santería ritual, there are toques (calls) to the different orichas, or gods. These toques are to Eléggua, god of the crossroads, and to Changó, god of lightning, thunder, and virility; they are played on the sacred, hourglass-shaped batá drums. The toques are, of course, sung in Yoruba.
“Congo malata” (calypso, Trinidad)
Featuring Lucho Castilla on steelpan
The trinidadian steelpan is the most recently developed widely used acoustic instrument. It evolved from oil drums left in the island after World War II. During the 1940s steel bands replaced the traditional bamboo stick bands in Trinidad and soon spread throughout the Caribbean, with a repertoire that included everything from local calypso to classical pieces. Calypso emerged from carnival kalindas some time at the turn of the century. Its lyrics cover a wide topical range, from political satire to self-boasting by the singer (a leftover from the kalindas). In the 1940s and 1950s the calypso genre was popularized in the US by singers such as the Andrews Sisters and Harry Belafonte, and today calypso songs are still an integral part of the carnival celebrations in Trinidad.
“Loreta” (merengue, Dominican Republic)
(composed by Diomedes Villadares)
This Dominican merengue features a variation on the so-called cinquillo pattern in its introduction: The merengue became the national Dominican genre in the early 19th century. Following its sung verses, the merengue often has a jaleo (or mambo) section with repeated call-and-response patterns over which there is more improvisation. This is similar to the form found in “Kili bois” and in many other genres of the Americas.
“Las alturas de Simpson” (danzón, Cuba)
(composed by Miguel Failde Pérez)
The origins of the Cuban danzón date back to the 17th-century English country dance, which was introduced in the French court in the 1860s and became the very popular contradanse. From France it spread to Cuba, where African elements were added to generate the danza criolla. The danzón is a slower, more stately version of the danza criolla. Among its African characteristics is the cinquillo rhythmic pattern that is heard in various musical forms throughout the Americas, including the Brazilian lundu.
Composed by Miguel Failde Pérez in 1879, this piece is generally accepted to be the first published danzón in Cuba; its title refers to a neighborhood in Matanzas.
“Sly mongoose” / “Weel and Tun Me” / “Times So Hard” (mento, Jamaica); “Jam Jamaica” (reggae, Jamaica)
Featuring Charley Organaire Cameron on lead vocal and harmonica
Although Jamaica is best known as the birthplace of reggae, this island nation has a long history of black music that dates back to the first maroon communities of fugitive slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. The mento, a traditional folk song, is the immediate precedent of later popular Jamaican musical forms such as ska (which combined mento with U.S. rhythm and blues) and reggae. Mento addresses current events, often with humorous sociopolitical commentary, and bears a strong resemblance to the Trinidadian calypso.
Program notes by Marcos Sueiro, 1997
Members of Ensemble Kalinda Chicago featured on this recording:
- Miguel Rivera, musical director and bass
- José “Papo” Santiago, flute, saxophone, lead and backup vocals
- Kenny Anderson, trumpet
- Henry Salgado, trombone
- Paulinho Garcia, guitar, lead, and backup vocals
- Carlos Eguis-Aguila, percussion, lead vocal on Toque Eléggua/Toque Changó
- Luiz Ewerling, drums, percussion
- Edwin Sánchez, piano, backup vocals
With the assistance of:
- Benjamín Alvarez, percussion
- Heitor Gianizelli Garcia, percussion, berimbau on Berimbau
- Javier Gonzaless, percussion
- José Gregorio Hernández, percussion
- Executive Producer: Cynthia B. Herbst
- Producer: Vic Muenzer
- Co-producers: Morris A. Phibbs, Marcos Sueiro, Mike Rivera
- Recording Engineer: Gus Mossier
- Assistant Engineers: Ron Loew, Gordy Gibson
- Recorded and Mixed June and July 1997 at Chicago Recording Company, Chicago, IL
- Mastered by Vic Muenzer.
- Cover photograph: Pedro Abréu
Special Thanks: Hank Neuberger, Konrad Strauss, Larry Rock, Dennis Tousana, Noel Muenzer, Carlos Flores, Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, and to Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., founder and director of the Center for Black Music Research for his support and generosity.