Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 16, 2011

Creole Choir of Cuba

UMass Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA
by Emily List

The Creole Choir of Cuba was a collaborative effort on the part of 10 singers and dancers to share their Haitian descent through the arts.The performers’ ancestors were brought to Cuba as slaves, and the choir sings their stories of survival, homesickness, hope and freedom in the Creole language. The troop returned to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, with the intention of healing through song and dance and with the belief that “music is like food. It feeds the spirit and is a major inspiration for every day life.” 

Though the performers’ themes touched on dark periods of their history, the choir members celebrated the present with rich harmonies, Caribbean rhythms and vibrant colored costumes. Bongo drums, cowbells and whistles were used as rhythmic backdrop, though the men provided most of that with their deep base voices, while the women layered on high pitched vibratos and harmonies.

The concert exuded a Latin vibe, and choir members reached out to the audience through call and response and salsa like movement. The music undulated through the bodies of both performers and spectators, some of whom made their way shimmying and hip grinding on to the stage. They joined the choir as they swept their arms through the air, waving beautifully died scarves.

The concert’s atmosphere was bright and informal. Members of the ensemble chatted nonchalantly between numbers, as if attending a weekend farmers’ market. Their playful dynamic spread through the concert hall, as women and men harmonized, flirted and moved together as one. Though they don’t speak English, the choir members offered the audience a special gift—their English rendition of “Unforgettable.”  

The performers told the audience that their music comes from the heart, but there was no need to say so: the audience could feel it.