New Film: Christian Liebich’s The Black Roots of Salsa

Ariana Hernandez-Reguant (University of California-San Diego) of the EthnoCuba blog interviews Christian Liebich, director of a new film—Las raíces negras de la salsa: La emancipacón de la rumba cubana [The Black Roots of Salsa: Emancipation of Cuban Rumba]. Produced by Zürich native Liebich and Cuban Adonis Panter Calderón, The Black Roots of Salsa is a new documentary on Cuba’s rumba life.

The film is currently in post-production and does not yet have a distributor. It is mostly shot in Havana, but there are some takes from shows in Paris, Geneva, and Madrid. If accepted to participate in the New York International Latino Film Festival, it may premier in New York City in August 2010.

As Liebich says in the interview, the film covers the musical aspects of the black heritage of salsa, rumba, and son, as well as dancing and lived experience. He explains, “It shows a complex culture through the lens of certain families who live their tradition and inherit them through the generations. The film starts with the state of contemporary Rumba, as shown by young practitioners in Havana. It also covers some of the genre’s history in its three variants: Yambu, Guaguancó and Columbia. As a non-religious manifestation, Rumba was accessible to a broad audience. Nonetheless its roots are set inside Afro-Cuban religions imported from Africa, namely the Abakuá, Congo and Yoruba, all of which are covered in the documentary.”

A little over 2 hours long, The Black Roots of Salsa presents a rich selection of interviews with dancers, performers, music specialists, religious practitioners, and a fantastic mix of professional performances in Cuba and abroad and neighborhood rumbas. It intersperses historical background and development of rumba from its African roots to the streets of Havana, community appreciation and interpretation of a variety of styles, and personal knowledge and experience by its performers.

For full interview, see

See trailer at

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