Santiman: Dynamic Creole Choir of Cuba


TJNELSON reviews The Creole Choir of Cuba’s Santiman (Real World Records, 2013) for

Following up on their debut recording Tande-La on the Real World Records label, The Creole Choir of Cuba is back for another explosive listen into this dynamic singing group. As descendants of freed Haitian slaves from the city of Camagüey, Cuba, these ten vocalists, along with their leader Emilia Diaz Chavez and guest musicians pianist Tom Cawley, trumpeter Paul Bilson and flutist Dramane Dembele, Santiman glories out a sound that is ripe with Africa, the Caribbean and Cuba that enthralls as is uplifts the musical soul.

Thrilling audiences since their international debut recording in 2010, The Creole Choir of Cuba has struck admiration in such venues BBC Two’s with Jools Holland, London Jazz Festival, the Barbican, Celtic Connections and the BT River of Music festival. American fans will soon get their own healthy dose with a tour planned for late February and March from New York, Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia and Florida, so fans should keep a sharp eye out for tickets.

If you were expecting to listen to Santiman supine and still, well, you can just forget it. Intertwining vocals against a backdrop of dishy Africa, Caribbean and Cuban rhythms, Santiman takes listeners on a musical journey that opens with the achingly beautiful “Preludio,” written by Emilia Diaz Chavez, before the group makes its way through such stunning tracks as “Llegada,” also written by Ms. Diaz Chavez, the deliciously worked “Camina Como Chencha” and preciously soulful “Fey Oh Di Nou.”

Embracing in traditional tunes like “Simbi,” “Soufle Van – Mangaje” and the sweetly worked “Panama Mwen Tonbe,” The Creole Choir of Cuba invariably finds a way to musically embrace both joy and sorrow with such delightful exquisiteness. Nothing puts it quite so pointedly as with “Jubileo,” where “the whole town sing and dance because now they have water to drink, to cook, for showers, and also to breed their animals.”

Perhaps the most poignant track is one written by Teresita Romero Miranda entitled “Pou Ki Ayiti Kriye?” or “Why Does Haiti Cry?” about the suffering of Haiti’s people. Other gems include the merengue “Tripot” with flutist Dramane Dembele and the charming “Marasa Elu” that tells of story of an orphaned child.

Ms. Diaz Chavez gives some insight by saying, “Santiman gives us great hope and joy. These songs are a part of a dream of being able to record our experience after the fateful earthquake. We are certain that this record will be our best so far, because it comes from our hearts.”

Santiman is too glorious to pass up and those living in tour cities should jump quick to get on the band wagon.

Tour Dates

Feb. 22 – Ithaca, NY at Cornell Concert Series

Feb. 25 – Tallahassee, FL at Seven Days of Opening Nights

Feb. 26 – Gainsville, FL at University of Florida

Feb. 27-28 – Ft. Pierce, FL at The Sunrise Theatre

Mar. 1 – Lake Worth, FL at The Duncan Theatre at Palm Beach State College

Mar. 3 – Tampa, FL at Straz Center for the Performing Arts

Mar. 7 – Clemson, SC at Clemson University

Mar. 8 – Charlotte, NC at The North Carolina Blumenthal PAC

Mar. 10 Newport News, VA at Christopher Newport University

Mar. 13 Chicago, IL at Old Town School of Music

Mar. 17 Miami, FL at Miami Light Project

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