Rumba, Expression of all Things Cuban
By Ivet González Lemes / Photos Courtesy of the Band
The strength of ancestors gathers new energies with youth. That is Yoruba Andabo's motto. The artistic expressions of African slaves brought by Spanish colonizers to Cuba are revived in this company with the integration of new members together with the most modern contemporary musical tendencies.
Its director, Geovani del Pino, tells us about the union between the rebelliousness of the first years of age and the legacy of the Cuban culture fathers.
Geovani: Rumba is not a dead rhythm and it will never be. The momentum given by youth to any genre is something people don't understand, but it is needed. Young people impose their fashion, energy, worries that get to both the young ones and old.
The company was born in the docks of Havana, when workers who were enthusiasts of the Yoruba culture created in 1961 the Guaguancó Maritimo Portuario project. What began with the stillness of the bay waters gained in unexpected vigor and today reached a professional level. It was not an easy jump to make.
Geovani: When we started we did not have the plan to become professionals. We took it as a hobby. We used to go on Wednesday to play at the gardens of the UNEAC (Cuban Writers and Artists Union) headquarters. Life and our efforts took us to where we are now.
The company was christened with its present name in 1994 and several important figures of Cuban folkloric art like late singer Mercedita Valdés have been members of it. Now, younger members like dancer Jennyselt Galata are reactivating African inheritance with different appropriations.
Jennyselt: I have been in Yoruba Andabo since childhood and what is happening in the group is a big change. Istarted with the old ones of the group, the founders. The young ones of today in the group have a different temperament, another way of playing, another way of creating. Today, we are in a place that even for us is impressive.
The reason for their international success might be found in the company's latest line of work. Adonis Panter, the company's percussionist and "occasional” dancer, although he does not like to be acknowledged as such, tells us about Yoruba Andabo's innovations from the musical viewpoint.
Adonis: We are fusing with new rhythms inside the rumba and that is making us reach everybody's hearts. We are adding rhythms people are more acquainted with, born from African roots like mambo, son, cha cha cha, samba and reggaeton. If people don't get it in a way, they get it from another.
The company has made versions of important Latin American songs like EI necio by Cuban Silvio Rodríguez, EI breve espacio en que no estás by Cuban Pablo Milanés; Perdón, a Porto Rican bolero and Un mundo raro, from México. They participated in the Trondhein Festival in Norway in 2005 where they mixed their music with rock and jazz.
Andabo's presentations have spaces for the traditional and religious styles while allowing others for the mingling of pagan music with current rhythms. This type of artistic manifestation has a religious foundation from the creeds born in the African region of Yoruba that spread all through Latin America. The cycles making up their shows are the Congo, Yoruba, Abbakua and Rumba, which demand a constant academic training.
Jennyselt: I have been a folkloric dance teacher in the art school for the last 15 years. I am always trying to get deeper in my culture and in all things religious and I take it into my work. Years of study help you to get cleaner gestures. To do it better onstage.
Yoruba Andabo means the friends of the culture of that African region. They honor that name in not only taking their art to audiences all over the world but also teaching their experiences in percussion, dances and songs, both folkloric and popular.
The first African slaves arriving to Cuba had only one baggage: the ways of their culture, that today, enriched by mixing it with the Spanish and native ones, grows in daily life and art, with groups such as Yoruba Andabo.