The Drum Festival returns to the Cuban scene
By Mary Couto, Photos: courtesy of Giraldo Piloto and José (Tito) Meriño
In Cuba there is a saying that says: “he who doesn’t have from the Congo, has from Carabalí”, which reflects that behind every Cuban there is some ancestor who came from Africa, from whose continent were brought thousands of Africans to the island as slaves by the Spanish colonisers and, with them, they brought their music, rhythms and religion, within all of which percussion is an indisputable part.
It is for this reason that African beliefs and practices exerted a powerful influence on the island’s rhythms and, polyrhythmic percussion, an inherent element of African music, is always associated with song and dance in most Cuban musical genres.
These factors led to the spread of percussion in Cuba in such a way that almost any inhabitant of the island is capable of obtaining musical sounds from any surface, just by beating their hands, because through the blood of the Cubans runs the music of the drums.
The “Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam” Drum Festival has been celebrated in Cuba for exactly two decades, whose name pays tribute to a notable Cuban drummer and timpanist, an important figure in the Cuban music scene for more than fifty years and one of the first drummers in Cuba to play Afro-Cuban jazz.
In March 2021, the Drum Festival will return to the Cuban scene with new vigor, despite the forced postponement of last March’s edition, due to the epidemiological situation caused by the new coronavirus in the world.
On this occasion, the presence of numerous Cuban and foreign participants is expected, including the main groups and popular music orchestras of the largest of the Antilles, as well as the most notable folklore groups.
As for foreign guests, it is still premature to announce a long list, but many are interested in participating, including the incredible Mexican drummer Antonio Sánchez and his Migration Band project, a first that was announced to Cubaplus magazine by the President of the organizing committee of the festival, Giraldo Piloto.
During the next edition, scheduled for March 1 to 7, dance and percussion competitions will be held, as usual, at the headquarters of the capital’s Teatro América and the Casa de la Música de Plaza, respectively, explained Piloto.
As for the concerts, he continued, they will take place nightly at La Tropical and, on the final day, Sunday, the show will start from the afternoon until late at night.
Although all the organizational details are still being adjusted, including hygienic and sanitary measures if necessary at that time, Piloto considered it important to point out that the XIX edition will be dedicated to Cuba, as the host country, while there will be days of tribute to African and Caribbean music and the world in general.
As far as the percussion contest, the prominent Cuban musician explained that the competition will cover the following instruments: timpani or kettledrums, bongos, drums, congas or tumbadoras and bata drums.
For the international dance competitions, taking place in Casino and Rumba, the call is open for all ages – as in the percussion competitions – and will be in pairs, with the exception of Columbia. As for the events of Casino, in all cases, the music must be genuinely Cuban.
Finally, Piloto thanked the Cuban institutions that have made the Festival possible, such as the Centro Nacional de la Música Popular, the governing body of the meeting, the Ministerio de Cultura and the Instituto de la Música, as well as the sponsors, among them Cubaron, Sabian, Kosa-Cuba, Gon Bops, Grupo Palco Aquarian Drum Heads, Ludwig, Evans, Regal Tip, Paradiso agency and CubaPlus magazine.