The changüí: authentic popular roots

The changüí: authentic popular roots


By Gabriela Santiesteban

Born in the easternmost of the Cuban regions, Guantánamo, the changüí is a musician-dance expression with authentic popular roots, a whole folkloric relic that is revitalized and renewed its validity.

Music, song and dance make up this genre —which musicologists point to as the primal cell of the son—, and it is also synonymous with party, joy and fraternization between families and friends, in endless revelries.

Its origins date back to approximately 1860, from family gatherings in the Guantánamo mountains and neighboring regions during celebrations such as Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and holy days, without there being structured groups then, but rather the music and the party they were spontaneously assembling. Since then and until today, the basic instruments of the changüí are the tres, of Cuban origin and a descendant of the guitar, typical of peasant music and the son; the bongo, the marímbula, the guayo and maracas.

Its time signature is 2 × 4, specialists require, and the songs, generally referring to women, the countryside, domestic, social, political issues ... consist of two sections: the couplet or expression of all the members of the group as a whole, and the montuno, in which a soloist leads the guide and performs improvisations, often very witty, alternating with the chorus that sings the chorus.

Many and relevant have been the cultivators of the changüí throughout its history, during which it has been styling and starring in fusions with genres such as son, jazz, rap and others. Among the outstanding musicians in his promotion and validity is the Guantanamo Elio Revé Matos (1930-1997), who took it to Havana in 1955 and later to the world with his popular orchestra.

There are also many who continue and enrich this musical tradition, such as the group Changüí Guantánamo, whose phonogram Este es Nuestro Changüí was nominated last year for the Latin Grammy in the category of Best Traditional Tropical Album. Due to its cultural and social values, expression of deep-rooted customs and a way of life, the genre is the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation.