Celebrating roots, resistance and the irresistible rhythms of life, The Creole Choir of Cuba
are appearing on Later … with Jools Holland, Tuesday 18th May and again on Friday the 21st, performing music from their forthcoming album, including ‘Chen Nan Ren’, which was released this week as a digital single through Real World Records.

The Creole Choir’s Cuban name ‘Desandann’ means literally ‘descendents’ and with songs like ‘Tandé’ or ‘Lumane Casimir’ they tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors who were brought to Cuba to work in near slave conditions in the sugar and coffee plantations.  Desandann sing in Creole, Cuba’s second language, spoken by almost a million people, a pragmatic fusion of African, French and other languages. It is the language of a people twice exiled: first to Haiti from Africa through the iniquitous slave trade; then from Haiti to Cuba tricked into second slavery by their French masters after the Haitian Revolution of 1790. Other Haitians arrived in the 20th century fleeing political upheaval, poverty and oppression during the barbaric regime of Papa Doc Duvalier which held power from the 1950s to 70s, marked by reigns of terror and the brutality of his private militia, the Tonton Macoutes.

The choir have just spent two month-long tours in Haiti as part of Cuba’s relief project following the January earthquake. Working in cooperation with the Haitian Cultural Ministry the group ran workshops with children within displaced persons camps as well as performing for the public in specially arranged concerts. The choir’s work in Haiti is testament to their enduring relationship with their spiritual homeland.

This vibrant ten-piece group – five men and five women – are a cornucopia of remarkable voices. They hail from beautiful Camagüey, Cuba’s third city, two thirds down towards the eastern end of the island, designated a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2008 for its colonial architecture where they’ve studied music to university level and are all members of the Provincial Choir, which their leader Emilia directs.  Desandann emerged out of this choir in 1994, a difficult time for Cubans when the economy fell into a black hole after the end of support from the Soviet Union. While times were hard, the singers were encouraged by re-claiming the traditions of their families.  “For us music is like food”, they say, “it feeds the spirit and is a major inspiration for everyday life.”

For more on the Creole Choir click here

So make sure you tune in tonight and Friday and / or catch it on iPlayer – although this is music that must be experienced LIVE so if you get the chance to see them TAKE it!!