CubAyiti, Volume 1 (Mini Records MRSD-2001, 1999)
Wow! What a great album! Inspired perhaps by the success of Africando in fusing West African and Latin music, Fred Paul has come up with a similar high quality mélange – Afro-Cuban music à l’haïtienne, or vice versa! The musical links between Cuba and Haiti date back to the 1790s when some French and creole landowners fled the chaos in Haiti (at least today’s mess is faithful to historical traditions!), settling in eastern Cuba with their slaves and music.
The latter evolved into the danzón genre played by the charanga orchestra (notably violins and flute) – the most eminent example being Cuba’s world famous Orquesta Aragón. Haitiando’s seductive appeal is
due to the masterful arrangements of a commendable range of musical selections, and the obvious pleasure in executing them displayed by the excellent musicians on piano, violin, flute, tres, guitar, trumpet, bass, and percussion. Above all, the vocals are superb, especially those of the lead vocalist, whose slightly hoarse voice suggests a lifetime fruitfully spent in bars filled with smoke, flowing with rum, and reverberating with rhythm!
All the names involved – except M. Paul – are new to me. I also never expected to appreciate another version of ‘El manisero’ (peanut vendor). Well, I have really learned something both useful and enjoyable,
and invite TWAS readers to check it out for themselves – while I impatiently await the arrival of Volume 2!.