Created in 1945 by the legendary tres player, Chito Latamblet, Grupo Changüí de Guantánamo, a group of five musicians and two dancers, have maintained the changuisera tradition. Under the leadership of bongosero Fisto Cobas, they perform throughout Cuba and have become international ambassadors of Changüí.
In 1989, they participated alongside Compay Segundo and Cuarteto Patria at the Smithsonian festival in Washington.
Founded by Diógenes Manfarrol Medrano on December 24th, 1999 in the patio of Santiago de Cuba’s Bacardi Museum, Changüí Santiago began performing in all local events and soon after found its way to some of Cuba’s top music festivals such as the Cubadisco International Record Industry Fair.
The ensemble also participated along with other 70 Cuban bands in the longest son concert party ever held, which took place in Havana for a period of 342 hours (registered in the Guinness World Record Book).
Changüí Santiago has shared the stage with prestigious Cuban musicians such as Adalberto Alvarez, Pancho Amat and Cándido Fabré.
Musically, Changüí Santiago takes pride in playing the Changüí genre, following extensive research, as it was in its heydays back in the early 20th century.
The band uses the original, seemingly rudimentary yet amazingly effective instruments: the bongo de monte criollo, the marimbula (the rural Cuban bass: a square box with a resonance hole on a side and seven metal straps. Looks like a large thumb harp), the guayo (originally a home made coconut grater), the maracas, the botija (an old clay vase previously used to store oil; turned into a wind instrument after opening a hole on one of its sides) and the tres.
Changüí Santiago also plays Changüí songs in combination with later urban musical genres such as the yambú and the rumba. Other genres also making the band’s repertoire are: the Negún, the Kiribé, the Sucu sucu and the Son Montuno, among others.
The dance side of Changüí is introduced by the band’s dance duet; rendering in each performance and along with the music, a faithful depiction of the atmosphere of the parties held in Yateras in the early 20th century.
Cuban changüí from an unexpected place, East Los Angeles in California. The five-piece band Changüí Majadero fell in love with this rural form of Cuban music that mixes the Spanish poetic and guitar traditions with African-rooted light percussion and call and response vocals.
The band is led by Mexican American guitarist and tresero Gabriel Garcia. Garcia fell in love with the music of Grupo Changüí Guantanamo, Cuba’s leading changüí ensemble. Gabriel Garcia eventually traveled to Guantánamo Cuba where he met one of the founding members of Grupo Changüí Guantanamo. “I fell in love with the culture, the people, the music,” says Garcia.
Most of the tracks on the self-titled album, Changüí Majadero , are traditional songs from the Guantanamo area although one composition, “Changüí Pa Ayotzinapa,” is an original song with the spirit of a Mexican corrido in a changüí form, appealing for justice for the 43 murdered Mexican students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College who “disappeared” in Iguala, Guerrero.
The lineup on Changüí Majadero includes Gabriel Garcia on tres and vocals; Alfred Ortiz on vocals and maracas; Norrell Thompson (from Puerto Rico) on vocals and guayo; George Ortiz on bongo del monte; and Yosmel Montejo on bass. Guests: Eddy Ortiz on guayo; Martha Gonzalez on vocals; Feliciano Arango on bass; Carlos Sanchez on vocals and trumpet; Calixto Oviedo on drums; Roberto Lopez on bass; and Joey de Le.
Changüí Majadero is a stirring album by a band passionate about changüí, a style that deserves wider recognition.