Edited by Azizi Powell
This post presents information about Haitian Cubans and showcases one video each of two Haitian Cuban choirs: Creole Choir of Cuba and La Caridad de Ramón. Selected comments from these videos' discussion threads are also included in this post.
The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and aesthetic purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to these featured choirs for their for musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
INFORMATION ABOUT HAITIAN CUBANS
A Haitian Cuban (Spanish: Haitiano-Cubano, French: Haïtien Cubain, Haitian Creole: Ayisyen Kiben) is a Cuban citizen of full or partial Haitian ancestry.
French, Haitian Creole and culture first entered Cuba with the arrival of Haitian immigrants at the start of the 19th century. Haiti was a French colony, and the final years of the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba. They came mainly to the east, and especially Guantanamo, where the French later introduced sugar cultivation, constructed sugar refineries and developed coffee plantations.
By 1804, some 30,000 French were living in Baracoa and Maisí, the furthest eastern municipalities of the province.
Haitian immigrant workers (1912-1939)
Due to the United States occupation of Haiti, many Haitian peasants left to find work as laborers in neighboring countries like Cuba. These immigrants lived a fine line trying to maintain their Haitian culture and assimilating enough to be able to work and live in a foreign society. In 1937, over 25,000 Haitians were forcibly removed from Cuba and shipped back to Haiti. This different treatment of migrant laborers is due to several factors. Cuban racists beliefs combined with economic concerns were a direct catalyst for this drastic Haitian exodus....
Later, Haitians continued to come to Cuba to work as braceros (hand workers, from the Spanish word brazo, meaning "arm") in the fields cutting cane. Their living and working conditions were not much better than slavery. Although they planned to return to Haiti, most stayed on in Cuba. For years, many Haitians and their descendants in Cuba did not identify themselves as such or speak Creole. In the eastern part of the island, many Haitians continued to suffer discrimination. But according to the Fidel Castro regime, since 1959, when he took over, this discrimination has stopped. After Spanish, Haitian Creole is the second most-spoken language in Cuba where over 300,000 Haitian immigrants speak it. It is recognized as a language in Cuba and a considerable number of Cubans speak it fluently. Most of these speakers have never been to Haiti and do not possess Haitian ancestry, but merely learned it in their communities. In addition to the eastern provinces, there are also communities in Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey provinces where the population still maintains Creole, their mother tongue. Classes in Creole are offered in Guantanamo, Matanzas and the City of Havana. There is a Creole-language radio program."...
INFORMATION ABOUT CREOLE CHOIR OF CUBA
The Creole Choir of Cuba is a Cuban musical group...
The choir was founded in 1994 during the 'Special Period' when the Cuban economy fell into a black hole following the end of the USSR and of Soviet support for the revolution. Food was short while homes and work places often went dark due to lack of electricity. It was at this difficult time that members of the Professional Choir of Camagüey who were descendants of Haitians, decided to re-forge the resistance songs and laments of their forebears. Led by their Choir Director Emilia Díaz Chávez, Grupo Vocal Desandann, as they are called in Cuba, revived the songs of their ancestors for modern times. Desandann literally means 'descendants' and as the choir say: "For us music is like food, it feeds the spirit and is a major inspiration for everyday life".
Songs are sung in creole, Cuba's second language, first created by slaves by fusing words together words from their African languages, the Taíno language of Caribbean indigenous people, with French, Spanish and English. Creole was spoken by the choir's parents, grandparents and great grandparents, people doubly displaced, first from Africa then from Haiti. The first wave of Haitians were brought to Cuba as slaves to work in the sugar plantations of the French aristocracy who fled Haiti after the slave revolts of the 1790s. Subsequent waves of Haitians came to the island during 19th and early 20th century, and again in the 1950s during the brutal dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier. All lived in the countryside in conditions akin to slavery enduring harsh discrimination until the 1959 Revolution brought with it literacy, education and equality...
The Choir have two albums, Tande-La (2011) and Santiman (2013).
These videos are presented in chronological order based on their publishing date on YouTube with the oldest dated video given first.
Example #1: Creole Choir of Cuba - Tande (music video)
The Creole Choir of Cuba, Uploaded on May 6, 2010
Here's information from the video summary of another performance of this song by The Creole Choir of Cuba:
"The Creole Choir of Cuba are called 'Desandann' in their home country which means 'descendants' and with the songs on their forthcoming album 'Tande-La' (a title which translates as 'listen') they tell the stories of their Haitian ancestors who were brought to Cuba to work in near slave conditions on the sugar and coffee plantations.
This live performance of the title track from their album 'Tande-La' was recorded at the 2009 Edinburgh International Festival." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkzPD4_sau0.
Here's a comment from the embedded video's discussion thread:
"The original version of this song is from a Haitian vodou-rock band called "Boukan Ginen". "Tande" means "LIsten". The song is about the search for spiritual enlightenment. "Limyè a se sa nou vle, se sa menm nou mande = the light is what we want, this is what we request"."
Here's a link to a sound file of Boukan Ginen's recording of Tande (Limyè a) = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHIYgIVjXgQ
Click https://dreamsofginen.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/whats-in-a-name/ April 26, 2012, "What’s in a name?" for information about the meaning of the Haitian Creole word "Ginen". Here's an excerpt from that post:
..."Within Haiti, the term “Vodou” was not, until the twentieth century, commonly used to describe the religion as a whole, but only a particular rite and its related dances and drum rhythms...
Haitian Vodou does have an internal name, Sèvis Ginen (Service to Ginen), corresponding to the closest thing one will find in Vodou to an affirmation of faith, the often employed phrase, “Mwen sèvi Ginen” (“I serve Ginen”). The word Ginen (alternately called Gine, nan Ginen, peyi Ginen, Lafrik Ginen, etc.) can be literally translated as “Africa.” The word owes obvious debt to the French word Guinée—the name for the region, the so-called Guinea Coast, from which numerous Africans were deported to St. Domingue (present-day Haiti) as slaves during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, in the context of Vodou cosmology, the Africa of Ginen is different from the continent presently identified by that name, for which a different Kreyòl word, Afrik or Lafrik, is used. Rather, Ginen is the home of the spirits, a forested island residing simultaneously at the bottom of the cosmic waters (anba dlo) and at the backs of mirrors (do miwa). As a living and accessible mythic past of ancestors, heroes and divine spirits, Ginen serves as a vouchsafe for matters of religious practices and belief.
To say that one serves Ginen it to say that one serves the ancestors and spirits that are perceived to come from, and continue to exist in, Ginen. This mythical present-past is a source of limitless spiritual power, in large part because it is seen as the true source of authentic, which is to say right, religious practice—of konesans (spiritual wisdom) and règleman (ritual knowledge). At the same time that Ginen is a past and an eternal present, Ginen is also a sacred future, a place which is longed for, and which one hopes to see someday. All Vodouisants hope eventually to become holy spirits that can dwell in the utopian world of Ginen. For these reasons, Ginen is in some respects comparable to the Christian idea of heaven, the New Jerusalem of the Revelation of St. John, Augustine’s City of God, Aztlan of the Aztecs, and the Dreaming of Aboriginal Australians"...
Example #2: Haiti in Cuba - La Caridad de Ramón
Bartolomesincasas, Published on Jul 28, 2012
"La Caridad" is the folklore ensemble of a group of people of Haitian descendance living in a village called Ramón. It is located in a zone of coffee cultivation within the municipality of Palma Soriana. The hamlet lies above the banks of the Cauto river, which flows from the Sierra Maestre in the eastern part of Cuba. Like the groups "Gagá de Thompsón" and "Gagá de Barranca", "La Caridad" is a "grupo portador" - a safekeeper of Haitian popular traditions in the Cuban context.
The group was founded by the late Tomacito Poll in 1983, and several family members still belong to La Caridad (His son Pochólo -Victor- started another roots-band called "Ibó"). All these bands have links to the Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba. Fundación Interchange and Revista Batey are making an effort to uncover the history of Haitian inmigration and processes of cultural transformation in Cuba. The idea is to publish a book with dvd next year.
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
"Thats haitian creole, for sure :) they are cubans and their ancestors are from haiti, those ladies who were singing and dancing, their father was and Haitian houngan who came from Jacmel Hati. they may have spanish accent when they speak, but believe thats haitian creole, just and old one :)"
"these people are Cuban born with Haitian Ascentry....meaning years ago when Haiti became independent it became a save zone for any runaway slave in the Western Hemisphere ....so that culture is from Haiti and they are speaking Haitian Creole but with a Spanish accent cuz they were born in Cuba not Haiti but they still posses haitian blood. So for you people not familiar making idiotic comments stop it."
"Exactly!!! I afro-cuban and I totally understand, consorte!! :)"
"My husband said it's real kreyol they are speaking and the song says: rele yo pou mwen (calling something to come) voodoo music.. soon as he heard the music he said that lol"
"that's not the same creole as we who stayed in Haiti speaks it's probably overtaken by the spanish interesting the french became second place in the creole it's beautiful bondye beni nou my beautiful compatriots"
"Jesus Raydel Sanchez yo soy haitiano que habla Creole ! y yo entiendo casi todo de lo que estan cantando , el idioma se ha alterado un poco pero todavia se entiende ! viva Haiti viva CUba !"
[translation from Google translate: "Jesus Sanchez Raydel I'm Haitian Creole speaking! and I understand most of what they are singing, the language has changed a bit but still means! Haiti viva viva Cuba!"
"Would love to learn more about my the history of my Hatian ancestors. Also would love to travel to Haiti too. There is so many black people in North America who don't even know who they're descendants of. It's SAD. NO KNOWLEDGE. Especially when you have been robbed of it"
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