Grupo AFROCUBA de Matanzas

For more information, please call (510)849-2573, Sylvia x16 or Fernando x15


	La Peña Cultural Center presents in an exclusive Bay Area performance
the acclaimed Afro-Cuban percussion, vocal and dance group, AfroCuba de
Matanzas, direct from Cuba on Saturday September 7, 1996, 8 pm at
Zellerbach Auditorium at the University of California in Berkeley.  Ticket
prices range from $16 - 25. Following the Zellerbach performance, there
will be a post-concert dance party with Conjunto Céspedes at La Peña
Cultural Center.  On Friday, September 6, at La Peña, there will be a
special BataRumba party with AfroCuba, the inventors of this unique genre
which fuses the polyrhythms of the Batá drums with those of traditional
rumba, with a bit of Comparsa (or Carnival) rhythms thrown in.  On Sunday,
September 8, AFROCUBA will offer master classes in dance at Alice Arts
CitiCentre Dance Theatre at 1428 Alice Street in Oakland from 12 - 2pm.  A
percussion class with AFROCUBA will be offered from 3:30 - 5:30 pm at La

	AFROCUBA, one of Cuba's most acclaimed folklore groups, performs the
traditional dances, percussion and songs which still flourish as an
integral part of the island's living legacy.  The nineteen member company
was founded in 1957 in the city of Matanzas, known as one of the cradles of
Afro-Cuban folklore.  There, many of the centuries-old African based
traditions have been maintained in their purest form, some existing
presently only in Matanzas.

	AFROCUBA is widely recognized in Cuba and worldwide for their mastery of
the full spectrum of Afro-Cuban folklore, including presentation of certain
genres performed only by them.  The group members are not only top-notch
professional artists, but also practitioners of the religions whose music
and dance they perform.  Their instruments have been painstakingly hand
crafted using centuries-old methods and original materials, making for an
incomparable richness and authenticity of sound.	

	"The group's repertoire contains a wide and complete panorama of the
traditions brought to Cuba by the African slaves, and the results of their
evolution and integration into modern Cuban society", says director
Francisco Zamorra Chirino.  Their shows include music and dance of Lucumí
(Yoruba), Arará (Dahomey), Bantú (Congo), Calabarí, and other African
origins, as well as the more Spanish and Caribbean influenced traditions.
Our goal is to keep the legacy of our ancestors alive, while enriching our
creative interpretation".

 	AFROCUBA's show opens with Eleggua, the Yoruba "trickster" deity of the
crossroads,  accompanied by the ceremonial hourglass shaped Batá drums.
Next, the chekeres(beaded gourds) call in Oshún, the sweet goddess of love
who dramatizes her ability to dance through provocative gestures.  Finally,
Oggun enters, the warrior god of iron who moves with frightening power,
machete in hand.  Here the dancers are accompanied by the complex and
uniquely Matanzan Iyessá rhythm, played on several bells and the special
Iyessá drums.

	Closely related to the Yoruban deities, those of the Arará pantheon dance
to their own distinct rhythms, distinguished by a strong yet fluid movement
of the shoulders.  Afrekete is the ocean goddess whose majestic, maternal
presence is marked by her whirling blue and whit skirts.  Jebiosso is the
god of fire, lightning, and virility, sexy and boastful, whose mastery of
dance is apparent in his forceful yet supple movements.  Aluá, the god of
sickness and healing, makes a dramatic entrance crawling and trembling
before he slowly transforms from a cripple into an upright warrior in the
presence of his circle of devotees.

	The Bricamo (another Matanzas tradition) is a ritual dance where
participants cleanse themselves and their surroundings with  branches of
green leaves.  The powerful presentation of the Abakúa, and all-male
religious society, opens with a magnificent acapella section.  Slowly the
drums begin, and a dancer leads in the Ireme, the impressive masked dancers
who represent the guardian ancestral spirits of the cult.  The group's
riveting depiction of the Congolese-based Palo alternates between
handclapping acapella invocation of the spirit of the nganga (magic pot)
and lighting speed drumming with martial-like dances, climaxing in a frenzy
of movement and sound.

	Influenced by Spanish flamenco, the secular Rumba also draws heavily on
African roots, but is unique to Cuba.  AFROCUBA presents the three
variations of Rumba.  The Yambu is played on wooden box drums known as
cajones, highlighted by the elegantly sensual movements of the dancing
couple.  The Guaguanco, a flirtatious parody of the mating ritual, is a
wonderful interaction between the competitive spirits of two dancers.  The
woman, prancing seductively, must deflect the "vacunao", the symbolic
gesture of sexual possession.  The Columbia, a competitive solo dance for
men is a raw display of masculine prowess characterized by sharp athletic
movements and precise interplay between the dancer and lead drummer.  The
rousing, musically spectacular finale ends with the famous "BataRumba".

	AFROCUBA has performed extensively to great acclaim throughout Cuba and
worldwide, including Angola, Zaire, Finland, Italy, Brazil, England and the
United States.  In 1989 they mesmerized audiences at the Smithsonian
Institute's Folk Life Festival in Washington DC.  In Cuba in 1991, they
wowed the public with their theatrical "Batá opera" based on the legends of
Oya, Yoruban warrior goddess of the winds.  They have several recordings,
most recently "Rituales Afrocubanos" (1993 EGREM, Cuba), and "Oyelos de
Nuevo" (1994 QbaDisc, recorded in 1968 under the group name "Folklore
Matancero").  In February 1996 AFROCUBA recorded six pieces with Steve
Coleman at the Havana Jazz Festival.  These pieces which mix odd-metered
jazz and hip hop vocals with polyrhythmic Afro-Cuban rhythms will appear on
a Steve Coleman recording on the BMG label later this year.  In addition, a
compilation of AFROCUBA's work will appear on the Xenophile label this

	For over six years, La Peña Cultural Center with the support of the
California Arts Council has offered free workshops in Afro-Cuban music and
dance.   La Peña has been nurturing the growth of interest in Afro-Cuban
culture in the Bay Area by promoting practitioners of Afro-Cuban music and
dance both from the Unite States and Cuba.  Since the U.S. imposed a
blockade on Cuba in 1960, very few Cuban performing groups have been
allowed to enter the United States.  Seeing AFROCUBA is a rare opportunity
to view and learn from people who are not normally permitted to travel to
the United States.

Opening for AFROCUBA will be a world premiere of the Iya Mile String
Quartet, performing orisha songs arranged for violin, viola, cello and
chekere, directed by Guillermo Céspedes.	Tickets will be available at La
Tienda at La Peña (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley 510-849-2215); Zellerbach
Hall at the UC Berkeley Campus (charge by phone 510-642-9988), Round World
Music (593 Guerrero St., San Francisco), Discolandia (2964 24th St., San
Francisco) and at all BASS Ticket Outlets.  Workshop, BataRumba and
post-concert dance party tickets will only be available at La Peña's store,
La Tienda.

Check AfroCuba de Matanzas in the Web :

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Last Modified: August 13, 1996       Copyright©Mary Overby