Sometime in the late 90’s, I first saw Grupo Vocal Desandann, a 10-member vocal group of Haitian descendants living in Camaguey Cuba. They played that night at Harbourfront, and I fell in love with their music. However, commercial success and wider critical notice has been sadly a long time in coming.
Despite their alliance with Jane Bunnett and Larry Cramer, and periodic appearances in the Toronto area and around Canada, they were little known. The effective ban on Cuban musicians in the US did not help. In 2009, Bunnett and Cramer recorded what was only the group’s second CD (Pwan Dife), but never seemed to actually put it on sale anywhere.
In 2009 however, they played some shows in the UK, including WOMAD and the Edinburgh Festival. Among those impressed with the group was Peter Gabriel who recorded a CD, Tande-la, them for his Real World label. The group now toured and recorded under another name, Creole Choir of Cuba.
This past weekend, they performed in New York City at the Si Cuba festival, and — not surprisingly — received raves.
New York Times review of the group’s “exhilerating United States debut” Elsewhere, a couple of mini-reviews on Twitter:
- “Best thing I’ve seen in forever. This is passionate and gorgeous”
- “Never seen as many standing ovations as I did tonight for Creole Choir of Cuba at BAM Brooklyn. Phenomenal show!!
I look forward to them returning soon to Toronto.
(Photo taken at Nov. 2007 concert at Holy Trinity Church, Toronto)