Guanabacoa, home of the Cuban musical icons – Ernesto Lecuona, Rita Montaner, Bola de Nieve – the legendary composer, writer and actress as well as legendary muscleman Sergio Oliva is what is at the heart of the celebration of music here on Bendita Guanabacoa by the celebrated powerhouse rumba ensemble Hermanos Arango. The family of musicians led by the well-known bassist Feliciano Arango Noa – once a founding member of both Emiliano Salvador‘s group and the celebrated NG La Banda – mesmerise you with both power and the intensity of their music, chants and the densely beautiful harmonies contained within this extraordinary repertoire, which raises the heat with Santeria worship combined with fervid incantations and superbly executed harmonies that soar above a rumbling bed of percussion.
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The frenetic chatter of the component of bàtá, complemented by other viscerally energetic percussion voices is at the heart of this music. While it evokes modern rumba, guagancó and other dance forms arising from trance and religious worship as the sacred and the secular clash with a boom; with loud and twangy guitar and the almighty thump of the bass guitar, this music combines the sacred with the secular in near-equal measure. No matter what the exact measure of fusion, this music is beguiling and hypnotic, and thunders on from one song to the next with unfettered and unceasing power. Through it all, the vocalists Eugenio Arango Noa and Cristina Arango Noa lead the chants and vocals alike with majestic power.
William Tilford, a near-ubiquitous figure in and around Havana, and tireless promoter of Cuban music in continental USA writes illuminating liner notes that tell us just how much dynastic heritage is contained in this musical ensemble – from antecedents that lead back not only to Guanabacoa, but to illustrious Cuban music figures such as Emiliano Salvador, Patato and Totico as well. There is no dearth of virtuosity on the so-called inorganic instruments, such as the electric and bass guitars, and the piano as the performers do battle with the powerful percussion contingent of the ensemble to raise the music to an almighty level.
“Bendita Guanabacoa” and “Ochosi” are equally compelling musically as are the more melodic-driven music of “Inspirado en tu canción” and “Ingrato corazón”. But there’s a lot more going on musically on record and it’s all quite superb. Which is why there is every chance you’ll wonder just what hit you when this music begins and regret its passing once the record comes to an end.
Track list – 1: Nuestro Barrio; 2: Bendita Guanabacoa; 3: Ibbú Kolé; 4: Agua que va a caer; 5: Ochosi; 6: Inspirado en tu canción; 7: Ingrato corazón; 8: Orula; 9: En el callejón
Personnel – Feliciano Arango Noa: bass, percussion, chorus, lead vocals (2); Eugenio Arango Noa: lead vocals (2, 4, 5, 7 – 9), percussion and quinto; Fernando Arango García: piano, chorus and production; Cristina Arango Noa: lead vocals (1-3, 6); Jesus Ignacio Arango Noa: guitar, lead vocals (2) and chorus; Tusleidy Vega Arango: chorus; Jesus Lara Oviedo: percussion, tambor and bàtá (iyá); Delvis Chamendi Ibarra: tambor, bàtá (itótele); Joshua Lara Ibáñez: tambor, bàtá (okónkolo); Luis Fernando Chavez Piloto: 1st trumpet; Armando Yunior Martinez Ortega: 2nd trumpet; Jose Luis Hernández Núñez: tenor saxophone; Roberto García: trumpet soli (1, 2, 6)
Released – 2019
Label – Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales – EGREM (CD 1624)
Runtime – 53:31