Raw Cuban Roots, East LA Grit: Changüí Majadero Brings Cuba’s Rural Country Music to New Ears
Changüí, the granddaddy of salsa, the music of bucolic Caribbean-steeped Eastern Cuba, has a raw intensity and grace that lovers of salsa, jazz, and world music listeners will appreciate. It got into the ear of an LA-born guitarist and grew into Changüí Majadero, a five-piece group devoted to spreading the joys of changüí .
The group’s eponymous debut album, El Changüí Majadero (release: September 16, 2016) adds urban grit to this rural music, the songs played at local parties and festivals, many of which have never been recorded before.
“The beautiful thing about Changüí is the way the rhythm and melodic elements work together,” reflects Gabriel Garcia, guitarist, tresero, and founder of Changüí Majadero. “There are these wonderful African elements in the music, the syncopation of the rhythms, the call and response, but a lot of decimas and quartetos are sung and improvised like in other Latin folk traditions. You can talk about almost any subject, from love to politics, just like the blues.”
Tres arpeggios dance around rock-solid bongos, while the bass plays the role of the marimbula (a large thumb piano-like instrument), adding both drive and harmony to the sound. Soulful vocal harmony, shimmying percussion, and general jubilance make for addictive songs, bringing a youthful energy to this often overlooked, century-old Cuban style.