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Cuban early music group Conjunto de Música Antigua Ars Longa de La Habana performs their New York debut with a program that draws on their 2013 CD “Gulumbá gulumbé. Resonancias de África en el Nuevo Mundo,” which highlights the African presence in Baroque music from the New World. The program, based on research by Guatemalan musicologist Omar Morales Abril, includes several villancicos negros, musical pieces intended primarily for Christmas, as well as poetry, recited by members of the ensemble. Ars Longa hosts the annual international Esteban Salas Early Music Festival in Havana, which brings musicians and ensembles from around the world for concerts and masterclasses.
The arrival in the colonies of large numbers of enslaved African people in the 16th century coincided with a Golden Age of Spanish arts. Poets and musicians frequently adopted phrases, themes, and rhythms from folk culture, making use of the new dialects (called guineos or hablas de negros) created by the African and Afro-descendant population, which are variations of Spanish or Portuguese that incorporate new words and phonemes derived from the slaves’ ancestral languages. The musical genre that represented this trend most prominently was the villancico religioso (religious carol). These compositions were customarily introduced during the Matins services for important festivities of the liturgical calendar. Many of these compositions were set to texts using various guineos. These African-inspired performances included chanting and dances accompanied by drums. Ars Longa’s program draws together these resonances of African cultures captured by the ears and artistic sensibility of poets and composers of villancicos de negros. The compositions represent the community’s rhythms, skills, celebrations, and vitality.
This concert is part of GEMAS, a project of Americas Society and Gotham Early Music Scene devoted to early music of the Americas.
About the artists
Conjunto de Música Antigua Ars Longa de La Habana was founded in Havana in 1994 by Teresa Paz and Aland López and a year later was incorporated into the Office of the City Historian, where they maintain an office in Old Havana. Latin American and Cuban colonial music is the focus of their repertoire. They have toured extensively in Europe performing in festivals in Austria, Croatia, France, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden and in such prestigious venues as the Wiener Konzerthaus in Vienna. In Latin America they have performed in Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela, among others. In addition to promoting the interpretation of early music in Cuba, Ars Longa hosts the annual international Esteban Salas Early Music Festival in Havana, which brings musicians and ensembles from around the world for concerts and masterclasses.