Singing a different tune for Haiti

Since its founding in 1994, the Creole Choir of Cuba has celebrated their Haitian heritage in song, performing the music of West African ancestors enslaved in the Caribbean. But those laments and celebrations may never have felt quite as immediate as they did last year, when the Choir found itself singing in Port-au-Prince little more than a month after the devastating earthquake that brought Haiti to its knees.

“The effects of the Haitian disaster runs through every performance,” says vocalist and Choir director Emilia Diaz Chavez. “While singing, we are reminded of the destruction from that time and we try to channel that, too. We felt the pain of the disaster firsthand; as our second home, it was a difficult time. However, this suffering will provoke intense creativity and deepen the emotive nature of Haitian music and art, following in the footsteps of Haitian heritage.”

Known in Cuba as Grupo Vocal Desandann, the Choir is making its first-ever Philly appearance at the Painted Bride, although it’s a delayed debut. The Choir was scheduled to appear in January, but visa issues kept them out of the country. Now that they’re finally arriving, the members hope not only to present their gorgeous, spirited vocal music but a new portrait of Haiti itself. “Little is known about Haiti apart from stories of a poverty-stricken, catastrophe-afflicted island,” says Chavez. “With our music, we hope to bring a different, more complex, image of Haiti to light: that of a culturally and artistically vibrant people.”

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