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los Munequitos de Matanzas

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Los Mu–equitos De Matanzas

Founded in 1952 as Guaguanco Matancero in Matanzas, a city 60 miles east of Havana on Cuba's north coast, Los Mu–equitos have long been the island's foremost exponents of rumba--a highly rhythmic voice-and-percussion style that's been used as both religious and secular music. Their program at the MCA, which kicks off the group's fourth U.S. tour, will feature one set from each context. Although Los Mu–equitos only began performing the music of Santeria (the predominant Afro-Cuban religion, a mix of West Africa's Yoruban culture and Catholicism) a decade ago, the first portion of their program will nevertheless be filled with pieces in which complex polyrhythms, soulful leads and chanted backing vocals, and elaborate dance routines combine seamlessly to celebrate different orishas, or African deities, from Chango, god of thunder and lightning, to Babalu-Aye, god of sickness and healing. Unlike many folkloric groups, which portray moribund traditions for historical or nostalgic reasons, Los Mu–equitos remain vital because Santeria still thrives today--not only in the Caribbean but across the Afro-Cuban diaspora. The second part of the performance will focus on the secular, with examples of all three rumba styles. The oldest is yambu, a style played on wood boxes and meant for slow dancing. Columbia is the fastest and most complicated, and usually accompanies acrobatic dancing by a single male, often with machetes. Guaguanco, which provided the group's original name and its earliest material, is a more contemporary style that lends its rhythms to salsa. Friday, 8 PM, and Saturday, 3 and 8 PM, theater, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-397-4010. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Cynthia Caris.

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