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Cuba 50 is supported by the
Cuban Ministry of Culture, Cuban Embassy, ComoNo, Music Fund for Cuba, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Unison, Unite, Thompsons Solicitors, Cuban Tourist Board and business, community and cultural organisations based in the UK and Cuba.

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Cuba50 logo thanks to Phill Pennington, image used in logo thanks to James Sparshatt

news item

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Cuba50 in all its glory at Victoria Park

by: Jane Cornwell, Evening Standard

Welcome to Paradise read the banner over Hackney's Paradise Gardens, ­ and for aficionados of Cuban music it was. The inaugural event in the Barbican's Dance Nations series kicked off with cha-cha-cha lessons in the Spiegel Tent, then went outside to strut its stuff.

Three bands, old and new: Leeds-based Charanga del Norte were an ensemble of Latin-loving northerners that included a cellist from the Liverpool Philharmonic. Their blend of European classical music and African rhythms sparkled in the afternoon sunshine, buoyed by founder Sue Miller's ubiquitous flute.

From Cuba's east came the all-male Changüi Guantanamo, bird-calling and güiro-scraping in their matching shirts. Masters of rural changüi music, a languid yet upbeat style featuring bongos, tres guitar and the marimbula bass-box, they sang of the countryside and improvised a couple of solos.

Dancing is as much as part of changüi as anything else; the group's very own dance duo slid, shimmied and twirled in harmony with the flamenco-flecked tres and bongosero Andrés Fisto Cobas's sinewy percussion.

A sea of paper Cuba50 flags underlined that this was a mini-event, belonging to and yet separate from the free, family-friendly Paradise Gardens festival transforming the rest of Victoria Park.

Cuba50 tips its flat cap to the music nurtured by the island's half-century-old revolution; the legendary Orquestra Aragon, however, are in their 70th year and still rolling like a well-oiled machine. Here was salsa, charanga, cha-cha-cha ... And down in the crowd, all four members of Changüi Guantanamo dancing and shaking maracas.

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