Cuban tunes to live on in Birmingham’s new jazz venue

Paul Booth and the AC band

The recent 2017 Coda Festival saw the much anticipated debut of the BCU Afro Cuban Band – just before saying goodbye to our iconic Brutalist home at Paradise Place.

Birmingham Conservatoire

Birmingham City University

Our Percussion & Jazz Departments joined hands in presenting music focused on carnival music from Cuba. The resulting large ensemble performed styles including Mozambique, comparsa and conga.  It also featured special guests saxophonist Paul Booth, Andrew Bain (Senior Lecturer in Jazz) and Sophie Hastings (Head of Rhythm and World Percussion) whose collective input was invaluable in facilitating the group’s understanding and feel for the timing of the music whilst helping the rhythmic language to develop. The energy of the show channelled the commitment and stamina of Cuban musicians and got most of the audience dancing on the hottest day of the year in a room with no air conditioning. Very Cuban! 

BCU Afro Cuban band- conga

The arrangements were faithfully transcribed from the classic recordings of Pello El Afrokan, Eddie Palmieri and Jesus Alemany by Paul Booth and included:

  • Mozambique International (Pello El Afrokan)
  • Aprovecha (Jesus Alemany)
  • Chucho Carabali (Caravana Cubana)
  • Tumbao A Peruchin (Alfredo Rodriguez)
  • Homanaje A Arcano (Jesus Alemany)
  • Sube (Eddie Palmieri)
  • Descarga De Hoy (Jesus Alemany/Alfredo Rodriguez)
  • Chambelona (Israel Lopez)

Having already completed an exchange programme to Brazil in 2016 and a Cuban batá drumming course in Spain in 2017, the percussion students are delighted now to have this band in which to apply their skills.

Looking ahead, the newly formed Afro-Cuban Band is to take up a monthly Friday night residency at Birmingham Conservatoire's brand new venue, Eastside Jazz Club. Future projects will look towards collaborations with some of Cuba's most experienced musicians and dancers to provide a first-hand account of how the music is played today and to highlight how tradition and contemporary approaches differ. 

The tables will be cleared for dancing so bring on your best salsa moves!

Image credits: Upstream Photography

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