Just when you think you know Cuban music, along comes the Creole Choir of Cuba. This group sprang from the ashes of Grupo Vocal Desandann, a small vocal outfit created in the late 1990s to celebrate traces of Haitian culture in eastern Cuba. That history dates back to the late 18th century, when slaves from Haiti were delivered to Cuba to harvest sugarcane after successful slave revolts in Haiti. A long-lost culture was revitalized by the group through music performed largely a cappella and entirely in Haitian Creole.
As with other forms of music associated with the African diaspora, The Creole Choir of Cuba’s work resonates with songs of resistance and celebration of community life, which offered hope and relief from the bitter realities of slavery.
The choir sings three pieces. And it’s cool the way it is a choir for certain, but that they throw elements into it that are not normally associated with choirs. For “Marasa Elu” their voices are beautiful, with a great bass voice underpinning the soaring lead voice. It’s fairly astonishing that she starts to cry at the end of the song (whether fake or not it’s hard to tell).
“Ayiti Krye” has a different lead singer with a very different voice.–although the rest of the choir still sounds great with her. It comes as quite a surprise about half way through the song when the drums and percussion come in–it really changes the feel of the song and of this choir. Suddenly the piece is a more dancey song, especially as the percussion picks up speed. A guy with a wonderfully raspy voice takes over lead. And the rest of the group really starts to get into it–dancing and singing a beautiful backing vocal that sounds much less like a choir and more like a Cuban dance song.
For “Lumane Casimir” the first singer is back. There are quiet congas keeping the beat. While the backing vocals sound a lot like a choir, the lead singer sounds more like a conventional singer. By the end, they are having a ton of fun and she invites two of the audience members to dance with her (including Felix, the host). And as any music like this should, the end of the song introduces a whistle keeping a beat.
This is a very different kind of choir–at once sacred and fun.
[READ: January 22, 2016] Melvin Monster Volume 3
Last year I really enjoyed the Moomin books which Drawn & Quarterly reprinted. Another artist that D+Q has reprinted is John Stanley. And they have made the appropriately titled The John Stanley Collection. This collection is somewhat confusingly labelled because there are collections of different characters (Nancy, Tubby, Melvin) each with multiple volumes, and it seems like maybe they are supposed to go in a certain order. And really it’s not that hard to figure out once you know the way it works, but it’s a but of puzzle if you see only a few books on the shelf at the library.
These books were originally printed as comic books. This book contains the final Melvin Monster comics. The title page says “Collected from the issues seven to nine of the Dell comic book series” And D+Q has retained that look perfectly. Even the paper that they have used for this beautiful book looks like comic book paper (although it is very heavy stock).
In the first issue of the book, Baddy tries to get Melvin a job as a babysitter. The baby is actually a huge giant which leads to all kinds of amusing scenes of Melvin fleeing from the giant. Although Stanley was never concerned about being PC, the fact that he set his strip in Monsterville certainly allowed him to get a way with a lot of rather un-PC dialogue.
I’m not sure why Stanley only made nine issues (if it was Dell’s decision or his), but there’s a lot of repetition in the premises. Melvin trying to go to the school and Ms McGargoyle not allowing him in is a very common joke. Although in fairness, she does think up many new ways to keep Melvin away.
Little Horror is always a fun character. In this one she does a spell which turns Melvin into a half frog.
There’s a joke about Cleopatra, the family’s alligator, trying to eat him. And the one with Damon constantly giving him bad advice would be funny whether they were monsters or not.
“Blackout” is an interesting strip as it shows Baddy getting ready to watch wrestling –“the first four rows of human bean lady fans armed with cement filled handbags an shish kabob skewers.”
Book 8 opens with “Supermonster” in which a huge monster living nearby is getting ready to destroy Monsterville. And it’s up to Melvin to help out.
I enjoyed seeing him integrating snow into a few of these strips (although not sequentially in any way). There’s a good one that involves digging to the school. There’s a short one that involves Little Horror breaking ice with her high-pitched shriek and another short one with a giant snowball (that I don’t quite get).
Speaking of un-PC, there’s an entire story that involves a Native American totem pole monster–I guess since it’s a monster its okay, although the way it talks is pretty awful.
Book 9 starts with a monster that frightens Baddy. I enjoy that Baddy is actually quite a coward despite his size and demeanor).
Little Horror returns with a broken magic wand which is pretty fun. The punchline where a tiny Baddy is afraid of Mummy is outstanding .
I also really enjoyed the way that McGargoyle got rid of Melvin in the final schoolhouse joke–by having him learn C-A-T and B-A-T and then telling him he graduated. Of course Melvin redefines high school for us all.
The final strip in the book is the one I knew from the D&Q 25th anniversary book. In it, Melvin drinks a potion that turns him into a normal-looking boy. Which would of course freak out the whole family.
I also like that the final pages of this book include all of the original covers from the Dell comics (12 cents each!)
I’m fascinated at the publishing schedule of these issues
Perhaps the most interesting thing of all though is his biography which states that John Stanley “bitterly left comics sometime in the late 1960s never to return.” Woah, I want to hear more about that!
Maybe when I read the Nancy books.