We Are Going to Win, With the Blessing of Ancestors

We Are Going to Win, With the Blessing of Ancestors
Fecha de publicación: 
3 February 2024
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They arrived at Los Lucas gala without certainties, the Cubadisco experience, where they were  nominated, but not awarded, had brought a certain discouragement, however, this story would be different: in the category of traditional and folk music, the winning video was Vamo’ a Vencer from the Nsila Cheché Spiritual Songs Dance Music Folk Group.

Yes, of course you must remember it perfectly, because it was the subject of the campaign for Cuban Culture Day, with all the optimism of a spiritual song that touches the national soul, because it tells us what we need to hear in difficult times: Vamo’ a Vencer.

With Juan Manuel Montoto, director of Nsila Cheché, we spoke:

What did this recognition mean to you?

“This award invites us to be better every day, to keep working, to keep defending tradition, identity and the Cuban nation, because what we’re doing is rescuing these spiritual songs, that’s the reason, so that they are heard, because they are part of the traditions of the Cuban people and we are going to  continue defending spiritual songs with great humility and patience.”

How long have they been doing this work?

“On March 16 we will turn 12 years old, we were founded at the Eduardo Gómez Luaces Museum  in Regla municipality. I wanted to make a group of spiritual songs, nothing more, not rumba music, not folklore, because since I was a child, in the 70’s, my mother, may she rest in peace, in Buena Vista neighborhood, took me all Fridays to mass in 68 street, in old Castro's house and there they started around 6:00 p.m. and ended around midnight with spiritualists of that time in Buena Vista and these spiritual songs were sung and they stuck with me. I grew up, I did other things, until in 2012 I was given the opportunity to create this group with a few musicians who came from the group Los Nanis, which also had this repertoire.”

Is it focusing only on spiritual songs limiting a bit the scope of the repertoire?

 “I think not, because there are thousands of songs from Punta de Maisí to Cabo de San Antonio. They are songs of oral tradition, but the rhythmic base is almost rumba, so I think that in that sense it does not limit us because they have a contagious, Cuban rhythmic base... on the other hand it leads us to a deep investigation, I was talking with Maira Lay, who made a recently studied on spiritual songs in the country and we are still investigating.”

Do the members of Nsila Cheche come from groups that carry this tradition?

“Most of them, yes. They all have been evaluated as professional musicians, but they are bearers, who bring this tradition from their neighborhoods, from their families, that seed is very important, knowing it and  feeling it, these musicians feel and defend with their hearts what they’re doing.”

What project are you developing right now?

“We are recording our first album in Studios 18 of EGREM, it's going to be called Vamo' a Vencer and we think it will have 10-12 songs, "Possibly it’s a CD and DVD, with the video clip of precisely this track."

Among so many songs, how did you select the ones to include on the album?

“We have chosen the songs that are most deeply rooted, that people feel most, for example, Vamo a Vencer, El Niño de Atocha, Ma Francisca, Ta José, Santa Maria and we also put a trilled and a makuta, because we want to give our all full information on what the spiritual songs cover.”

What is a trilled and a makuta?

“The trilled is a song from Palo Monte, it’s a bit stronger, it’s sung in Bantu language during the ceremonies. The makuta was played in the town halls to the spirits on religious holidays then you can dance, it's more contagious".

Expectations, dreams...?

“Finishing our album and having a company that sponsors us, that understands us, we want to work and show our art to the Cuban people, have a club and that the effort the Ministry of Culture sometimes makes to defend identity, our cultural roots are not lost because of bureaucracy that later don’t want to promote this type of cultural expressions”.
Faith is constant among the musicians of Nsila Cheche and with it they face challenges, create, dream and work to keep taking steps forward, meanwhile, they thank the Ministry of Culture and especially the Minister Alpidio Alonso, who opened the possibility of making the video clip from Let's Win. Montoto also wants to thank the Director of Casa de África, Alberto Granados for his support, as well as the director of the videoclip Onelio Larralde and the team 4 - films.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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