In Guantánamo, changüí means party. The very word changüí is derived from the Congolese word for party and it’s easy to hear why: This living musical tradition is a joyful bundle of hooks, riffs and foot-stomping choruses played for the sole purpose of celebration, togetherness and inclusivity. CHANGÜÍ – The Sound Of Guantánamo, a 3-CD box set from Petaluma Records, is the first comprehensive collection of changüí music and intimate photographs, bringing a rarely documented living culture and its people out from the shadows. Petaluma’s world-wide release date is May 14, 2021.
It has been stated many times, that Cuban culture starts East and moves West, and Guantánamo Province is just about as far East as you can go. This area is the source of much of the Cuban music we’re familiar with.
Independent producer and music journalist Gianluca Tramontana, whose roots music expertise has been featured in numerous pieces for MOJO Magazine, Rolling Stone, NPR and BBC, has been visiting Cuba since the 1990s. On one trip in 2017 to the Guantánamo Province, he observed that of the precious little documentation there is of changüí, almost nothing had been recorded on location in the countryside or villages where the music continues to be performed, danced to, and enjoyed to this day. Through 2019, Tramontana spent several months in this area of Cuba that’s mostly known for its geo-political issues and immersed himself in a largely overlooked 150-plus year-old culture of rural, riff-based, mostly improvised music. He traveled around Guantánamo capturing the music of changüiseros from the mountainous areas of Yateras, where changüí is said to have been born, to Guantánamo City, where it drifted in from the mountains in the early 1900s.
Back in New York, Tramontana shared some of the recordings with an old friend and colleague, four-time GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Steve Rosenthal. Rosenthal, known for his archival and restoration work of Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie and Les Paul, immediately recognized that Tramontana’s digital recordings were special — that they managed to capture the energy and excitement of the festivities happening in areas of the country not often explored. “Gianluca spent months in the countryside getting to know the people of the Guantánamo province,” producer Rosenthal points out, “so the musicians were completely at ease. We’re listening to a real snapshot of a unique gathering which makes any listener feel like they’re actually there.”
With support from Petaluma Records, mix engineer Ed McEntee and three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning mastering engineer Michael Graves worked with Rosenthal and Tramontana to complete the production of this 50 track, 3 CD collection, curated from well over 200 recordings made in Guantánamo. GRAMMY® Award-winning graphic designer Barb Bersche created the physical design and layout for the packaging and the extensive booklet that accompanies this extraordinary box set, CHANGÜÍ – The Sound Of Guantánamo.
“I fell in love with Cuba, its people and its music long before making the Buena Vista Social Club with Ry Cooder. The country, from Punta de Maisí in the East,to Maria la Gorda in the far West, the country has so much to offer that even after close on 30 years of traveling through the island, I feel I’ve only touched the surface andthere is so much music to hear. This glorious set is a case in point. The Guantánamoregion has so much culture to discover. Many musicologists consider changüí thepredecessor of the ‘son’ we recorded on Buena Vista Social Club and I can hear it too.”— Nick Gold, Executive Producer of Buena Vista Social Club
“If music be the fabric of life in the rest of Cuba then Changüí is existence itself.It’s as if guantanameros were created solely for the purpose of sharing in the music ofChangüí, to the betterment of the rest of the world”— Arturo O’Farrill, Founder of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra