Huracán de Fuego
Largely overlooked among African-Latin American roots drumming is Venezuela, whose traditions show strong musical and spiritual affinity with comparable styles of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, Brazil, Panama and Caribbean Central America. Leader Nestor Gutiérrez "El Chivo" left his profession as a Maracaibo zoo keeper to form Huracán de Fuego in 1993, seeking to revive the village-based Angola- and Congo-derived drumming traditions of coastal Venezuela. Collectively, the drums are known as the cumacos, basic to regional dance styles. The rhythmic forms and call-and-response vocals often recall Cuban rumba, as in "No Me Tumba Nadie" ("Nobody Outdoes Me") and "El Dueño de la Rumba" ("The Proprietor of the Rumba").
Also reminiscent of Cuba are the mutual-support chimbanguele brotherhoods of Trujillo and Zuilá, which give their name to the core drum of this tradition. The ensemble also includes the capitán de lenguas (literally, "captain of tongues"), the mayordomo ("steward") and the vasallos ("vassals"), implying the instruments' rhythmic interdependence. Recalling elements of Cuban Santería and Brazilian Candomblé, chimbanguele fraternities dedicate themselves to the worship of San Benito de Palermo, a black saint whose African name is Ajé.
The city of Coro in Miranda state is known for the tambor coreano ("drum of Coro") or tambor de vela ("drum of the wake"), which ensemble also includes the tambor mina, culo'e puya and quiti pía. The latter is a dried bamboo drum which I'd guess is related to nearby Trinidad's tamboo bamboo drumming, a precursor of calypso and steel band music. Such influence is likewise evident in the calypso-tinged tambor baombac of El Callao (often sung in English), and the pujón ("big push") drum. Recalling Puerto Rico's bomba are the pipas de Chuspa, drums made of wine barrels stretched with cowhide skins (check out "Bomba que Bomba," "El Arca de Noé" or the title track to hear the musical kinship). Other strains include the campanas de San Millán, the tambor de caja (box drum) of Chuao, the tambores de gaita or gaita tambora of Lake Maracaibo, and the breakneck mayero beat and chant of Puerto Maya.
Huracán de Fuego's members apply their individual backgrounds in these various traditions, as well as in Venezuela's popular sangueo and parrandas aragueñas ("carousers" of Aragua) styles. This energetic and engaging release focuses on cumaco drumming, but plumbs a variety of rhythmic strands. Vamos a Darle ("Give It Up") also registers the music's cultural affinity with neighboring African-Colombian communities (as in "Rebelión"). Huracán de Fuego promises further explorations of the more complex chimbanguele and other styles, a project to which enthusiasts of African-Latin American percussion can only look forward. - Michael Stone
Listen to some short sound samples at Intuition
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