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Cuba's Los Munequitos de Matanzas captivates Symphony Space

MISANI Special to the AmNews | 5/27/2011, 1:42 p.m.
Cuba's Los Munequitos de Matanzas captivates Symphony Space

It's been a long time coming. However, at long last, Cuba was in the house. And the house was packed on Friday, May 6 (the second of three evenings) when everybody came to celebrate Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Cuba's foremost ambassadors of culture. Their last appearance in America was in 2002, so New York made it a top priority to be at the Peter Norton Symphony Space at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

The fans came from everywhere: the Lower East and West sides, El Barrio, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. People came from New Jersey and Philadelphia, while others traveled from Connecticut and Boston. Talk about diversity! And celebrity, like the distinguished Mr. Harry Belafonte! He was in the house for the culturally enriching evening presented by the World Music Institute and produced by Mapp International Productions.

Symbolically titled "Tambor de Fuego en Homenaje a los Ancestros" ("Drum of Fire in Tribute to the Ancestors"), the showstopping, two-hour concert was spellbinding. Part one of the evening focused on the rit- ual rhythms, songs and dances of the Afro-Cuban folkloric heritage, such as Yoruba, Brikamo, Kongo, Arara and Iyesa. Part

Los Munequitos de Matanzas two highlighted the inimitable "Cuban Rumba" that included the Yambu, Guaguanco and Columbia. The exhilarating fte closed with Carnival rhythm Conga Matancera.

Helmed by the acclaimed director-dancer Diosdado Ra- mos, the phenomenal Los Munequitos de Matanzas included Barbaro Ramos, dancer; Luis Cancino, singer; Agustin Diaz, salidor (conga); Eddy Espinosa, tumbadora, quinto and cajon; Israel Barriel Gonzalez, singer; Reyniel Lopez Gonzalez, singer; Freddy Jesus and Alfonso Borges, tumbadora-quinto; Jose Andro Mella Bosch, singer; Rafael Navarro "El Nino" Pujada, singer; Ana Perez, singer-dancer; Luis Deyvis Ramos, dancer; Dios- dado Enier Ramos "Figurin," singer-dancer; Vivian Ramos, dancer; and Esther Yamilet Ramos, dancer.

The entertainment aspect of the concert was of the highest caliber. Individually, the musicians, singers and dancers are a strong class apart, crossing effortlessly from the traditional to the modern aesthetics of their craft. As a group, they shine beautifully and are a moving, sensuous force that reflect Cuba's trademark artis- tic brilliance and excellence.

At the same time, the ritualistic components were totally intriguing. From the outset, the sacred flavor of the evening was reflected on the stage, where a small table stood alongside various instruments. On the table was a photograph of a young man, with various home-fashioned dolls around the picture. These images were symbolic of the ancestors who had left this realm for the spiritual one. Guiding the audience through the ceremony, the notes for part one of the program read: "The energy of our ancestors populates the soil of this fertile land. The strength of the offerings bless- es their children."

Through spirited dance and song, devotion was lavished on many of the African Orishas. Among them, Olokun, Yemaya, Oshun, Babalu, Chango, Oya, Oggun, Elegua, Osain, Ochosi, Obbatala and the Eggun. The program's invocation implored: "Pray, pray, pray. Pray. Pray, pray, my brethren, pray, pray for this to be..."