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The Black Roots of Salsa. A documentary film.

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cinema, music Add comments

The Black Roots of Salsa is a new documentary on Cuba’s rumba life, currently in post-production. As you can see below, the preview is stunning, so I caught up with its director and Zürich native, Christian Liebich, and he kindly agreed to explain what his film is about and what his plans are….

AHR: I understand that this film has not yet been released. What is it about, exactly?

CL: The movie is about the Black Roots of Salsa and the Evolucion of Rumba. It covers not only the musical aspects of this heritage but also dancing and the lived experience. It shows a complex culture through the lens of certain families who live their tradition and inherit them through the generations. The film starts with the state of contemporary Rumba, as shown by young practitioners in Havana. It also covers some of the genre’s history in its three variants: Yambu, Guaguancó and Columbia. As a non-religious manifestation, Rumba was accessible to a broad audience. Nonetheless its roots are set inside Afro-Cuban religions imported from Africa, namely the Abakua, Congo and Yoruba, all of which are covered in the documentary.

The film also addresses the history of Son, which received the ‘Clave’ from the Rumba, as well as the influence of both son and rumba in timba. Most of the material is shot in Habana, but there are some takes from Yoruba Andabo’ shows in Paris, Geneva and Madrid. Rumba culture is not just lived in the streets, it’s presented in theatres in Cuba and abroad.

AHR: Is this a full-length documentary? is it finished? Do you have a distributor? what are your plans for it?

CL: The editing is finished and the film is over two hours long (2″7′). We still do not have any distributor. We have submitted it to the New York International Latino Film Festival, which will take place in August 2010, but at this time we still do not know if it will be selected. Our hope is to premier it in NYC, and then screen it at Film and Salsa festivals everywhere possible, and then release it on DVD.  Currently subtitles are available in English, Spanish and German, working on French, Italian and Japanese.

AHR: How did you become interested in rumba and what prompted you to do this documentary?

CL: I am a passionate Timba dancer and am fascinated by the complexity of Afro-Cuban culture. I was lucky to find very interesting characters like, mainly, Adonis Panter Calderon, who is producing the documentary with me.  We started working together in this film in 2004. I am married to Ismaray Chacon ‘Aspirina’ who is the granddaughter of Luis Chacon ‘Aspirina’ and is deeply connected with her culture.

AHR: Is this your first film?

CL: I started with a handy cam in 2004 in Cuba. In 2007 together with my good friend Virna Hernandez, we did a film about a kids’ project entitled “La Rumba No Va a Morir” about a music and dance group led by Adonis Panter Calderón’s cousin Natividad Calderon Fiallo. That DVD is now in process. I have a Youtube channel with over sixty short clips.

The film is still looking for funders. For more information, you may download the production’s portfolio HERE or contact Christian Liebich.

17 Responses to “The Black Roots of Salsa. A documentary film.”

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  2. César el Loco Says:

    Hernández: Pírate de esta página medio comunista y crea un nuevo espacio libertario. Tú no eres una yumita izquierdosa.

  3. M.I. Says:

    why emphasize race division in the title? What about Amado ‘el gordo’, the director of Clave y guaguancó. He’s a white boy! The whole point of African stuff in Cuba and the Americas was to diffuse it to people of all heritages, making it a global thing. It is an unfortunate ‘colonial mentality’ to reify race and therefore focus on difference. The whole point of the music and culture is to bring people of any heritage together, and many whites have made stellar contributions as babalochas, iyalochas, babalawos, musicians . . . “

  4. Christian Liebich Says:

    Reply to M.I.:
    It looks like you do not get the point! You are white!? what do you need to defend? About Amado, he might be white, but the history we are talking about started way before he was born, so? We are talking about a pride of those who lived their culture discriminated by white colonialists, so please do not get confused! The ones who are responsible for the heritage are to often excluded from the talks and events where their culture is presented in an evolved way as they call it (Salsa wave), but it is not evolved, it is reduced and we put our words on against the reduction! Do you need to compete with those who suffered and steel from them? I do not need to and as a white European I respect the cultural fortune.
    The documentary is not dedicated to religions, even if they are shown in theater-events under the curtain of culture, so I will not respond to your other arguments!
    Who are you? You do not have a name or are you the brother of E.T.?

  5. Christian Liebich Says:

    Reply to Cesar el Loco:
    Your name tells about your conditions! Estas Loco o te haces el loco?
    No te confundes que la cultura no es la politica y nadie aqui habla de politica! Tus palabras son palabras de un frustrado que no interesan a nadie!

  6. ismaray Says:

    Respuesta a cesar el loco…..

    Mira estas muy equivocado si crees que porque tu lo dices nos vamos a pirar de la pagina…
    Primeramente no eres nadie para decirlo ademas no se porque todo lo mezclas con la política!!!!
    Que te quede bien claro a ti y a todos aquellos que escriban con una idea política, que este documental no habla en ningún momento de política sino de de la cultura!!!!!
    Pero claro eres tan cerrado y anticuado que no puedes ver el nivel cultural del documental.
    No me importa si eres de la izquierda, de la derecha o ambidiestro!!!!!
    Ubicate en tiempo y espacio y dale a escribir tus estupideces a otro lado..
    Estoy cansada que gente como tu lo mezclen todo con la política.
    Soy cubana y con mucho gusto estoy orgullosa de la cultura de mi pueblo así que mas vale que apuntes para otro lado ok!!!!!

  7. Isabel Alfonso Says:

    Señores y señoras, no se dejen provocar por la mediocridad. Esta es una pagina seria, guiada por una académica seria. Cesar, tu estilo pega más con Diario de Cuba o con los blogs cyber chancleteros sobre Cuba. Ariana, sigue brindando calidad, que la gente te sigue.

  8. ariana Says:

    Solo me resta agradecer a todos los comentaristas por su pasión. Gracias.

  9. Crazy Caesar Says:

    How can you say this site is not on Politics with that picture of the Rosarian asthmatic butcher at the right of the headline? Is true, Politics is something more open, more participative. It’s not on Politics, it’s definitely comunist.

  10. Jamie Scott Says:

    Oh!!! This movie looks so exciting. I would love to see it to learn more about African culture, dancing, rumba — most of all — to learn about fellow human beings and how they congregate musically. I hope you can find a way to get it released. And I hope the conversation does not fall away into a black/white thing. Can your movie provide a way for us to expand our understanding of each other, and not an excuse for fighting?

  11. Luc Delannoy Says:

    I would like to congratulate the director of this film; what I’ve seen, and it is not much, just the clip, looks and sounds fantastic. It is full of passion. I am looking forward to seeing it soon. Again, thank you. All the best.

  12. Kylie Batt Says:

    Просто Блеск…

    AHR: I understand […….

  13. The Black Roots of Salsa Says:

    […] EtnoCuba has a post on a Swiss director Christian Liebich’s documentary on the black roots of salsa: […]

  14. manolo blahnik 2010 Says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, do not let yourselves be provoked by mediocrity. This is a serious site, guided by a serious academic. Cesar, more your style beats Cuba Journal or cyber chancleteros blogs on Cuba. Ariana, continues to provide quality, people will follow.

  15. Debt Recovery Says:

    This appears to be an interesting documentary, which could provide us with a better understanding about Cuba with respect to The Black Roots of Salsa. This should be an educational experience. Maybe you could offer the DVDs on your site at some future time.

  16. Julio-Debate popular Says:

    Very good video, I think that the summary tells you interesting enough key rumba and Cuban salsa base.
    Not because discussed above. Greetings.

  17. dann Says:

    Any news about the release of this movie on DVD?

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