Conga de Comparsa

“La Conga” is the Carnival music of Cuba, and dates all the way back to the colonial times when the Spanish colonizers would let the slaves perform their music and dances on specifically designated days, such as  “Los Dias de los Reyes” (All King’s Day). Each “cabildo”,  (ethnic/language group) would represent their music, religion, costumes and so forth on those days, as they paraded down the streets of the city. When the pre-lenten European tradition of Carnival came to the new world,  the Cubans eagerly participated in this annual event, and it remains a major part of Cuban music and culture.  Unlike other countries in Latin America however who retain their Catholic calendar to determine the date of Carnival, Cuba marks the success of Fidel’s revolution with its Carnival celebration.

Just as each “escola de samba” in Rio de Janeiro represents a specific neighborhood, each “comparsa” (group) in a Cuban city represents a particular “barrio”, and has its own name, theme song, costumes, etc. Furthermore, there is no single way to play a “conga”, as each province in Cuba has its own unique style of playing. So although these videos currently focus on the “conga habanera”, we hope to soon post videos on “la conga santiaguera” (from Santiago de Cuba), and “la conga matancera” from Matanzas.

In these videos, we show you the basic parts of a Conga Habanera, as traditionally played in a comparsa in Havana (such as Las Jardineras, El Alacran, Los Dandy’s, and so forth). Of course we don’t have the brass players, but hopefully one day we could put a comparsa together to film for you that would include all the elements—singers, brass, percussion, and dance.