The ‘Guarandinga’ Across Cuba

by Irina Echarry, photos: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 4 — If you see a tractor or a truck with a roofed flatbed with seats in tow go by, don’t be surprised – it’s a “guarandinga,” which are a widely used means of transportation in rural areas here in Cuba.

But if you hear laughter, music and singing, then you’ve found Rita del Prado and duo Karma giving one of their traveling performances, which are also called “La Guarandinga.”

Welcome to a musical tour of the island through their songs and games. A universe of words and rhythms opens up to those who attend their concerts that are constantly on the move.

Cha-cha-cha, sucu sucu, son, jazz, blues and mambo are some of the styles that accompany their riddles and that are used to exchange everything from words and meanings to simply food recipes.

On Saturday, January 12, La Guarandinga parked at the “Alba House of Culture” in Havana. Several families were there to find Eduvijes, who hides his voice and lights, and when he wakes up in the morning discovers that everything is backwards; or they could find a little purple riding hood who goes through the woods on a bicycle; or a vegetarian wolf planting seeds.

In the first performance in 2012, Rita, Xochitl and Fito invited the audience to look for clouds and wished for a year full of their dreams to come true. They allowed us to hear a dialogue between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in which the slow moving knight sees a big wheat field and the squire replies that it is his public.

At one point they called the children to come closer and play “very slowly because we are the owners of time and we can’t step on your shoes.” Young and old alike sang while pretending to be monkeys or giants, and learning how to make a delicious rice and beans dish while getting their tongues twisted trying to keep up with the gobbledygook words and sayings.

Interacting with La Guarandinga is a journey through the musical culture of the island – a journey flowing with tenderness and learning.

Since guarandingas are always in motion, on any day we might be surprised by the neighborhood in which they turn up. So, if you see them… “let them go down / let them go up / La Guarandinga / all across Cuba.”

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