Hans Werner Henze - El Cimarrón (Part 1 of 2)

Recorded Live on 1st December 2013 at Islington Mill, Salford

Kelvin Thomas - baritone
Conrad Marshall - flutes & percussion
Tom McKinney - guitar & percussion
Tim Williams - percussion


...the Caribbean model of the fugitive is the runaway slave, the cimarrón... The adjective cimarrón, which was used to designate wild cattle, was applied first to the Indian and then to the Negro. - Antonio Ben¡tez-Rojo

My interest in El Cimarrón began during a conversation with Hans Magnus Enzensberger in about 1968, when we were discussing the difficulties of writing political songs which could go beyond or circumvent the achievements of Eisler, Weill and Dessau. At that time, the most likely solution to the problem seemed to me to be a cyclic form, from the rich possibilities of which, perhaps, something new would emerge. On this occasion Enzensberger told me about the Cuban publication of the autobiography of an old black, Esteban Montejo, who was living in Havana and had recalled his youth as a slave. Enzensberger suggested this subject for my experiment.

The preparations included making the personal acquaintance of Esteban Montejo, the Cimarrón himself. Miguel Barnet introduced me to him. I had never seen such an old man. He was then 107 years old, tall as a tree, walked slowly and upright, his eyes were lively, he radiated dignity and seemed well aware that he was a historical personage. I could barely understand his Creole; Barnet interpreted. He told stories of the cimarroneria, and his sexual life which must have ben unusually promiscuous. His speaking voice had that melodious quality that seems constantly about to break into song. Our visit lasted about two hours, during which time Esteban smoked one cigar after another. Then the dinner bell sounded and the veterans (of the Cuban war of independence) gathered in the dining room, while a single table was laid on the terrace for Esteban, who had not learned to eat in company. (I recognized some of the old men from the ICAIC film reconstruction of the battle of Mal Tiempo.)

From Music and Politics, by Hans Werner Henze

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