Music academic’s Cuban music dance band takes to the stage in Leeds
Dr Sue Miller, Reader in Music, is musical director of the UK's only full charanga orquesta, 'Charanga del Norte'. Charanga is a traditional ensemble that plays Cuban dance music and Charanga del Norte will perform their New York-style set (with an added guest brass section) at Seven Arts Centre in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, on Saturday 28 October.
The concert marks the launch of the band’s new EP, Charanga Time, recorded and mastered here at Leeds Beckett. BA (Hons) Music Production graduate Paul Brown recorded the songs and Dr Paul Thompson, Reader in Music, mixed them. Finally, Michael Ward, Course Director of the BSc (Hons) Music Technology and BSc (Hons) Audio Engineering, mastered the EP.
Charanga del Norte (Charanga from the North) was set up in 1998 by Sue. The band consists of flute, violins, viola, cello, bass, piano, singers, timbales, congas and güiro. The idea for Charanga del Norte evolved from Sue’s research and study in Havana with veteran Cuban musicians from Orquesta Aragón and the Buena Vista Social Club music scene.
Sue explained: “The new EP, Charanga Time, is designed to tie in with my next book on Latin music in New York (entitled Improvising Sabor: Afro-Cuban Dance Music in New York for University Press of Mississippi) and a full album recording is planned next year to accompany the book. I've written a whole new set of New York-based Latin music for the launch gig and two of the numbers are featured on the EP: Que Maravilloso (How Marvellous!) and Del Norte Pachanga (Pachanga from the North).
“Recording the EP with colleagues at Leeds Beckett was fantastic. We recorded the rhythm section live and overdubbed the rest. Hopefully we have really captured that live feel that I wanted to achieve.”
Having started the band in Leeds in 1998, Sue moved to Cambridge in 2012 and set up a new band with southern-based players. Now back in Yorkshire, she is using the EP and gig to re-launch her northern group (and keeping the southern one too!)
In addition to Charanga del Norte's performances, the evening at Seven Arts will feature some animation film shorts by the band's Cuban dancer-turned-animator Guillermo Davis, who graduated from Leeds Beckett with a BA (Hons) Animation in 2012. Joining the band’s brass section on trombone for three numbers will also be third year BA (Hons) Music performance and production student, Amelia Mansfield.
Sue added: “Traditional Cuban charanga bands do not have a brass section; however, I have been studying New York style charanga and adding a brass section is reflective of the bugalu (Latin Soul) New York style.”
Next year will see the 20th anniversary of Charanga del Norte, and a new album and 2019 tour which will complement Sue’s new book.
Sue said: “Paul Thompson and I are now planning the next album and intend to research 1950s and '60s recording techniques to better capture the charanga sound and aesthetic. This also relates to Paul’s on-going research interests of creativity in the studio.”
Speaking about the new EP, Sue added: “I really like the cover design! And the radio jingle we use at the start, is one of my favourite parts. I felt it was very important that it starts out fun! The inclusion of elements of Careless Whisper and Tequila Slammer in my solos also conveys the sense of playfulness in the band.”
The gig on 28 October will see arrangements by Sue of New York-style charanga material combined with exciting Latin-style improvisations from flute (Sue) and vocals (Guillermo Monroy), tying in with Sue’s research into musical improvisation.
Tickets bought in advance cost £12 or £10 for students and unwaged, or £15/£12 on the door. To purchase tickets, please click here.
For more information go to www.charangadelnorte.co.uk
In May 2017 Leeds Beckett was awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze charter from the Equality Challenge Unit.
The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 by the Equality Challenge Unit and is awarded to organisations for their commitment to, and progress on, gender equality. The Charter initially set out to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. This was extended in 2015 to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and for those working in professional and support roles.
For more information about Leeds Beckett’s commitment to gender equality, please visit the Athena SWAN page.
For more information about the Athena SWAN charter, visit the Equality Challenge Unit website.