Havana Club Rumba Sessions 
Film and music project unearthing the roots of Cuban rumba

Havana Club Rumba Sessions - La Clave 

The latest chapter in the longstanding relationship between Gilles Peterson, Havana Cultura and the music of Cuba, this feature-length documentary by Charlie Inman sees him explore the roots of rumba through interviews with leading figures of the rumba scene in Cuba — from Muñequitos de Matanzas and Clave and Guaguancó to Rumberos de Cuba, Osain del Monte, Timbalaye and Raíces Profundas.  

Produced in collaboration with rum maker Havana Club – that created the Havana Cultura platform to promote contemporary Cuban culture –, it's another chapter in a six-year relationship that's already given vital exposure to different aspects of Cuban's thriving music culture. This film is about tracing the through lines running from slave communities' spiritual drumming practices, the dancers and musicians who've preserved those traditions, through to the younger generation who've plucked out and re-contextualised the elements most exciting to them. 

The history of rumba, inextricably tied up with the slave trade, uniquely intertwines West African and Iberian musical styles. With roots in the Congo, Nigeria, Benin and Cameroon, different African religious institutions such as Ifa, Ekpe and Nkisi were remade in Cuba as Lukumi (Santeria), Palo, Abakua and Arara. As such, the religious and social realities instituted by the African diaspora have a distinct, if complex, connection to the rhythms foundational to contemporary club music. 
The three main styles of rumba are guaganco, yambu and columbia. As well as forming an important part of the documentary, unpacking these differing styles has become an important part of the wider Havana Cultura project's exploration of rumba. 

Havana Club Rumba Sessions - Album 

Where the film depicts the lineage descending from the working class communities of Havana and Matanzas to modern-day dancefloors, this other arm of the project allows for an exciting, global re-interpretation of rumba's roots. The recordings of rumba's three central styles were handed to a crop of producers working in the orbit of club music's most interesting areas.  

The result is Havana Club Rumba Sessions, collection of remixes as varied as you'd expect from a roster of producers plucked from locales spread from South London, Japan and beyond. 

Berlin-based Max Graef & Glenn Astro deliver a kickdrum-sprung workout in a style that pays testament to free and easy hip hop beatmaking that's long been their m.o.; Motor City Drum Ensemble's four-to-the-floor arrangement loops things up into a hypnotic slow burn; Japan's Daisuke Tanabe & Yosi Horikawa tease out the rhythm to a careful interplay between percussion and undercurrents of bass; France's dEbruit ratchets up the tempo in a beautifully polished rework that slots the click and clatter of the percussion into a steady bounce; Pablo Fierro takes things in similarly intense fashion, paring things down in a  mix geared for the dancefloor at peak time; Canada-based Poirier's mix keeps things steady, while delicate melodies add an emotive edge.

The final mixes come from four of the producers rooted in South London's 22a collective, the first of which is by Reginald Omas Mamode IV who folds the Cuban rhythm into a  disjointed construction, making it work in ways it shouldn't; Tenderlonious keeps things sparse and atmospheric, spreading out moody chords and a vocal from Daymé Arocena; Al Dobson Jr's version starts off tightly wound and gradually unspools into a sharp focus on the groove; Mo Kolours meshes together snatches of vocal, wandering horns and lush chords with the shifting patterns of clave-led percussion.