The El Ambia Jam

Text and Photos by Irina Echarry

Clave y Guaguanco

HAVANA TIMES, June 20 – To many people the name of Eloy Machado Perez doesn’t mean anything. However, when you say “Ambia” (which in the African language of Ibibio-Efik signifies “brother”) most here know who you’re talking about.

Some see him as a mere  folklórico (traditional black arts) phenomenon, without much importance to the “highbrowed” arts, others adore him as a high priest of Afro-Cuban music.

The El Ambia jam takes place every other Wednesday at the Huron Azul club in the UNEAC courtyard (at the corner of calle 17 and H, in the Vedado neighborhood).  This is a setting where one can hear the best of rumba, columbia and guaguanco, blended with red handkerchiefs waving in the air, gold teeth, rum, laughter and undulating hips.

These sessions are attended by artists well-known in the genre: musicians such as Tata Guines Jr., the Aspirin family, Guillermo Triana, the National Folkloric Choir and the group Clave y Guaguancó. In addition, there are academics and friends like Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera, who have consistently supported the poetic work of Ambia.

The public, almost all acquaintances of each other, enjoys the sound of the batá drum, oldies-but-goodies and new songs.  The atmosphere, cheerful and festive, finds people dancing on foot or in their seats.  No one can resist the temptation to dance with the guest artists as Cubans and foreigners share the same space.

For admission, nationals must pay 40 regular Cuban pesos, foreigners 5 CUCs (US $6.25)  For those who may be short on cash or don’t have time to stay for the whole show, they can observe from the street; listen a while and head on their way.

It is worthwhile to get to know this place where music and cordiality reign, where —

as Clave y Guaguancó say— “We’ll keep on ‘guaraching’ while the time goes flying by.”

To confirm the holding of a session, you can call the following telephone numbers: 832-4551 or 832-4553

Click on the tumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery

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