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documenta 14: Music and Magic with Neil Leonard and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas at Bar Matanzas

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

Bar Matanzas is an intervention by Neil Leonard and Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and that unpacks the design, beverage, and culinary culture of Matanzas, Cuba. Matanzas, known as the “Athens of Cuba” is a cradle of political, economic, social and artistic transformation. The bar is a site for reconsidering the location and function of artistic gestures and to question the parameters of art making. The inaugural program includes music by Leonard with the iconic rumba group Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, who celebrate their 65th anniversary in 9 open air concerts.


Thursday, June 10

Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons - performance

Neil Leonard - saxophone/electronics

Ali Moraly - violin

Friday, June 11 - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Neil Leonard - saxophone/electronics

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas:

Luis Cancino Morales

Diosdado Enier Ramos

Eddy Espinosa Alfonso

José Andro Mella Bosch

Saturday, July 22

Neil Leonard - saxophone/electronics

Phill Niblock - film and sound

Amnon Wolman - sound

Katherine Liberovskaya - video

The bar is open

Thursday, June 8 - Sunday, July 18, 2017

Kulturzentrum Schlachthof

Mombachstraße 10-12

34127 Kassel, Germany

Los Muñequitos are a Grammy award winning Rumba ensemble and among the most authentic keepers of Santeria and Abakua musical traditions in the Americas. As they tell it, in 1952, the founding members of Los Muñequitos were sitting in the “El Gallo” bar in Matanzas City, listening to Cuban guitarist Arsenio Rodriguez on the juke box and slapping out the rhythms on the bar. Surprised by the applause of a crowd of patrons and passers-by, they decided to form a group. They took the name Guaguanco Matancero, after the Afro-Cuban guaguanco rhythm popular in Matanzas. From the beginning the group had a dual repertoire of religious and secular material, which they performed at first in the city’s toughest neighborhoods, Simpson and La Marina. The following year they played in Havana, appearing on television and radio and recording their first 78 rpm record for the Panart label. On the A side was a song called “Los Beodos,” (The Drunks), but it was the B side that literally made a name for the band: “Los Muñequitos de la Calle,” a song about the antics of comic-strip characters, was such a hit that people began referring to the band simply as “Los Muñequitos.”

By day, visitors to the bar drank beer and mojitos on outdoors tables or in the pavilion surrounded by Magda’s translucent paintings and the video from Matanzas Sound Map. By night, I performed with Los Muñequitos combing live electronic music performance with rumba, and Cuban music rooted in the Yoruba, Calabar and Congo ritual chants. On some evenings, composer/engineer Nasos Vinos and added a live remix of field recordings from Matanzas Sound Map. Concerts culminated in the band and visitors joining in the center of the pavilion, singing, playing and dancing into the night.

Bar Matanzas began as a collaboration with the Schlachthof Kulturzentrum of Kassel, a community center that provides language, culinary, music and other classes to the immigrant community of Kassel. When Leonard and Campos are not presenting in the bar, the community center uses Bar Matanzas as a platform for its own programming.

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