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Grupo Vocal Baobab

This Havana based roots group was initially known in the US for their appearance in Eyes of the Rainbow (Los ojos del arcoiris), the Gloria Rolando film on Black Panther in exile Assata Shakur. They are also featured in Roots of My Heart (Raíces de mi corazón, 2001), 1912: Breaking the Silence (1912, Voces para un silencio, 2010), and Dialogo con mi abuela/Dialog with My Grandmother, 2016.

From their literature:

The Baobab is a sacred tree in Western Nigeria, as is the Ceiba in Cuba. They are solid and elegant. This is the Grupo Vocal Baobab’s profile, specialized in Yoruba chants and other popular manifestations. The dress, the stage setting, and the clarity of the voices gives the group an exceptional sound when it comes to the rescue of these oral traditions and rhythms from bata to rumba.

The group had as counselors in its beginnings people like Lazaro Ros, Natalia Bolivar, Corina Campos, and Zenaida Armenteros - among the many who have helped and continue to help us. The members of the group include singers, dancers, percussionists, a piano professor, who have worked out shows which include songs from the yorubas, palo [Congo], macuta y yuca, arara [Dahomey], and popular music such as pregones, cuartetas, refranes, dicharachos, and the whole complex of the rumba, to finish with the congas from cuban carnivals. The repertoire includes a recital of the poems of Nicolas Guillen, sung, acted out, and danced.

This group has appeared in a wide variety of locals and events, from the Ciclos Corales Iberoamericanos in the UNEAC, to the Casas de las Americas, the Festival of the Rumba in the FIART, in the V and VI Bienal de la Habana, in the Casa de Africa, at the opening the Exposition of Sculpure, in the Wemileres of Guanabacoa, in the First Coloquium and Festival of Nicolas Guillen, to name only a few.

Baobab was featured in Gloria Rolando's new film, Eyes of the Rainbow, about Assata Shakur, the Black Liberation Army leader in exile in Cuba, and Oya, the goddess of war and the ancestors.

Jose Ramon Rodriguez Garcia

Founder, received clases in popular and folkloric dance and singing from Lazaro Ros, with whom he recorded the CD Olorun I, an experience which gave him a solid background as soloist.

Artistic Director
Magaly Rolando Casamayor
Professor of Piano

Sister of the well known film maker Gloria Rolando, Magaly Rolando had a career as piano teacher and in 1993 started as singer and piano player in Vocal Marfil. Ver Presentación de Magaly Rolando a "Sin Mascaras"


“Siempre estaré decidida a brindar mi ayuda”  4/17/2020 Mujeres: "Magaly de la Caridad Rolando Casamayor es profesora de piano e integrante de la agrupación de música afrocubana Baobab. Desde hace 39 años imparte clases en la Escuela Alejandro García Caturla y ha contribuido en la formación de muchos músicos que en la actualidad son profesionales reconocidos dentro de la cultura cubana. Para esta mujer otro de sus grandes orgullos ha sido contribuir desde la música en el trabajo audiovisual que realiza su hermana, la reconocida realizadora cubana Gloria Rolando. Con el objetivo de conocer más sobre su vida, Mujeres la entrevistó."

Assata Shakur en Agosto Negro 2019  8/11/2019 La Haine: "Hecho en La Habana, Cuba, en 1997 por la directora Gloria Rolando, este documental de 47 minutos es de una visita con Assata Shakur, quien habla de su vida, su participación en el Partido Pantera Negra, su encarcelamiento, su fuga de prisión, y su exilio en Cuba, donde tiene asilo desde 1984. La conversación se ameniza con la música y danza del grupo cubano Vocal Baobab, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Junius Williams y su Harpa Mágica, y la Danza Nacional de Cuba. Desde el año 2013, hay una recompensa de dos millones de dólares por la captura de Assata Shakur, y ahora Trump aumenta la presión contra Cuba para que la entregue a las prisiones de Estados Unidos."

Red de Mujeres Cubanas Afrodescendientes celebrará aniversario de la FMC  8/14/2018 Negra Cubana: "En la actividad participaran, entre otros, la realizadora Lizette Vila, directora del Proyecto Paloma; Gerardo Fulleda, Premio Nacional de Teatro; Xiomara Calderón, directora del grupo de teatro Espacio Abierto; Eliseo Altunaga, escritor, profesor y guionista; Maritza López McBean, Promotora y activista, fundadora de la Red Barrial Afrodescendiente y Norma Vasallo, Psicóloga y profesora, fundadora de la Cátedra de la Mujer. La reconocida escritora Georgina Herrera realizará una lectura de poemas durante la jornada, que también contará con la participación del Grupo Vocal Baobab. La moderación estará cargo de la periodista e investigadora Gisela Arandia."

Cuba’s rich musical heritage rooted in African rhythm  3/24/2017 UN news: "Ferreira, my seasoned producer, swiftly changed course and pushed back filming of musicians to the following week and after much struggle and anxious waiting, we met an intriguing musician named, Ramon Garcia. He led an Afro-Cuban band called “Vocal Baobob.”"

Diálogo con mi abuela  5/26/2016 La Papeleta: "“Diálogo con mi abuela” es un audiovisual donde se mezcla el documental y la ficción. Una foto de los años 20 es la imagen de la evocación espiritual. El Grupo Vocal Baobab interpreta los cantos tradicionales del espiritismo cubano. La voz original de la abuela Inocencia y el conjunto de fotos familiares de la realizadora Gloria Rolando, forman parte del relato cuyo objetivo es darle valor, en la historia social de Cuba, a esos pequeños y grandes pasajes de la vida cotidiana de una familia negra."

Les racines de Baobab  4/5/2001 Granma: "A la naissance du groupe Baobab en 1994, ses musiciens étaient décidés à interpréter toute la musique afro, et pas seulement les versions cubaine, péruvienne, colombienne ou caribéenne, affirme son directeur José ramon Rodriguez. «L’intérêt est d’aller aux racines». Et c’est ce qu’ils ont fait. Lors de leurs multiples présentations, ils ne s’en tiennent pas au seul groupe vocal. Ils s’accompagnent de percussion bata (Mijail Labrada) et de congas (Amaury Dueñas), alors que la chanteuse Geisa Reyes se charge de la petite percussion (chekerés, triangles), et Magalys Rolando, la directrice chorale, du piano." Magalys est la soeur de Gloria Rolando, la cineaste.


New Zealand Festival in March 2002

Vocal Baobab are featured in the 2002 New Zealand Festival, playing 13-16 March in the Heineken Dans Paleis, with further appearances including Harcourt Park (16 March) and in the Museum of Arts and Culture (17 March).

This exciting development - the New Zealand Festival is a major international event taking place only once every two years - will be the Group's first visit to the Antipodes. The event is jointly promoted by Caledonia Cultural Promotions Ltd.

Anna Papadopoulos
acting for Vocal Baobab

UK Tour: April - May, 2001

Corn Exchange in Cambridge (April 24) w/ Cubanismo
Royal Festival Hall in London (April 25) w/Cubanismo
The Fiddler's in Bristol (11 May)
Phoenix Arts Centre in Leicester (12 May)
Band on the Wall, Manchester (13 May)
The Gantry in Southampton (May 24)
Komedia Theatre in Brighton (28 May)
and a prime slot on the World Stage at the Orange WOW Festival (27 May)

Also guest appearances at Cubanito, the regular Tuesday Cuban night at Cargo nightclub in London

For updates, catch their web site:
This has a lot of information on the group.

What is Vocal Baobab

This little artistic unit interprets its songs and invocations to the orishas of the Yoruba pantheon, as well as makes its excursions into popular manifestations such pregones, refranes, dicharachos, trabalenguas, rumbas, comparsas (so prized in carnavals), traditional music, and so on. Everything which in one form or another has its roots in Yoruba songs -- all of this work is vocal, almost without musical instruments. They do not use the bata, but in its place tumbadoras, percusion, menor, flute, and piano, none of which as we know are instruments normally associated with these religious chants. All of this is part of the new spirit of this group.

Why Baobab?

With the use of the Baobab as a liturgical element in religious ceremonies, with its elegance and its solidity, it matches the profile of this group. The yoruba and popular music, the groups’ costumes, the stage projection, and how clean the voices are -- all these give this group a sound related to the sobriety and respect with which the Baobab viewed in Western Nigeria.

When the slaves were brought to Cuba, this was assimilated to our ceiba for its similarity to the African Baobab.

Towards the end of 1990, a group of friends came together with the same desire, to interprete Yoruba songs from the old region of Western Nigeria. From that, there began a deep investigation, a search into elements of renewal from these anonymous songs and prayers which came to our land through the black African slaves.

For this, the group was able to count on the help of many people who made up a true living library, such as Lazaro Ros, Zenaida Armentaros, Felipe Alfonso, Candido Zayas, Natalia Bolivar, among other prestigious practicioners of this folkloric art. As well, there was the help with the chorus that Lic. Corina Campos asked from Señora Alicia Alonso, primera bailarina absoluta of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

We want to note that the current member of Vocal Baobab were the members of the group Vocal Marfil, and that after the change the group’s line of work was enriched by both the members and its new director, Jose Ramon Rodriguez, in the direction of this investigatory work and these new ways of interpreting fokloric music.


Casa de las Americas
Wemileres de Guanabacoa
Ciclos Corales Iberoamericanos
Inauguration of the ACAA Exposition
Casa de Africa
Peñas del Ambia en la UNEAC
Festival del Caribe en Santiago de Cuba 1997

In addition, we did a musical rendering with dance of 12 poems from Nicolas Guillen at the Firist Festival and Coloquium on Nicolas Guillen and Music, celebrated at the UNEAC in April 1997.


Yoruba Songs

Babalú Ayé

Other African cultures

Cantos Arará
Cantos de Palo: Macuta, Yuca
Pregones Cubanos
Refranes, Cuartetas, and Dicharachos
Rumba: Yambu, Guaguanco, and Columbias
Sina D’Javan
Canto Congo - Texto Feijo
Carnaval - Congas

Vocal Baobab comes to Atlanta, GA for Black Arts Festival, 7/28 to 8/6/00

Vocal Baobab is scheduled to perform at Georgia State University (GSU) and at the Atlanta University Center during the National Black Arts Festival (July 28-Aug 6). The festival was gracious enough to invite Baobab to Atlanta for its first USA appearance.

The following Departments at GSU are sponsoring the group: African American Studies, African Student Services, the Office of Diversity Education Programs and the Office of Community Services. The following student groups have contributed to date: the Latin American Student Association and the Black Student Alliance. Classes will be offered in the following genres.

* afro cuban percussion
* afro cuban folkloric dance
* afro cuban folkloric voice

The percussion classes will be held at: Earthshaking Music, 404-577-0707, ask for Dave or Lisa

The dance and voice classes will be coordinated by Ricardo Hayes at 404-608-2425 e-mail-

The planners of Baobab appearance are Dr. Joseph Jordan : Director of the Auburn Avenue African American Research Library in Atlanta, Georgia, and Hassan Ortiz, Georgia State University (GSU).

Vocal Baobab performances:

  • Georgia State University - July 29,2000, Urban Life Auditorium, Atlanta , GA
  • Renaissance Hotel -August 3,2000, Atlanta, GA
  • Atlanta University Center -August 5,2000, Atlanta, GA

To contact the National Black Arts Festival:

Atlanta 2000 trip a wild success

Vocal Baobab tour in Atlanta, Georgia, was a total success. The group performed at six concerts during the national blacks art festival. The first concert on July 29th at Georgia State University was to a capacity audience. According to GSU police approximately 250 people were turn down in the rain at the door. On August 1, they performed twice at Atlanta Technical College. On August 2, they performed at the Renaissance Hotel where we were amazed to see the dance floor full of people dancing to the orishas. On august 5 they performed twice at Clark Atlanta University. Once with the group Elements of Percussion from Durham, NC, and once by themselves. During their stay they conducted 9 clinics on percussion, dance and voice. All the events where well attended by the public. There is an interest in bringing back the group next year. Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!  Interested parties contact Hassan Ortiz at
and also:

Julián Mejía
(404) 915-6289

Contacting Vocal Baobab

Hassan Ortiz is organizing the group's return trip to Atlanta after their wildly successful first trip summer 2000.   Hassan can be reached at


Web site:

The group itself can be reached directly through:

Magaly Rolando
Artistic Director


Obispo 356, 3er piso, e/ Habana y Compostela, Habana Videja

Jose Ramon Rodriguez

Calle 5ta 723 e/ 8 y 10, Vedado

Baobab Video

A short video of Baobab is available to potential presenters. Just send $6 to the web site in order to cover costs and priority mail.

They are also prominent in the new Gloria Rolando film, Eyes of the Rainbow.


Les racines de Baobab  4/5/01 Granma: "A la naissance du groupe Baobab en 1994, ses musiciens étaient décidés à interpréter toute la musique afro, et pas seulement les versions cubaine, péruvienne, colombienne ou caribéenne, affirme son directeur José ramon Rodriguez. «L’intérêt est d’aller aux racines». Et c’est ce qu’ils ont fait. Lors de leurs multiples présentations, ils ne s’en tiennent pas au seul groupe vocal. Ils s’accompagnent de percussion bata (Mijail Labrada) et de congas (Amaury Dueñas), alors que la chanteuse Geisa Reyes se charge de la petite percussion (chekerés, triangles), et Magalys Rolando, la directrice chorale, du piano." Magalys est la soeur de Gloria Rolando, la cineaste.

Vocal Baobab - UK trip, photo gallery


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