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This sweetly-named Afro-Ecuadorian dance and music group, is named in honor of the band members’ ancestors, who toiled in the country’s sugar plantations in days of yore. Formed in 1993, the Fundación de Desarrollo Social Afroecuatoriano AZUCAR (Afro-Ecuadorian Foundation of Social Development) also offers dance, music, handcrafts and ethno-education workshops for children, youths and adults.

The marimba is the signature instrument of their music, which has been performed throughout Pichincha, Imbabura and Carchi provinces in the Sierra; as well as Esmeraldas and Guayas on the Coast. Complementing the rhythms are great vocals and dance choreography.

Azúcar member Rocío Villalba, noted that the group comprises 16 people in all. Among the troupe of musicians and dancers are Diego Zurita (marimba), Andrés Espinosa and Danilo Morales (cunucos – a type of rustic conga), Pole Carabali (drums), Carlos Villalba (percussion), Nilo Clìnger, Milton Bautista and Sonia Viveros (vocals), plus an additional eight dancers.

Their rhythms are characterized as bambuco from Esmeraldas province and bomba, characteristic of Chota Valley and Carchi province. Bambuco is a quick dance whose choreography is executed in lines and couples. Bomba, on the other hand, looks like albazo (Ecuadorian Sierra musical genre) rhythmically, and features guitars, maracas and güiros. One of the most spectacular dance moves is seen when women dance sensually with bottles of liquor balanced on their heads.

Azúcar is popular throughout Ecuador and have also performed in festivals in Colombia and Mexico. Among their most recent achievements was their participation in the 2nd International Festival of Music in Esmeraldas, where they won first place. They also appeared at the recent Esmeraldas Independence Celebration.

The group is currently preparing a CD compilation of their 10 years of performing. Sonia Viveros, the main coordinatorsaid: “This activity is not merely dance; it is a recreation of what nature offers us. Our ancestors represented their lives in dance.”