Cuban artist José Antonio Rodríguez [not to be confused with the Spanish Flamenco guitarist with the same name] died on Sunday night, November 6th, 2005, in Copenhagen aged just 52 years old. Singer with Sierra Maestra since the beginning twenty-six years ago, he was considered as one of the best soneros (or singers of the son style) in Cuba.
José Antonio (or ‘Maceo’ as he was known to his friends and admirers) was born in the Holguin province of Cuba and from early childhood dedicated himself to music. He was the co-founder and the soul of
Sierra Maestra. He was baptized by the Cuban people as ‘El Pequeño Gran Sonero’, ‘The Little Big Sonero’ – a reference to his small stature.
He was an excellent musician, singer, guitarist and above all an excellent person and a modest man
whose talent never diverted him from being extremely straightforward.Apart from performing on all fourteen or so Sierra
Maestra albums, he also sang amongst others on the first Rubén González album, the first Afro Cuban All Stars album and both of Ibrahim Ferrer‘s solo albums.
On the new Sierra Maestra album Son: Soul Of A Nation, he interprets melodies highly respected by all Cuban singers for their level of complexity, resulting in an excellent legacy of son for future generations.
His band mates said about José Antonio Rodríguez: “On our previous album Rumbero Soy he sang with Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara
Portuondo with whom he was great friends. He also sang with Cuban greats such as Miguelito Cuní,
Tito Gómez, Carlos Embale and Joseito Fernández (author of ‘Guantanamera’).”
“Like Ibrahim just recently, who died singing, which for him was his life, so has José Antonio, just an hour after performing in Copenhagen. Cuban music will always have a reason to thank him for helping it reach the level it has. His death will bring sorrow to Cuban music and he will be hugely missed. For us in Sierra Maestra it is the loss of a brother and from now on every note played by Sierra Maestra will be played to his memory.”