Author: Radamés Giro
The death over the weekend in Havana of Jose Antonio Rojas (Ñico), 87, deprives Cuban music of one of its main figures of the 20th century.
Born in the Cuban capital and an engineer by profession, Ñico was a composer and guitarist who also studied music theory and guitar technique, but his training was mostly self-taught.
He belonged to the "Filin" movement along with Cesar Portillo de la Luz, Jose Antonio Mendez, Angel Diaz, Rosendo Ruiz Quevedo and others. From an early age he listened to the music of Chopin, Rachmaninov and Beethoven, and also that of Cuba’s Matamoros, Aresenio, and the danzones of Arcaño y sus Maravillas. Later he would also be influenced by the music of Miguel Llobet and Andres Segovia.
Ñico had a prodigious career, and an ad lib ability that seemed endless. This was evident both in the variety of his themes as in the freedom he took when the melody gave way to the rhythm in a broad conjugation of factors.
His songs and boleros—Ahora si se que te quiero, Se consciente, Cancion studio, Mi ayer, Soy un hombre feliz, Guajira a mi madre, Tony y Jesusito—and his distinctive way of approaching them, gave a unique definition to his diverse works.
With his life’s work, Ñico earned the affection and the respect of his friends and had the highest acknowledgment from his peers. But he valued above all the recognition he got from his fans.