Tag Archives: Cuban music

Artist Profiles: Jesús Aguaje Ramos

Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos

Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos was born in 1951 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, where he began his musical studies in the National School of Arts. He started playing the trombone in local groups until 1979 when he moved to Havana and began playing with the great female quartet Los D’Aida. That same year he took part in the Estrellas de Areito recordings.

Aguaje has played on the World Circuit Records recordings of the Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All Stars, and the solo albums of Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo. He was Ruben Gonzalez’s musical director and toured extensively since 1997 with the various Buena Vista Social Club projects.

Discography

Los Heroes, with Estrellas de Areito (1979)
Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 1997)
Buena Vista Social Club At Carnegie Hall (World Circuit, 2008)
Lost and Found, with Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 2015)

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Chucho Valdés Wins Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy Award

Tribute To Irakere: Live In Marciac (Jazz Village) by Chucho Valdés is the winner of the Best Latin Jazz Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

The other finalists were:

Entre Colegas – Andy González (Truth Revolution Records)
Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw – Brian Lynch & Various Artists (Hollistic Musicworks)
Canto América – Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta (Patois Records)
30 – Trio Da Paz (Zoho)

Purchase Tribute To Irakere: Live In Marciac

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Artist Profiles: Haila Maria Mompie

Haila Maria Mompie

Born in January 28, 1974, in Las Tunas, eastern province of Cuba, daughter of a singer father and a stylist mother, Haila Maria Mompie Gonzalez felt passionate about music since her early years and although she started dancing first, she always felt a deep passion for singing.

After many years studying dancing, as legend says, in 1991, a young dancer raised her voice with an amazing tuning and a very special melody in such a way that Yaquelin Castellanos, famous Cuban singer, was astonished and proposed that this girl, named Haila, be part of her group. In this way, Haila a singer of Tradition Septet, cultivating Cuban traditional music.

A year later, she debuted as solo artist at ”Las Avenidas” Cabaret and later on, she became a member of Habana Son, a group directed by saxophonist ”El Chino Lam”. Also that year, she was requested to participate at the ”Guajira Habanera” show, touring Mexico for the first time.

On September 1994, she joined the renowned band Bamboleo. There, she rose to the top thanks to her excellent vocal qualities and high improvisation level, becoming one of the greatest soneras of her generation.

As vocalist of Bamboleo she recorded two CDs, Te Gusto O Te Caigo Bien and Yo No Me Parezco a Nadie, performed internationally and achieving great popularity in Cuba.

After that experience, she decided in 1998 to join the project of musician and composer Leonel Limonta, known as Azucar Negra. With this successful group, Haila topped the Cuban radio charts. The song “Andar Andando,”from the album Andar Andando, became an hymn not only for dance lovers but also for many others.

On 2001, after returning from a tour around Europe, Haila decided to start a new stage of her artistic career, as a solo artist. She recorded a solo album conducted and musically produced by the famous Cuban musician Issac Delgado.

Haila appeared as a singer on various albums by outstanding Cuban musicians and in the famous record La Rumba Soy Yo, winner of Latin Grammy Awards in 2001, she demonstrated her huge versatility.

2002 was a great year for Haila. Besides touring the United States with Issac Delgado and his orchestra, she was selected as guest figure of Tropicana Cabaret. She also toured various European countries as part of ‘Festival Son Cuba and as member of Cuban Grammys Project together with Eliades Ochoa, Juan Formell, Vocal Sampling, Chucho Valdes, Los Papines and Ernan Lopez-Nussa.

Copa Room Cabaret witnessed in April 25, 2003 at Riviera Hotel various remarkable events in Haila’s artistic life. That night, the ”Diva del Son” featured her orchestra with high-quality musicians in a concert attended by special guests from Culture Ministry, Artex, Musicalia, Bis Music, E-Commerce Agency, journalists, T.V and radio directors, critics and the general public.

In this concert, full of surprises, Haila unveiled her contract as exclusive artist with the Musicalia booking agency, her Haila Live CD on Bis Music, with a concert she made the previous year at National Theater of Cuba, having the notable appearance of Chucho Valdes, Issac Delgado, Mayito Rivera, David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera. The CD was under the musical production and direction of Juan Manuel Ceruto.

In June of the same year, Haila made an important tour around European countries and in July and August, she performed along with David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera in various Japanese cities.

La Diva del Son, as she is well-known in Cuba, gave priority to the national and international promotion of her new recording in 2005. Haila joined Charanga Habanera at some live performances.

Haila Maria Mompie in 2008

Haila was also part of the Cuba le Canta a Serrat CD, recorded in Havana at the Abdala, Ojala, PM Record and Frank Fernandez studios to honor the peerless Spanish singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat. This set, previously conceived for 12 tracks ended up a double album.

Haila’s Diferente CD, under the production of the notable David Calzado showed a new stage in Haila’s professional career, popular not only among young fans, but also with people of all ages.

Haila Maria Mompie is considered one of the great Cuban contemporary soneras.

Edited from an original article by Marianela Dufflar.

Discography

Te Gusto o Te Caigo Bien, with Bamboleo (Ahi Nama, 1997)

Yo No Me Parezco a Nadie, with Bamboleo (Ahi Nama, 1997)

Gracias, Formell (Geminis Productions Record Label, 1997)

Andar Andando, with Azucar Negra (Bis Music Record, 2001)

Haila (Bis Music Record, 2001)

Tributo a Celia Cruz (Universal Latino, 2003)

Haila live (Bis Music Record, 2002)

Diferente (Bis Music Record, 2004)

Tal como soy (2008)

Mala (2011)

Cómo voy a decirte (2015)

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Where World Music Intersects World Jazz

Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Transparent Water (Ota Records, 2017)

Music fans should settle in and enjoy the sumptuous ride that is Transparent Water. Co-creator Omar Sosa, the Cuban-born composer, bandleader and pianist, has such recordings as Eggun – The Afri-Lectric Experience, Jog, Ile and Calma under his belt, while Seckou Keita, the Senegalese kora master, has released albums like 22 Strings/Cordes, Afro-Mandinka Soul with his own Seckou Keita Quartet and Clychau Dibon. Joining forces under the Ota Records label, Transparent Water, set for release on February 24th, pairs Mr. Sosa’s Afro-Cuban and jazz sensibilities with the lush African traditions of Mr. Keita’s long musical legacy of his griot family.

Transparent Water is where world music meets world jazz, where tradition meets improvisation and where the lines of spiritual and earthy meet. The result is stunningly evocative.

With Mr. Sosa on piano, Fender Rhodes, sampling, microKorg and vocals and Mr. Keita firmly enticing listeners with his kora mastery, as well as talking drum, djembe, sabar and vocals, listeners are treated to the interplay between these two musicians and composers. But as luck would have it, Mr. Sosa and Mr. Keita turn the music on its ears with the additions of Chinese musician Wu Tong on sheng and bawu; Japanese koto master Mieko Miyazaki; Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles on bata drums, culo’puya, maracas, guataca, calabaza and clave; Korean geojungo player E’Joung-Ju; and Rajasthani nagadi player Mosin Khan Kawa.

Cuban rhythms, African melodies and Asian influences pile up, separate and mesh together in an expansive musical tapestry where it’s impossible to pull at one musical thread and undo the lot.

Like water, Transparent Water flows easy from the jazzy opening track “Dary” into the delicately piano and kora interplay of “In the Forest.” Lush track flows into lush track with goodies like the sheng laced “Black Dream,” the catchy African influenced “Mining-Nah” with Mr. Keita’s vocals warming up the track and mysteriously moody “Another Prayer.”

Listeners can’t help but be charmed by tracks like sassy offering “Fatiliku,” the dreamy musical landscape of “Oni Yalorde” with Mr. Tong on the bawu or the piano lines of “Zululand.” Transparent Water is one of those recordings that requires listeners stop and really listen and it’s best if you just go with its flow.

Mr. Sosa, Mr. Keita and company have conjured up a truly brilliant collaboration on Transparent Water. Mesmerizing, evocative and sophisticated, Transparent Water begs for a listen.

Buy Transparent Water in the Americas

Buy Transparent Water in Europe

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Artist Profiles: Eliades Ochoa

Eliades Ochoa

Eliades Ochoa was born in a rural area, Songo La Maya, in 1946. When he turned 11 years old, Ochoa began to play in bars and houses of ill repute in Santiago de Cuba, out of necessity. Since he was so young, almost as big as his guitar, that attracted people’s affection and he was asked to play a guaracha whose title became Ochoa’s nickname, “El Cubanito” (the little Cuban boy).

In 1962 he started to work in radio, producing his own show, “Trinchera Agraria”, specialized in música guajira campesina (Cuban country music). In 1971 he left radio and started to play in the Casa de la Trova de Santiago together with Quinteto de la Trova and Septeto Típico Oriental. Things stayed that way until veteran group leader Roberto Echeverría left Cuarteto Patria in 1978. Elíades Ochoa joined the legendary group, which, until then, had not recorded any albums despite its popularity.

Eliades Ochoa

With the addition of Eliades Ochoa, Cuarteto Patria started its international career, playing since then in Europe, Mexico and even the United States. In addition, the music repertoire was expanded from the original bolero and criolla, Cuarteto Patria’s specialties, to include son montuno, guaracha and guajira. All of it perfectly integrated in a natural way by a group bent on preserving the best musical tradition in Cuba with an essential line-up: guitars, acoustic bass, percussion and well harmonized vocals.

In 1997 Eliades Ochoa participated in the Buena Vista Social Club project, that Ry Cooder produced, bringing together some of the best performers of Cuban son.

Although Eliades Ochoa announced his retirement as a trova singer in early 2001, the Cuban musician acknowledged in May of that year that he would continue singing his music throughout the world, after reconsidering that first decision. “It is difficult to give up the public who listens to my music, I appreciated that during my tour of South America.”

In December of 2008, Eliades Ochoa and other Cuban musicians met musicians from Mali at a Madrid studio. they recorded an album titled Afrocubism.

When Eliades Ochoa is not on tour you can find him chatting with his friends or signing autographs in his hometown, Santiago de Cuba, at the intersection of José María Heredia and San Pedro streets.

Eliades Ochoa

Discography

* A Una Coqueta, with Cuarteto Patria (1993)
* Lion Is Loose (Cubason, 1996)
* CubAfrica, with Manu Dibango (Mélodie, 1998)
* Sublime Illusión (Higher Octave, 1999)
* Chanchaneando (Para, 2000)
* Tribute To The Cuarteto Patria (Higher Octave World, 2000)
* Eliades Ochoa y El Cuarteto Patria (Egrem, 2000)
* Cuidadito Compay Gallo (Egrem, 2001)
* Son De Oriente (Egrem, 2001)
* Estoy Como Nunca (Higher Octave World, 2002)
* Llega El Cuarteto Patria (Egrem, 2002)
* Son De Santiago (Edenways, 2003)
* Ochoa y Segundo (Edenways, 2003)
* Se Soltó un León (Corason Records, 2006)
* La colección cubana: Eliades Ochoa (Nascente NSCD 114, 2006)
* Afrocubism (World circuit, 2010)
* Eliades Ochoa and Alma Latina – Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi Music, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Arsenio Rodriguez

Arsenio Rodriguez

Arsenio Rodriguez was a revolutionary figure in Cuban music during the 1940s. He was a bandleader, tresero (tres player) and percussionist, who developed the classic Cuban dance band. An expert in Congolese rhythms, he pushed African influences to the fore, refashioning the traditional septeto by adding the conga drum and two extra trumpets to give it much more power and scope, setting his syncopated tres style against the percussion.

Arsenio was born August 30, 1911 in Guira de Maricujes, in the Province of Matanzas. A tragic accident -he was kicked by a horse- as a young boy left him blind. He became known as “El Ciego Maravilloso,” the Blind Marvel.

His father gave Arsenio a small guitar when he was a young child. At the age of 15 years, Arsenio met Victor Feliciano, a carpenter who manufactured musical instruments. Victor taught him how to play guitar, maracas and bongos.

In the early 1930s Arsenio started his first group, Sexteto Boston, in the Hornos district. In 1937 Arsenio left the band to join Septeto Bellamar, which was led by Jose Interian, a trumpet player. This was an important step in Arsenio’s career. Several of his songs were recorded. Miguelito Valdes sang “Bruca Manigua” and “Funfuñando” with Orquesta Casino de Playa. Arsenio formed his own band in 1939. It was an innovative line-up, featuring tumbadora (conga), a piano, and trumpets. This format was named conjunto (ensemble).

During the 1940s some of Arsenio’s most famous compositions were recorded, including “A Belen le Toca Ahora,” “La Yuca de Catalina,” “Juventud Amaliana,” and La vida es un Sueño, his best-known bolero. His innovative use of the piano began with a young Ruben Gonzalez, who played on Rodriguez’s first recording in 1943, and developed over the years with Lili Martinez.

In 1948 Arsenio moved to New York. Most of his All Star band went to play with trumpetist Felix Chappotin. That group became the now legendary Conjunto Chappotin.

The period in the United States, the 1950s and 1960s, found Arsenio struggling to find radio hits. He experimented with jazz and had some success in New York.

Sadly, he died a poor man in Los Angeles in 1971, just when Cuban-inspired salsa was starting to become popular in New York and other cities.

Partial discography:

Errante y Bohemio
Cumbanchando Con Arsenio, Fiesta en Harlem
Como Se Goza En El Barrio: Havanna & NYC Recording
Perlas Cubanas: Necesito una Mujer Cocinera
Viva Arsenio
Ibrahim Ferrer y Chappottin vs. Miguelito Cuní y Arsenio Rodríguez
Dundunbanza 1946-1951

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Eros Coolness

Omar Sosa and Paolo Fresu – Eros (Tuk Music/Ota Records, 2016)

Luxuriously elegant, seductive and exotically dreamy, the Tuk Music release Eros, born out of the collaborative efforts of Cuban musician and composer Omar Sosa and Italian musician and composer Paolo Fresu, is one of those exciting CDs where you just have no idea what’s coming around the next bend.

Dramatically packed with savory bits and bites of electronica, musical samplings and offbeat percussion, as well as the mastery of Mr. Sosa’s piano lines and Mr. Fresu’s trumpet and flugelhorn lines, Eros conjures up jazz, world music and dreamy musicscape and sometime all at once. Add in the vocals of Natacha Atlas and cello by Jaques Morelenbaum and Eros goes from extraordinary to extravagantly superb.

Opening with the sleek coolness of “Teardrop/Ya Habibi” with vocals by Ms. Atlas and trumpet lines by Mr. Fresu so good it will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Full of surprises, Eros never quite goes where you think it will so when “Sensuousness” combines a throat singer with cello, piano and trumpet in a track so utterly elegant it’s a little odd but it works in a big way.

Listeners get savvy coolness with tracks like “Zeus’ Desires” and “Brezza del Verano.” “My Soul, My Spirit” with vocals by Ms. Atlas against a backdrop of strings, electronica and birdsong is a simply stunning. Other goodies include “La Llamada,” the fantastical world conjured on “What Is Inside/Himeros” and exotically charged “Eros Mediterraneo.”

Eros is savage coolness. Forget what you know about the piano, trumpet or the way you think a track will progress. Ditch the map and just go with where the music will take you.

Buy Eros in the Americas

Buy Eros in Europe

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Elemental Cuban Joy

Roberto Fonseca – ABUC (Impulse/Verve, 2016)

I’m a greedy girl…and I’m sneaky. I have secreted my way into the dark, messy lair of our esteemed editor and smuggled out a savory treat – ABUC, the latest by the Cuban Grammy nominated pianist, composer and producer Roberto Fonseca. Well worth the personal risks of being crushed under the weight of stacks of CD and mountains of press releases, ABUC is lush, delicious sophistication. Grounded by meaty Cuban percussion, set soaring with tight, neat brass and levitated by the sheer brilliance of savvy compositions, Mr. Fonseca pulls and tugs at the history of Cuba’s musical traditions to conjure up a brilliant homage to his homeland.

The idea was to show a different Cuba, perhaps from a different direction,” explains Mr. Fonseca. “That’s why the album title is Cuba spelled backward. I wanted to review the Cuban music history – not only the styles that have influenced me most, but in a broader sense, so people could have a better idea of how the orchestras used to sound in those times.”

This Cuban powerhouse comes to music by way of his drummer father, Roberto Fonseca, Sr., singer mother, Mercedes Cortés Alfaro, and older half-brothers drummer Emilio Valdés and pianist Jesús “Chuchito Valdes, Jr. who are the sons of Ms. Cortés’s first marriage to pianist Jesús “Chucho” Valdes, and of course the rich music that pervades the island like the scent of tropical flowers. With collaborations with the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Carlinhos Brown and Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez, Mr. Fonseca has dazzled listeners on countless tours and recordings like Akokan (2010), Tiene Que Ver (2002), Zamazu (2007), Yo (2013) and Temperamento (2012).

Released under the Impulse label in conjunction with Verve, ABUC is set for digital release on October 28th and physical copies out on November 11th. Writing most of the compositions himself, Mr. Fonseca inundates listeners with a collection of tracks that drinks deeply from bolero, danzón, cha-cha-cha, contradanza, descarga and hip-hop, all immersed in Mr. Fonseca’s jazz sensibilities. Often the music seems steeped in the tradition, helped by way of the recording process.

Mr. Fonseca explains, “Capturing the music as it used to be done in the old days means getting out of the high quality sound of these days, and if a certain song invoked a certain time when the sound was not that clean, that’s how we had to do it on ABUC. I’m sure many people will get confused and will think some tracks were composed some time ago. I hope they do, because that was our goal.”

Chocked full of goodies, listeners get the full force of Mr. Fonseca’s mastery from opening track “Cubano Chant” with its plummy percussion, sleek piano and some fabulous help from Trombone Shorty. ABUC is a feast of delights with the cleverly dated sections of “Afro Mamba” with vocals by Dayme Arocena and Carlos Calunga, the dazzling guitar laced “Tumbao de la Unidad with the revered Eliades Ochoa and the sizzlingly sassy “Family” which is stylized in the way of the 70s group Los Zafiros.

Equally delightful is the dark thrum against ethereal vocals on “Habanera,” the hip-hop/reggaeton combo of “Soul Guardians” and charming bolero “Despues” with Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal on trumpet and Mr. Fonseca’s mother Mercedes Cortes Alfaro singing the vocals.

Mr. Fonseca says, “I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such a super team. What’s more, I feel blessed to be a musician and to have the opportunity to share my life and my perspective through my music. When people listen to this album and attend my concerts, I would like for them to walk away feeling full of positive energy and hope. I want them to feel the same love that I’ve put into this record – enough to make them dance. I want them to feel good, but most importantly, I want them to feel!

ABUC is masterful and sleekly sophisticated, but it is infused with that familiar Cuban invitation that music is an elemental joy and that everyone should have a good time.

Buy ABUC in the Americas

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Dafnis Prieto’s Si o Si Quartet to Perform at Arab American National Museum

Dafnis Prieto
Dafnis Prieto

Award-winning Cuban jazz master is set to perform on Friday, September 16 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This concert is part of the Global Fridays series.

Prieto’s innovative drumming techniques and compositions have had powerful effect on the global Latin and jazz scene. Also a gifted educator, Prieto has worked with bands led by Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman and Eddie Palmieri, among others.

His discography includes About the Monks (2005), Absolute Quintet (2006), Taking the Soul for a Walk (2008), Live at the Jazz Standard (2009), Proverb Trio (2012) and Triangles and Circles (2015)

8:00 p.m.
Arab American National Museum
13624 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.
Tickets

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Los Angeles Changüí

Changüí Majadero - Changüí Majadero
Changüí Majadero – Changüí Majadero

Changüí Majadero – Changüí Majadero (Changüí Majadero Music, 2016)

Cuban changüí from an unexpected place, East Los Angeles in California. The five-piece band Changüí Majadero fell in love with this rural form of Cuban music that mixes the Spanish poetic and guitar traditions with African-rooted light percussion and call and response vocals.

The band is led by Mexican American guitarist and tresero Gabriel Garcia. Garcia fell in love with the music of Grupo Changüí Guantanamo, Cuba’s leading changüí ensemble. Gabriel Garcia eventually traveled to Guantánamo Cuba where he met one of the founding members of Grupo Changüí Guantanamo. “I fell in love with the culture, the people, the music,” says Garcia.

Most of the tracks on the self-titled album, Changüí Majadero , are traditional songs from the Guantanamo area although one composition, “Changüí Pa Ayotzinapa,” is an original song with the spirit of a Mexican corrido in a changüí form, appealing for justice for the 43 murdered Mexican students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College who “disappeared” in Iguala, Guerrero.

The lineup on Changüí Majadero includes Gabriel Garcia on tres and vocals; Alfred Ortiz on vocals and maracas; Norrell Thompson (from Puerto Rico) on vocals and guayo; George Ortiz on bongo del monte; and Yosmel Montejo on bass. Guests: Eddy Ortiz on guayo; Martha Gonzalez on vocals; Feliciano Arango on bass; Carlos Sanchez on vocals and trumpet; Calixto Oviedo on drums; Roberto Lopez on bass; and Joey de Le.

Changüí Majadero is a stirring album by a band passionate about changüí, a style that deserves wider recognition.

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