Tag Archives: Cuba

Artist Profiles: Antonio Machin

Antonio Machín

One of the early legends of Cuban music, Antonio Machín led his own acoustic band in the 1920s, and eventually emigrated from the island, first to the United States, and finally to Madrid (Spain), just before World War II. Machín lived and recorded in the Spanish capital for several decades until his death in 1977.

Antonio Lugo Machín was born in 1900 in Sagua La Grande, in the province of Santa Clara, on the northern part of the island nation of Cuba. His mother was a colored Cuban and his father was European, a Spaniard from Galicia.

Machín’s early years were very difficult and he was forced to work at the age of eight to help pay some of his father’s numerous debts. One day, he was in the street by his house singing quietly. A priest that walked by heard him and immediately encouraged him to sing at a party. He sang Ave María by Schubert. From that day on Machín was determined to become a singer.

Machín’s ambition was to sing opera, but this was very difficult for a poor colored Cuban at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, he focused on singing popular music.

At the age of twenty he had become the idol of the young women in his neighborhood. Machín would sing them serenades under the moonlight. He worked as a mason. Machín also traveled across Cuba as a singer. In 1926 he moved to Havana were he met a Spaniard named señor José, who helped him get a contract to sing at a small cafe in Havana.

Living in Havana, Machín was exposed to many kinds of music. He joined several quartets and sextets. One of the most important ones was Trío Luna, which he formed together with Enrique Peláez and Manuel Luna. In 1926 Machín formed a duo with the famous guitar player and singer Miguel Zaballa. They performed at various night clubs and live radio shows. Their fame was such that in 1927 Don Azpiazu, leader of Orquesta Habana, added the duo to the performances held at the Casino Nacional de La Habana.

At the age of 27 Machín became a vocalist at the Casino Nacional of Havana, the first singer of color ever to do so. The Casino Nacional was the place where you could find upper class Cuban and American land owners, movie stars, millionaires and diplomats, who danced and sought romance.

In 1929 Machín and his friend Daniel Sánchez founded a sextet that also included Alejandro “Mulatón” Rodríguez. They made several recordings. A year later, Machín toured the United States with the Casino Nacional orchestra. On April 26 the band played at the Palace Theater in New York. Machín sang El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor), the first Cuban song to become a national hit in the United States.

In New York, Machín proved to be a prolific artist, recording over 400 songs with the legendary Cuarteto Machín, comprised of claves, tres, guitar, and trumpet. Although the members of the band varied, Machín was frequently accompanied by his old friend, guitarist Daniel Sánchez, who sang duets with him on the majority of the recordings.

Machín is one of the finest Cuban bolero singers that ever lived. Several compilations of his work, covering various phases of Machín’s career are available from various Spanish and American labels.

Discography;

Las 50 Mejores Grabaciones de Antonio Machín en Discophon (1903-1977)
Tributo Al Bolero Cubano
Antonio Machín, Sus 20 Grandes Éxitos

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Artist Profiles: Cachao

Cachao

Bassist and composer Israel López Valdés, better known as Cachao, was born on September 14, 1918. At the age of 12, Cachao had made his debut with the Havana Philharmonic, standing on a wooden box playing the contrabass alongside his brother Orestes, a founding member of the orchestra. By the age of 19, he had joined Arcano y Sus Maravillas, one of the most popular danzon orchestras in Cuba. Little did Cachao and his brother know that they would change Latin music and create a rhythm called mambo.

Cachao and his brother, experimenting with this type of music, added a nuevo ritmo part and called the result “mambo.” This took place in the late 1930s, and it revolutionized Latin music.

By the 1950s, Cachao had formed his own group and continued playing with other bands in Cuba, lending his composing skills to other orchestras. It is said that between his brother and him, a staggering 3,000 danzons were written. Cachao also composed “El Danzon de Buena Vista,” the title track for Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club album.

In 1957, Cachao again blew everybody’s mind by creating the descargas, or jam sessions, that had the top musicians in Cuba performing together. These recordings were so popular that in the 1960s, Al Santiago created the Alegre All-Stars, and in the 1970s the Fania All Stars were born.

After Castro took over Cuba, Cachao left the country for good. When he arrived to New York, he started playing with such artists as Charlie Palmieri, Tito Rodriguez and the Alegre All-Stars with Tito Puente. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, he was all over New York City. In the late 1970s, Cachao moved to Miami, where he virtually went into obscurity, relegated to playing small clubs and weddings.

It wasn’t until 1989, when a young and talented Cuban actor named Andy Garcia came into López’s life, that the world would know who this great master musician was. Garcia wanted a taste of his beloved Cuba and its music for “The Lost City,” a movie he wanted to produce. The two artists collaborated and the end result was the highly acclaimed documentary, Cachao. Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos in 1993. The film caused such a stir that Cachao was asked to perform at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

In 2003, Cachao won a Latin Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album together with Bebo Valdés and Patato Valdés for El Arte del Sabor. Cachao won a further Grammy in 2005 for his own work, Ahora Si!.

Israel López Valdés died on March 22, 2008.

Discography:

Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature “Descargas” (Panart, 1957)
Con el ritmo de Cachao (Duarte/Kubaney, 1958), reissued as Camina Juan Pescao (Duher, 1974)
El gran Cachao (Duarte/Kubaney, 1959), reissued as Cachao y su Típica Vol. 2 (Duher, 1974)
Jam Session with Feeling (Maype, 1962)
Descarga (Maype, 1963)
Cuban Music in Jam Session (Bonita, 1966)
Descargas con el ritmo de Cachao (Modiner, 1974)
Cachao y su Descarga ’77’ (Salsoul, 1977)
Dos (Salsoul, 1977)
Maestro de Maestros Cachao y su Descarga ’86 (Tania, 1986)
Master Sessions, Volume 1 (Crescent Moon, 1994)
Master Sessions, Volume 2 (Crescent Moon, 1995)
Cuba linda (EMI, 2000)
Ahora sí (Univisión, 2004)
The Last Mambo (Sony, 2011)


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Artist Profiles: Xiomara Laugart

Xiomara Laugart

Xiomara Laugart was born in Guantanamo province of Cuba in 1960. She began her career at the age of 15, performing several different expressions of traditional and contemporary Cuban music. In the 1980s, she entered the Adolfo Guzmán Contest for Cuban Music where she was granted the highest award. She went on to win other international awards at Poland’s Sopot Festival in 1985, and at Germany’s Dresden Festival in 1986.

After recording self-titled albums in Cuba, she moved to Rome and later to New York. Soon after, Laugart was invited to be the guest singer on Deep Rumba by Kip Hanrahan, Latin Lullaby by Ellipsis Art, and on Jacky Terrason’s album What It Is.

Laugart is known for her work with the group Yerba Buena, whose first album President Alien was nominated for a Grammy Award. Yerba Buena’s second album Island Life, a brilliant mix of rhythms to which Laugart added her African and Caribbean legacy, was released in 2005.

Laugart was cast in 2007 as Celia Cruz in the Off-Broadway musical, Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz, a tribute to the life of the late Cuban-American singer, which ran at New World Stages until May 2008.

On Tears and Rumba, her third album on Chesky Records, Xiomara Laugart performed some Cuban classics from the golden era of the 1920s. Tears and Rumba is an introduction to the singer-songwriter’s driven trova style from the city of Santiago and features works by two extremely influential composers of that era, María Teresa Vera and Miguel Matamoros. Axel Tosca Laugart, the singer’s son, was responsible for the new arrangements.

Discography:

President Alien, with Yerba Buena (Razor & Tie, 2003)
Island Life, with Yerba Buena (Razor & Tie, 2005)
Xiomara (Chesky, 2006)
La Voz (Chesky, 2010)
Tears and Rumba (Chesky, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Producer, composer and guitarist Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo Julio studied the Cuban tres as well as the guitar at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana. He graduated in 1991.

While at school, he performed in jazz festivals playing with various bands. In 1993 he joined the group of singer Mireya Escalante on keyboard and guitar and also as musical director.

In 1996 he joined the group Kemell y la Barriada as pianist, recording several albums and participated in various international tours. He toured Europe with several Cuban ensembles, including Reve, Charanga Habanera, and later joined Felix Baloy of Afro-Cuban All Stars.

Since 2013 he has worked with Edesio Alejando and his son Cristian performing in Cuba and producing music television and film scores.

In 2014, Julio Antonio became the musical director and arranger of the band Tomezclao. They toured the UK, performed at Glastonbury festival and produced 3 CDs for Tumi Music.

He has worked as the guitarist with vocalist Laritza Bacallao, performing at the “Cuba Mucho Gusto” festival in Brasilia, Brazil. While in Brazil, he also worked with the famous Brazilian pianist Joao Donato at Club Do Choro.

In 2014 Julio Antonio released his debut album Alma Latina with Tumi Music. This was quickly followed by the CD Guajira Mas Guajira with Eliades Ochoa. In 2017 he set up his Alma Latina Studio, where he recorded albums for Candido Fabre, Reina y Real, Arturo Jorge among others.

In 2017, he participated as the guitarist and tres player in the CD “Tronco Viejo” with Johnny Ventura and also worked with Silvio Rodriguez.

In 2018 he recorded the “Black Roots” album.

He currently lives in Havana with his daughter “Sady” and his wife. His daughter, 4 years old at the time, contributed towards the Black Roots CD.

Discography:

Alma Latina (Tumi Music, 2014)
Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi, 2015)
Black Roots (Tumi, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Dany Noel

Dany Noel

Dany Noel was born in Havana, Cuba. He began his performing career at only 8 years old singing and playing guitar. After taking up acoustic and electric bass, he began to play with the top son, salsa and timba groups from Cuba. Ultimately, he left his native country to settle in Torino, Italy.

Dany is a renowned bassist, musical director, arranger, composer, producer, singer and graduate of classical guitar at the Conservatorio Ignacio Cervantes de la Habana. He has collaborated and recorded with prestigious musicians such as Celia Cruz, Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdés, Pio Leyva, Xiomara Laugart, Iovanny Hidalgo, Richie Flores, Jose Alberto El Canario, Richie Rey, Rey Sepulveda, Mayito Rivera, Roberto Van Van, Changuito, Alexander Abreu and Jerry Gonzalez among others.

He moved to Europe in 1997, first to Italy. Along with Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, he formed Italuba as bassist, musical director, arranger and composer.

Dany is currently living in Madrid and has worked with Spanish, Argentine and Greek artists Luz Casal, Victoria Abril, Lolita Flores, Ainhoa ​​Arteta, Mariza, Arvanitaki Elefteria, Fito Páez, Ojos de Brujo, José Luis Perales and film director Fernando Trueba in his movie Chico y Rita.

He has also entered the pop and flamenco scene, which has led him to record with artists such as Niño Josele; Concha Buika on her album Niña de Fuego, winner of a Grammy Award, produced by Javier Limón; and Limón’s project Son de Limón, as bassist, voices and arranger.

In his 2017 album, Por La Habana , Danny focuses on the roots of Cuban music, his ancestors and his own words: “It’s an album so that my parents and my people won’t stop dancing”.

Discography:

Mi Sentir (2006)
Dime Si Tú Sabes (2006)
Proposicion (2011)
Confidence, with Dario Chiazzolino (2014)
Tinta Unida (2014)
Por La Habana ‎(Abanico Records, 2017)

With Italuba:

Italuba (Timba Records, 2002)
Italuba II (Cacao Musica, 2006)

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Artist Profiles: Dayramir González

Dayramir González

 

Pianist, composer, arranger, producer and band leader Dayramir González Vicet was born on October 18, 1983 in Havana, Cuba.

He grew up in a family of musicians. His father, Fabian Gonzalez, is a successful Afro-Cuban jazz trumpet player. At the age of 7, Dayramir began his classical piano studies under the tutelage of Amado Touza and Miriam Valdés. This was followed by intermediate level studies under the guidance of the prestigious Cuban pianist and composer Huberal Herrera.

With a solid classical training, Dayramir started his professional career at 16 in the band of former Irakere vocalist and percussionist Oscar Valdés, who invited him to join Diakara as a founding member, pianist, and composer. They played at all the jazz clubs in Havana and participated in the Jazz Plaza International Festival in 2000 and 2001.

In 2002 he formed a jazz quintet made up of young people from the National Art School (ENA), with which they performed at the Jazz Festival that year, sharing the stage with saxophonist Janne Brunnet, Timbalaye and Ramón Valle, among others. In the following editions (2003 and 2004) he was presented as a guest with different formats.

In 2005 he joined Giraldo Piloto’s famed timba band, Klímax, with which he toured Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), sharing the stage with Jerry Rivera.

 

Dayramir González

 

While working with Klímax, Dayramir formed his own band, Dayramir & Habana enTrance. Towards the end of 2005 he won the Concurso de Jóvenes Jazzistas (Young Jazz Players Competition), Jojazz.

He recorded his first album with enTrance on Cuba’s Colibrí label. This album would later win three Cubadisco awards in the categories of Best Debut Album, Best Jazz Album, and Best Engineered Recording.

Dayramir González has explored the roots of danzón and contradanza (genres that were fashionable in the mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Cuba).

He received a scholarship from one of the most prestigious jazz schools, the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2013, Dayramir graduated Berklee Summa Cum Laude after receiving the Wayne Shorter Award for Most Outstanding Composer of the Year.

Discography:

Dayramir & Habana enTrance (Producciones Colibrí, 2007)
Solo tú y yo, with Giraldo Piloto & Klimax (EGREM, 2008)
Todo Está Bien, with Giraldo Piloto & Klimax (Bis Music, 2009)
Octave (Jazz Revelation Records, 2011)
The Grand Concourse (Machat Records, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: X Alfonso

X Alfonso

X Alfonso is a renowned Cuban fusion and Afro Rock musicians. He was born on September 13, 1972 in Havana, Cuba.

As most of the young musicians from Cuba, he studied at the Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán, at the Escuela Nacional de Artes de Cuba. The famous school that earned its golden reputation as a result of the many generations of musicians who have studied here, where the creativity and the high technical level places these young men among the best musicians of the world.

Other than his excellent education, X Alfonso also comes from a world renowned musical family. His parents, Carlos and Ele, are the leaders of the band Sintesis, pioneers of progressive rock in Cuba and innovators in the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms and rock. Sintesis released essential albums such as Ancestros, Ancestros 2, and Orishas. The band created a characteristic genre and today, in full maturity preserves its legion of enthusiasts in Cuba and abroad. X Alfonso participated in Síntesis’ during the last few years, imprinting a characteristic of novelty on the arrangements and interpretations of the group and assimilating the musical influence from Síntesis.

Because of his musical creativity, X Alfonso accumulated a work that served as the base to his own project, which had the participation of important young Cuban musicians, like the pianist Roberto Carcasses and drummer and composer Descemer Bueno. They performed at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, to an audience of more then 5000 people, in a memorable show that stimulated the pop environment of Cuban music.

With Mundo Real, his first solo album, completely composed and arranged by himself, X Alfonso demonstrates that it is possible to combine a pop project with all the modern influences. The mix of sonorities and timbres with suitable doses of jazz, hip-hop with the undeniable underlying Cuban rhythms. X Alfonso went from the rumba-guaguáncó, to the violins of the cha cha chá. Or the sweet closing of the song “Bailando en la distancia”, where he illustrates dreams of Cuban dances from the turn of the century finalized in a beautiful ballad.

I think that diverse styles and trends converge in me, although Cuban trends rule. It has to do with the environment in which I was brought up, listening to all sorts of music styles, from different authors, artists and countries, from African rhythms to alternative rock or instrumental music. That is why I don’t have a style or, if you wish, a favorite genre.”

My creations have pop, rock, Afro-Cuban music, folk, and reggae influences, and I don’t think the album X Moré is an exception. Even when it has been distinguished for a strong hip hop component, idea I don’t completely share, since, he who listens to the entire album will realize that from the fifth track on it ceases to be rap as such.”

X Alfonso has worked with jazz bands, founded rock band Havana, and has also wrrote music for Danza Abierta and Transit.

Discography:

Mundo Real (2000)
X Moré (2001)
Civilización (2005)
Revoluxion (2007)
Reverse (2011)

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Artist Profiles: Yosvany Terry

Yosvany Terry

Yosvany Terry was born in Cuba. He received his earliest musical training from his father, Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry, violinist and Cuba’s leading player of the chekeré. His father was also known as the founder and director of the Orquesta Maravillas de Florida, one of Cuba’s most important charanga bands. Mr. Terry went on to receive his classical music training and graduated from both the prestigious National School of Art (ENA) and Amadeo Roldan Conservatory.

While in Cuba, Yosvany was known for his musical innovation performing with Chucho Valdés, Silvio Rogriguez, Fito Paez, and Cubanismo!, as well as forming the influential group, Columna B. Their work represented the new voice of young Cuban jazz players. Columna B toured throughout the US and Europe, and in 1998 premiered their Inroads Commissioned-piece by Arts International (through the Ford Foundation) at Stanford Jazz Festival. Moving to New York in 1999, Yosvany was immediately recognized as a remarkable talent in the Jazz scene, playing with Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Douglas, Jeff Tain Watts, Horacio El Negro Hernandez, and bassist Avishai Cohen.

Always a student, Terry absorbed and incorporated American jazz traditions with his own Afro-Cuban roots to produce compositions and solo work that flow from the rhythmic and hard driving avant-garde to sweet sounding lyricism.

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Artist Profiles: Yusa

Yusa

Born in the Buena Vista district of today’s Playa and growing up in the modern Alamar housing community of east Havana, Yusa’s childhood was spent between music and the sea, cherished by her economist mother and her sailor father whose eyes always have, ‘the gaze of the sea in them.’

Yusa started with guitar, went on to Cuban tres guitar, piano and bass. She was influenced by Spanish and North American pop and jazz as by ‘nueva trova’ and son.

What inspired her debut album were the vital creative years spent jamming in the hallways and classrooms of the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory exchanging musical ideas with contemporaries such as Roberto Carcasses, who was the arranger of many of the songs on Yusa. Then there was Yusa’s time improvising female quintet Quasi-Jazz at El Zorro y el Cuervo’, the basement night club on Havana’s central La Rampa street which has been at the cutting edge of Cuban jazz since the early 20th century.

A key phenomenon of 1990s Cuba was the emergence of contemporary duos revitalizing in totally unexpected ways the older fashion of singing two part harmony with guitar. In the same way as Gema and Pavel had before them, Yusa and Domingo became a sensation in the small corner bars and neighborhood clubs where for centuries new Cuban musics have always been dreamed up.

Discography:

Yusa (Tumi Music, 2002)
Breathe (Tumi Music, 2005)
Haiku (Tumi Music, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: Vocal Sampling

Vocal Sampling in 2005

Vocal Sampling is a band where all the instruments are sung instead of played. In addition to the lead vocals and the background choruses, all the instruments of the Cuban orchestra are vocally reproduced: percussion, horns, keyboards, bass, and all the other instruments. There is no technical manipulation and no other instruments are used.

The group is comprised of six Cuban men, all accomplished instrumentalists and arrangers, who met at music school. What began as an amusing after-school game has become their full-time career.

For those new to Latin music, Vocal Sampling is a highly entertaining introduction to the rhythms and styles of Cuban music: guaracha, boleros, rumba, son and swinging salsa. For those familiar with this genre, the group always brings amazement and a smile of delight. Similar to the doo-wop groups of the United States, Vocal Sampling was formed after school and between classes, standing on the sweeping lawns of Havana’s National Superior Institute of Arts. Poney Gross, of Belgium’s Zig Zag World, met the group in Cuba while they were still students, and encouraged them to continue this approach. He arranged several European tours for them.

Very soon they began to be noticed by artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne. Gabriel brought them to his Real World Studios in Bath, England, where they recorded two songs and Byrne included one of their earliest recordings on his Luaka Bop compilation, Diablo Al Infierno.

In 1992 the group met producer team Sammy Figueroa and Rachel Faro, who arranged for them to be signed to Paroli/BMG Music of Cologne, Germany. Faro Figueroa Productions produced the group’s first album, which attracted the attention of Sire Record’s president Seymour Stein, who immediately began steps to acquire the master. The first album, Una Forma Más, released in 1995 on Sire/Elektra Records and Warner worldwide, was a musical journey through Cuban musical culture, demonstrating several styles of classic Cuban music.

In 1995 the group made an historic tour of the United States where they were an instant success in San Francisco, New York and Puerto Rico, attracting the attention of luminaries such as Paul Simon and Carlos Santana. Since then, they have continued to tour throughout Europe and Latin America, invariably garnering multiple encores and rapturous receptions.

In the summer of 1996 they were invited to appear at the 30th Montreux Jazz Festival as the special guests of Quincy Jones for his 50th anniversary. In 1997, they were invited for a 3 weeks tour in Japan. Vocal Sampling released their second album, De Vacaciones (East West), produced by Rachel Faro and the band. De Vacaciones is almost totally comprised of original compositions and arrangements in a modern salsa style and is sure to be recognized as one of the most amazing a cappella achievements in many years.

In late 1997 the band, created by René Baños, Abel Sanabria and Reinaldo Sanler, included Jorge Núñez, Renato Mora and Oscar Porro. This artistic restructuring was executed in order to increase the musical quality of the band and to widen their potential, for example in the field of classical singing.

In 1999, the band went to Japan, Venezuela, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Isle of Reunion, Canada, Mexico and all over Europe. In October they made a special concert for the first “World Music Award” at the World Music Expo (Womex) in Berlin.

In February 2000 they recorded a new CD called “Cambio De Tiempo” and created a new show under the direction of Katina Genero (Italy). In August 2000, Vocal Sampling had a sold out performance at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms late night concert. In December 2000, the band signed with Decca records for the international release of “Cambio de Tiempo” in 2001.

Discography:

Una Forma Mas (1995)
De Vacaciones (1997)
Live in Berlin (1998)
Cambio de Tiempo (Decca, 2002)
Akapelleando (2008)

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