Tag Archives: Cuba

Artist Profiles: Roberto Carcassés

Roberto Carcassés, also known as Robertico, graduated in percussion from the Escuela Nacional de Arte, in 1991. He toured as a pianist with the “Grupo de Santiago Feli” in Argentina, Germany and Spain between 92 and 95. He also took part on a tour in Spain and USA with the group Columna B, between 98 and 99. He taught at Stanford University, in the Jazz Workshop for two years (98-99).

He was invited to perform at the following festivals: Jazz Festival in Barcelona (97), Festival de La Habana (95,96,97) and Utah Jazz Festival (98). He recorded the CDs: “Trampas del tiempo” (Pavel y Gema) for Nube Negra Records, “Jazz Timbero” (Bobby Carcasses) for Tummy Music Records, “Columna B” for Mambo Music, Selma Reis for Velas Records. He composed the soundtrack to the film “Violetas” (Mexico), 1997. He also composed some songs for the movies “Cuarteto de La Habana” (Spain) and “New Rose Hotel” (USA).

He participated as a collaborator with the following personalities: Chucho Valdés, Gonzalito Rubalcaba, Changuito, Winton Marsalis, George Benson and Harper Simon. His most recent disc is The Cuban Jazz Project: Roberto Carcassés “Invitation” for the recording company Velas Records.

Roberto Carcassés is another excellent surprise from the current Cuban musical scene. Today Roberto takes form as a pianist and musician in the most ample sense of the word. The CD Roberto Carcassés “Invitation” is part of the series “The Cuban Jazz Project Invitation” is a sample of the many aspects of his musical capacity. Roberto assembled for the recording the best musicians from this generation of Cuban music, like the brilliant trumpet player “El Indio” and the sax players César López and Alfred Thompson of the famous Irakere Band.

Roberto is the son of Cuban jazz legend Bobby Carcasses.


Invitation (Velas, 2000)


Artist Profiles: Rey Caney

Rey Caney

Reinaldo Hierrezuelo La O, better known professionally as Rey Caney, was a Cuban singer, guitarist and tresero. He was born December 30, 1926 in Santiago de Cuba. Rey Caney led the essential Cuarteto Patría for some time.

Rey Caney was one of Cuba’s musical celebrities. Together with his brother Lorenzo he formed the duo named Los Compadres that toured around the world. Caney was also a member of the Sonora Matancera, sharing his voice with Celia Cruz and Celio González. He used to be Beni Moré’s replacement at the “Alibar” Havana cabaret.

Caney performed in the U.S with Arsenio Rodríguez, Machito and Joe Valle.

Rey Caney was a co-founder of La Vieja Trova Santiaguera.

He died on February 23, 2016 in Havana, Cuba


Vieja Trova Santiaguera (NubeNegra, 1994)
Gusto y Sabor (NubeNegra, 1995)
Hotel Asturias (NubeNegra, 1996)
La Manigua (Virgin, 1998)
Boleros de toda una vida (Warner Music Spain, 1999)
Domino (Virgin, 2000)
El Balcón del Adiós (Virgin, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Reinaldo Creagh

Reinaldo Creagh

Reinaldo Creagh was born on July 9, 1918 in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

During many years, Reinaldo Creagh was the leader of one of Santiago de Cuba’s legendary bands La Estudiantina Invasora. He was one of the founders of the Vieja Trova Santiaguera and its more representative voice and unique personality.

At the beginning of 1999, when he turned eighty years old, Reinaldo released his first solo CD titled “Boleros de toda una vida” (A whole life’s Boleros) which received critical acclaim. During his live performances he traveled through history’s most important boleros.

Reinaldo Creagh died on November 16, 2014 in Santiago de Cuba.


Vieja Trova Santiaguera (NubeNegra, 1994)
Gusto y Sabor (NubeNegra, 1995)
Hotel Asturias (NubeNegra, 1996)
La Manigua (Virgin, 1998)
Boleros de toda una vida (Warner Music Spain, 1999)
Domino (Virgin, 2000)
El Balcón del Adiós (Virgin, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Radeúnda Lima Caso

Radeunda Lima Caso was a gifted performer and composer. Radeúnda Lima was born August 28, 1923 in the province of Villa Clara. She specialized in tonadas campesinas and sones montunos, accompanied by her brother Raúl, a well known lute player and composer.

Radeúnda Lima worked for the Santos and Artigas circus troupes. She also participated in Cuban country music radio and TV shows. Radeúnda Lima also recorded several albums.

In 1946 she performed at New York nightclubs. In 1961 she began to compose music and eventually wrote over 100 songs, including sones, montunos, guarachas, guajiras and songs that became popular, performed by singers such as Celina González. In 1984 Radeúnda Lima retired.

Radeúnda Lima died early in the morning on May 30, 2005, in Havana.


Artist Profiles: Raúl Paz

Raúl Paz

Born in 1969 in Pinar Del Rio, Raúl Paz comes from a musical family. His great-uncle is Changuito, who is the grand master of Cuban percussions, and still lives in Havana.

Raúl Paz spent 15 years of his life in various music schools and academies, where he learned the violin as well as singing, harmony and conducting. He also made a name for himself as an actor in Havana, and played a few lead roles in films (among others, Hello Hemingway). Though the United States beckoned, Raúl decided to move to France in 1997.

Soon, at clubs like the New Morning, Hot Brass, Bataclan, Elysee Montmartre, he was sharing the spot with every Latin musician stopping over in Paris: Oscar D’León, Los Van Van, Rubén Blades, and Albita, among others. A member of the Latino and African musical community based in France, he became one of the leaders of the Cuban wave in this country.

During the legendary 1999 Fania All Stars concert at the Zenith, Cheo Feliciano (the voice of bolero) invited Raúl to join him on stage. When Ralph Mercado – the owner of RMM, the man who invented the very word “Salsa” – heard the voice of Raúl Paz among the well-established salsa stars, he immediately decided to promote the “French Cubano.” That same year, Raúl Paz recorded his first album for RMM, Cuba Libre. Far from sticking to salsa standards, he pushed back the limits of the genre and explored new trends. The album was a hit in the US (selling more than 100000 units) and Raúl Paz was awarded the Best New Male Singer Award by the New York music press.

A follow-up tour through the American continent gave Raúl the opportunity to meet his public and reveal himself as a true live performer.

But in 2001, Ralph Mercado Music shut down and Raúl’s New York experience stopped temporarily. He went back to France where he still owns a house and has many friends. He also went back on the road with his fellow musicians, playing major festivals.

Open to new sounds and techniques, interested in the fusion of genres, he moved towards electronic music. “Contigo,” written and recorded with DJ Arian & Pipi, became a cult 12″ in clubs all around the Mediterranean. In the wake of this success, Raúl met producer Mousse T and decided to mix his new album, previously recorded in Cuba, with his team Danya Vodovoz & Ferry Ultra, at the Hanover Pepermint studios. Danya (from Russia) and Ferry (from Iran), two rising stars of the electro scene (Strictly Rhythm) at the time. They became known to a larger public through their remix of Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb.”

In August 2008 Raúl Paz moved back to Havana.


Cuba Libre (Rue Bleu, 1999)
Contigo (Kontor Records, 2000)
Blanco y Negro (RMM, 2000)
Mulata (Naïve, 2003)
Revolución (Naïve, 2005)
En Casa (Naïve, 2006)
En Vivo (Naïve, 2007)
Amigos por Paz (2008)
Havanization (Naïve, 2010)
Ven Ven (Naïve, 2014)
La otra esquina (Egrem, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Pupy Pedroso y Los Que Son Son

Pupy Pedroso

Pupy Pedroso y Los Que Son Son Over the past three decades, C?sar “Pupy” Pedroso has been one of the key figures not only of Timba, but also of Cuban popular music. As well as being one of Cuba’s best and most prolific composers, he has played a seminal role in revolutionizing the art of salsa piano playing.

He started with Orquesta Rev? and then became a founding member of Los Van Van. In the summer of 2001, Pupy formed his own group, Pupy Pedroso y Los Que Son Son.


Fruta Prohibida ‎(1995)
De La Timba A Pogolotti ‎(Timba Records, 2001)
Timba: The New Generation Of Latin Music (Pimienta, 2002)
Pupy El Buenagente (Timba Records, 2005)
Tranquilo Que Yo Controlo ‎(Egrem, 2008)


Artist Profiles: Pepesito Reyes

Pepesito Reyes

Pianist José Reyes Núñez, better known as Pepesito, was born in 1916, in the Havana barrio of Los Sitios. Pepesito was best known for having written the piano line for Guantanamera, the Cuban classic that made its way around the world via the majestic voice of Joseito Fernandez.

From an early age, people noted young Pepesito’s gift for imitating melodies on the keyboard. In fact, his first attempts with the complex Cuban tumbao were totally self-taught. Through it, he discovered an ability to improvise, a manner to free the notes and sew them to the rhythm, to give them a melodic from and infuse the notes with passion. In Pepesito’s hands, the intricate secrets of the instrument became the ideal accompaniment to sones, boleros and gurachas.

Eventually embarking on a professional career, Pepesito started out with Joseito Fernandez, and his life became an exciting adventure. Later, alongside Fajardo, he would form the legendary group Fajardo y Sus Estrellas. Later still, Pepesito got together with Arsenio Rodriguez, and on different occasions, with Pancho el Bravo and the legendary Benny Moré. Moré, in particular, became a great friend, and the two would often close the Siglo XX bar in Havana, talking about music in between shots of rum.

The 1940s marked Pepesito’s American Epoch. He spent ten years in New York City’s Cafe Metropolis, where he met many great artists with whom he would share the stage, plans and musical secrets. Pepesito turned American jazz standards of the time with his own Cuban flair and created an absolute sensation in the New York club scene. From famed musicians to the jet set, anyone who was anyone crammed into the cafe to hear this incredible experience of sound and rhythm. It was at the Cafe Metropolis that Pepesito charmed Nat King Cole, the first of his American friends who heard his talent. Later, Duke Ellington, with whom he played on numerous occasions, also was attracted by his music. Pepesito’s name spread like wildfire through the radio stations and journalists who heard the dazzling performances at the Metropolis. This is how Tito Puente, who hired him to add his Cuban touch, discovered him. Pepesito’s talent and prestige turned him into one of the brightest stars in the Big Apple, where he became a mainstay of any concert, party or jam session he attended.

After years of performing in Latin America, France, Italy, Holland and Japan, Pepesito finally returned to Havana after leading a tumultuous, sometimes dangerous, life abroad. Surrounded by his family and friends, he announced he was leaving the capital for a small village in eastern Cuba; he had fallen love with a young woman and was going to marry her.

He lived in Palma Soriano. It was from that small village that Eliades Ochoa called on “the pianist who attacks the ivories with a warrior’s heart and angel’s hands” to create his first solo album, a set of danzon musical pieces.

Pepesito Reyes died February 4, 2011.




Artist Profiles: Pedro Luis Ferrer

Pedro Luis Ferrer

A celebrated Cuban trovador and composer, Pedro Luis Ferrer is a master of the guaracha musical form. Ferrer’s work spans the classical as well as popular genres of Cuban music with fully charged lyrics reflecting the psychological and spiritual nuances of Cuban society today. Ferrer cleverly uses satire as he brilliantly expresses the daily trials of everyday life.

Born in Yanguaji, a small town in the Cuban province of Las Villas, Ferrer’s strong traditional family atmosphere and exposure to the indigenous music, helped provide the solid foundation that would eventually become the cornerstone of his artistic expression. “I always try to achieve an aesthetic form without compromising the integrity of my expression…I strive to make it transcend the circumstances with which it deals.” Although his instrument of choice is the guitar, he also plays the tres, a Cuban guitar, and studies the lute for which he has composed several symphonic pieces.

Ferrer abandoned the orthodox route of a musical school or conservatory. “I am a self-taught musician,” clarifies Ferrer. “I must admit, though, that I’ve had friends – musicians, teachers, professors – who imparted some teachings and advised me, but never in an academic situation.”

Arriving in Havana as an amateur musician in 1965, Ferrer joined several bands where he met fellow musicians who have since become celebrated figures in the Cuban musical movement. Jamming with the likes of Carlos Alfonso (founder and leader of Grupo Sintesis – in a quartet that collaborated with the Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography’s (ICAIC) experimental sound group). Later, he and fellow troubadour Mike Porcell – a Cuban expatriate now living in Miami – became members of Los Dada, an experimental group in search of a fusion of national musical elements and modern rock. This fortuitous liaison, according to Ferrer, caused him to reconciliate with his own forgotten country roots.

In 1974 he traveled to Europe, for the first time, to appear on radio and television in Poland. Since then, he has visited Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. He also has performed in Mexico, Peru and the USA. “I consider my performances in Miami to be a very significant achievement, in light of the existing political climate…and I am honored and feel greatly rewarded when the likes of figures such as Papo Luca, Danny Rivera, Willy Chirino and especially Celia Cruz, include my compositions in their respective productions.”

On his 2005 album, Rustico, Ferrer draws upon his country?s rich musical traditions and transforms them to create new meaning. So transformed is his music on Rustico, that he invented a new word, changuisa, to describe the style. Ferrer takes Changüí from the mountains of Guantánamo, in Cuba’s East, and mixes it with related genres that have not received much attention, such as trova espirituana (from Santi Spiritus) and coros de claves, two styles from Central Cuba where Ferrer was born.

By transforming the word itself from masculine to feminine, Ferrer simultaneously creates a musical concept that is more receptive and which can integrate more diverse elements, and pokes fun at the macho way in which music from the Eastern part of Cuba is often played. “In Western Cuba, they sometimes play in a mocking way,” explains Ferrer. “They play the son, from which salsa originated, with a special beat, with a female touch. I am trying to recreate that in my word. This new term I use frees me from any kind of conventions, in terms of the Changüí per se, and allows me a lot of freedom in creating music.”

This freedom is further emphasized since Ferrer gave up on having a band, instead forming what he calls a bunga, an old word from the countryside that refers to a small, improvised music group. “A bunga is simply people getting together in small groups playing for the sake of playing,” Ferrer explains. “It didn’t have an established format. Anyone could bring any instrument: an accordion; a drum; you could have a bottle with a clink-clink sound! And that?s how we play: we rotate instruments, bring in new elements if we want.”

These new elements range from almost-lost Cuban traditions, instruments from elsewhere, and techniques from modern songwriting conventions. “I’m trying to get away from a nationalistic concept of music,” says Ferrer. “That’s why you hear different elements.”

Traditionalists in Cuba might tell you my music is not as traditional as it might sound,” says Ferrer. “I use tradition, to reinvent it, to join pieces that were separated. To bring forward elements that were left behind. People use tradition as a means of communication. But after a while their traditions just get repeated and they get bored with it. By reinventing these traditions for an audience, the tradition becomes alive again.”


Pedro Luis Ferrer (EGREM)
Debajo de mi voz (EGREM)
En espuma y arena (EGREM)
100% cubano (Carapacho Productions, 1994)
Pedro Luis Ferrer (Caliente Records, 1999)
Rústico (Escondida Records, 2005)
Natural (Escondida Records, 2006)
Tangible (Escondida Records, 2011)
Final (Escondida Records, 2014)


Artist Profiles: Carlos “Patato” Valdés


Carlos “Patato” Valdés was born to a musical family in Havana on November 4, 1926. Patato grew up playing the Cuban guitar known as tres, as well as the African thumb piano and numerous other instruments. By the time he was a teenager, he was already considered one of the finest conga players in Cuba, and at a time when American high society regularly vacationed in Havana, Patato became one of the featured players in the country’s famed Conjunto Casino. He also played with Chano Pozo, who helped create the Latin jazz movement with Dizzy Gillespie, and with Mongo Santamaría. He emigrated to the United States to take advantage of the burgeoning jazz scene, and lived in New York since 1954. There, he immediately found himself in demand. First hired by Tito Puente, Patato went on to play with the great Machito and Kenny Dorham. Then he connected with Herbie Mann, in a musical partnership that would last nearly a decade.

A wild personality and a funny cat. He’s exciting and pixie-ish at the same time,” Mann was quoted as saying on the 1965 Atlantic release Standing Ovation At Newport. Patato’s image was that of a man who knew how to have a good time – and didn’t mind sharing that knowledge.

After leaving Herbie Mann in the mid 1960s, Patato teamed up with the singer Totico, a boyhood friend from Havana, on the 1967 Verve album Patato y Totico. This record documented the vitality of an increasingly important rumba scene that was emerging in New York City and included such legendary artists as Israel “Cachao” López on bass and Arsenio Rodríguez on tres.

In the following years, Patato recorded and toured with virtually the entire world’s leading Latin Jazz artists, including Cachao and Machito. In 1995 he recorded the first of two albums in the series Ritmo y Candela with the second volume coming a year later. Both albums received Grammy nominations in the newly appointed Latin Jazz category. Patato: The Legend of Cuban Percussion is compiled from those two recordings, and even on a record with several world-class drummers, there’s no mistaking Patato’s playing. Young Cuban jazz stars like Omar Sosa, Yosvany Terry, and Ivan “Melon” González also participated.

Patato invented a more easily tuned conga that became the standard for Latin Percussion, the most famous conga manufacturer.

Patato died on December 4, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.


Patato & Totico (Verve, 1967)
Authority (Latin Percussion Ventures, 1976)
Ready for Freddy (Latin Percussion Ventures, 1976)
Batá y rumba (Latin Percussion Ventures, 1980)
Masterpiece (Messidor, 1993)
Ritmo y candela (Tonga, 1995)
Ritmo y candela II (Round World, 1996)
Único y diferente (Connector Music, 1997)
The Conga Kings (Chesky, 2000)
Jazz descargas (Chesky, 2001)
El hombre (Mambo Maniacs, 2004)
Live at the Canal Room (USA Records, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Papi Oviedo

Papi Oviedo

Gilberto “Papi” Oviedo la Portilla was born February 9, 1938. He was a Cuban tres player. Papi was the son of Isaac Oviedo, the world famous tres player and songwriter. Like his father before him, Papi was one of the most important tres players of the 20th century. The tres is a type of Cuban guitar, and as its Spanish name implies, it has six strings grouped together in three pairs.

Papi’s extraordinary style and energy, like his father’s, was rooted in the Afro/European traditions of Cuba. He lived through many different styles and evolutions of rhythms in Cuba: Son, the changüí, son oriental, classic son from Havana, son montuno (son from the countryside) and guaracha son (the current son). While his style of Afroson and the way he played was very similar to the blues, some of his work was also very similar to the Spanish gypsies’ Cante Jondo (deep singing in Flamenco).

Papi played and traveled the world with some of Cuba’s world famous groups including Típica Habanera, Enrique René, Estrella de Chocolate and Elio Revé.

In 1995 he formed Papi Oviedo y sus Soneros, getting together some of Cuba’s most outstanding musicians. All the instruments were acoustic: tres, guitar, contrabajo (acoustic bass), tumbadoras, bongos, maracas, güiro and trumpets. Both his vocalists, Maria Cristina Azcuy and Miguel Martínez Rojas, sang previously with 5U4, Changuey and Folklórico,

I was born here in Havana, but my father came from Matanzas in 1926,” said Papi. “From an early age I followed my father from here to there, from one fiesta to the next.

“My father played the tres and I used to play a bit with the tumbadores, raising a peso or so to give to my father. One day I picked up my father’s tres and started playing it. I liked it but we couldn’t make a living that way. So I sold sweets, cleaned shoes and even cleaned up the rubbish in the streets. My father also had to work in a hospital at nights and play in his spare time.

One day when I was about 15 my mother walked in with a tres and that was it for me. Then I started in my first group, a trio, playing in the streets and asking for money. Later on, I officially joined Enrique Pérez’s group. I was 21.

A few years later, I started playing with Conjunto Chocolate and later on with Chapotín. Life wasn’t easy so with Chapotín. I started playing in the bars and restaurants, and as we say ‘making soup or making a kilo’.

In 1981, I joined Elio Revé with whom I spent fifteen years. We traveled and recorded all over the world, Europe, Africa and Asia. In Japan, where I spent some time, I used to play with a band and give classes.

“Finally in 1995, I left Elio’s group… and recorded my first solo album.”

In November 1996 there was a gathering of artists in Havana in which about 120 musicians participated. The youngest guest was 13 and the oldest 92! It continued well through the night with the familiar smell of Cuban rum and tobacco filling the air. All the soneros came together forming one enormous group – Tiburón, Balloy, Caridad Cuervo and many more. In the middle of everyone was Papi with his tres. An album was recorded titled Encuentro entre Soneros (Gathering of Soneros), released in 1997, it assured him of a place on the international circuit.

El Mayombero, Papi Oviedo’s most recent album, recorded for Tumi Music, is a powerful example of Papi Oviedo y sus Soneros’ talent to offer truly magnificent son. Papi Oviedo’s three vocalists excel in different areas: Christina Azcuy in bolero-son, Miguelito Martínez in son and Osvaldo Montalvo in guaracha.

Papi Oviedo died on October 31, 2017.

Selected discography

Encuentro Entre Soneros (Candela, 1997)
El Mayombero (Tumi Music, 2000)
Chanchullo, with Rubén González (2000)
Bana Congo, with Papa Noel (Tumi, 2002)