Tag Archives: danzón

The Cuban Danzón

Danzón is a ballroom dance played by the Cuban charangas. It is a descendant of the popular the Spanish danza of the 1800s and the French contredanse (contradanza) brought by the French immigrants fleeing the Haitian Revolution, who settled in the Cuba’s eastern region. The danzon was preferably danced during winter, because, according to the dancers, it led to extreme overheating. Therefore, in winter Cubans danced danzón, and in summer they waltzed.

Danzón in the 19th Century

As the name in Spanish implies, the danzon is a long dance. In the mid 19th century, Miguel Faílde created the instrumental accompaniment to the dance. The first danzon was performed by a traditional wind orchestra, at the Matanzas Lyceum, January 1st, 1879. The name of the first danzón known was “Las alturas de Simpsom.” The name of the piece was a marked homage to the site in the city where popular celebrations were held.

Years later, musicians like Raimundo Valenzuela, Enrique Guerrero and Félix Cruz, added to new elements to the popular genre.

Danzon in the 20th Century

At the beginnings of the 20th century, José Urfé revolutionized danzon music completely by introducing a mountain son using the tres (three string guitar) style used by musicians in the eastern provinces of Cuba. Musicologist Helio Orovio said: “El Bombín de Barreto (a song by Urfé) defined for the rest of the century, the singular style that would distinguish the danzón forever.”

From Cuba, the danzon spread to other nations, like Mexico.

Danzon’s Offspring

The danzon generated new genres like the danzonete and the cha cha chá. Barbarito Diez became the King of the danzon. The danzón owes its ample diffusion and clearest interpretation to Diez.

The danzon is currently celebrated during the Havana Danzón Festival, that includes concerts, conferences and meetings that clarify the influence of the danzón on musical genres that came decades later, such as salsa.

Sources: Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC), Helio Orovio, World Music Central

Danzón books

Danzón: Circum-Caribbean Dialogues in Music and Dance (Currents in Latin American and Iberian Music)

Danzón Recordings

The Cuban Danzón

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Artist Profiles: Orquesta America

Orquesta América
For over 50 years, Orquesta América have been one of Cuba’s most recognized and prized bands. Their road to fame and popularity began in March 1942 when Enrique Jorrín, America’s founder and director made a change to a danzon number and incorporated the rhythms of the cha cha cha. This arrangement proved so popular that Jorrín decided to create entire songs with the new cha cha cha genre.

Along with Aragón, Conjunto Chapottin and Benny Moré’s Banda Gigante, Orquesta A merica were the main musical exponents in Cuba during the 50’s golden era of music. As the years went by modern orchestras became increasingly more and more popular and the love for traditional music faded but by the mid 90’s European audiences became increasingly aware of the beauty that lay in the traditional music of Cuba.

It was at this point that Mo Fini, Tumi Music’s founder decided to bring the legendary Orquesta America back to prominence and recorded the seminal 4CD box set entitled Orquesta America with Cuban All Stars – Las leyendas de la Música Cubana. The success of Las Leyendas de la Musica Cubana made Orquesta America, once again, one of the most sought-after live bands on the Cuban music circuit. Today they play in Havana’s most prestigious venues.

Discography

* Las Leyendas de la Música Cubana (Tumi Music TMGBOX1)

* Cha cha cha (Tumi Music TMGCD3)

* Bolero (Tumi Music TMGCD4)

* Danzón (Tumi Music TMGCD5)

* Guaracha (Tumi Music TMGCD6)

* Desde la Habana te Traigo (Tumi Music TUMI074)

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Artist Profiles: Afro Cuban All Stars

Afro-Cuban All Stars
Afro-Cuban All Stars

The Afro-Cuban All Stars were brought together by musical director Juan de Marcos González (leader of the son group Sierra Maestra and mastermind behind the Buena Vista Social Club), as a multi-generational big band to explore a broader scope than the Buena Vista projects, ambitiously paying tribute to the diversity of Cuban music, marrying the past with the present. It is a band for dancing – combining a variety of contrasting styles including classic son montuno, contemporary timba, swinging big band guajira, Afro-Cuban jazz, danzón, the pure tribal rhythms of abakua, bolero and more.

The original list of lead vocalists that have performed with the group is a virtual “who’s who” of the greatest Cuban sonerosthe octogenarian Pío Leyva (Estrellas de Areito) and the septuagenarians Raúl Planas (Rumbavana, Celia Cruz), and Manuel “Puntillita” Licea (Sonora Matancera) were joined by rising stars from a younger generation, Antonio “Maceo” Rodríguez (Sierra Maestra), Félix Valoy (Alberto Alvarez), and Teresita García Caturla (Las D’Aida).

To back these individual talents through a diverse selection of songs González brought together a very special group of musicians. On piano is one of the founding fathers of modern Cuban music, the legendary Rubén González (Arsenio Rodríguez, Enrique Jorrín, Estrellas de Areito). On acoustic bass is Cuba’s finest, Orlando “Cachaíto” López, who learned his trade as part of the extraordinary bass playing López dynasty which includes his father Orestes López and uncle Israel “Cachao” López.

The six piece horn section (three trumpets, two trombones, sax, flute) is made up from the best players of Havana’s celebrated Tropicana Orchestra. Soloists include the great Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal on trumpet (Orchestra Riverside, Estrellas de Areito) and Afrokan (Irakere) on trombone.

In a country renowned for its percussionists, the All Stars’ six-piece section is matchless and includes the young phenomenon Julienne Oviedo on timbales, and the great Miguel “Angá”on congas.

In December of 2000, Pedro Calvo, the lead singer of Cuba’s top dance band, Los Van Van, was recruited as a vocalist for the Afro-Cuban All Stars. The line-up in 2001 also included Caridad Hierrezuelo.

Discography

A Toda Cuba le Gusta (1997)
Distinto, Diferente (1999)
Baila mi Son (2000)
Bajando Gervasio (2002)
Live in Japan (2005)
Step Forward (2005)
Absolutely Live (2009)
Absolutely Live II (2017)

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