Tag Archives: son cubano

Ruben Blades Charms with Alter Ego Medoro Madera

Rubén Blades – Medoro Madera (Ruben Blades  Productions, 2018)

Medoro Madera is Ruben Bades’ fascinating tribute to the great Cuban soneros. He does this by creating an alter ego, a character that sings with a different, unrecognizable voice.  Rubén changes his voice surprisingly, using a different timbre than we are used to and it’s all done without electronics.

The gentleman on the front cover, Medoro Madera is a new persona as well. It’s a superimposed picture of Rubén Blades’ 93-year old father and Rubén himself.

Medoro Madera features the superb Panamanian Roberto Delgado & Orchestra, although in a scaled down version to resemble a traditional son cubano ensemble. Additional Cuban flavor is added by Panama-based Cuban tres guitar virtuoso Mayito Travieso and conguero Juan Zelada.

The lineup on the album includes Medoro Madera (Rubén Blades) on lead vocals, chorus; musical director Roberto Delgado on double bass, guitar and choruses; Bolívar “Bomy” Román on tres; Juan Berna on piano; Marcos Barraza on congas; Carlos Pérez-Bidó on timbales; Raúl “Toto” Rivera on bongo, bell, güiros and maracas; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López on trumpet; Alejandro “Chichisín” Castillo on trumpets; George de León on chorus; Mayito Travieso on tres; and Juan Zelada on congas.

Medoro Madera is an irresistible and savory neo-traditional Cuban album by the multi-faceted and extremely talented singer-songwriter and actor Rubén Blades. “The most danceable album I’ve ever done.”


Two Giants of Cuban Guitar

Eliades Ochoa and Alejandro Almenares – Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana (Tumi Music, 2018)

The Tumi Music label continues to release some of the finest artists from Cuba. This time it’s the pairing of two of the greatest guitar players in the Cuban traditional music scene: Eliades Ochoa and Alejandro Almenares. Eliades Ochoa Bustamante became worldwide famous as one of the stars of the Buena Vista Social Club. Alejandro Enis Almenares is lesser known outside of Cuba, although he’s an outstanding guitar player from Santiago de Cuba.

The two artists play instrumental versions of Cuban son (son cubano) and boleros composed by Alejandro Almenares and his father Angel Sanchez Almenares, who was a great “trovador.” It’s a set of exquisite guitar duos and solos with some accompaniment.

The musicians on Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana include Eliades Ochoa on guitar; Alejandro Almenares on requinto (soloist) and tres; Gabino Jardines on guitar; Enrique Diaz on acoustic bass; Alfondo Borges on percussion; Ren Dominguez on soprano saxophone; and Pedro Alarcón on violin.

Dos Gigantes de Música Cubana is a flavorful and masterfully performed guitar album deeply rooted in rural Cuban music tradition.


Artist Profiles: Valle Son

Valle Son

Valle Son is a 7 piece group from the rural village of Viñales in the lush tobacco-growing highlands of Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of Cuba, where most of them have been playing together for more than a decade.

In July 2000, Valle Son traveled to the Yukon (Canada) for a month-long tour. There they recorded their CD Son de Cuba at Old Crow Studio in Whitehorse, released on their imprint, Caribou Records- home to the Undertakin’ Daddies, Kim Barlow, and Anne Louise Genest.

Son de Cuba is rooted in the traditional son style, yet embodies a contemporary, hybrid sound. Driven by the clave rhythm, the music integrates elements of jazz and mambo to create a propulsive, vibrant groove.

Valle Son would have returned to Canada sooner, but a 2002 North American tour crumbled, with visa delays in the wake of 9/11.

In 2003, Valle Son returned to Canada for an extensive summer tour.


Artist Profiles: Jóvenes Clásicos del Son

Jóvenes Clásicos del Son

Jóvenes Clásicos del Son are known as Cuba’s magnificent seven. Awarded the prize of Best Cuban Group of 1997 by the Cuban government they have had a string of hits in Cuba. They have been recognized by the international press as the best group from a new generation of young Cuban musicians and have collaborated in the past with Grammy Award winning Compay Segundo as well as with jazz supremo Winton Marsalis. Individually they have worked with members of another award winning band, Vocal Sampling, as well as working with Peter Gabriel among others.

Led by the charismatic director and bass player Ernesto “Palma” Reyes Proenza, formerly with Cándido Fabr&eacute and incorporating two of the most sought after musicians, the singer Nene and the trumpet player Raudel, this traditional seven piece fully acoustic band defy the conventional format and take son to powerful and exciting new heights. Mixing Cuban son with the deepest elements of Cuban music together with soul, jazz, and funk this dynamic group became a rising star on the international world music scene.


No pueden parar (Artcolor 1996)
Fruta Bomba (Tumi Music 1999)
Tambor en el Alma (Tumi Music 2001)
Menos Jóvenes Más Clásicos (Unicornio 2005)
Cantan en llano (Colibrí 2011)
Pedacito de mi vida (2014)
El bar de Paco (PICAP 2016)


Arturo Jorge y El Cuarteto Tradición’s Rural Charm

Arturo Jorge y El Cuarteto Tradición – Finca Santa Elena (Tumi Music, 2017)

Finca Santa Elena is the international release from Cuba’s Arturo Jorge y El Cuarteto Tradición. British label Tumi Music is providing wider exposure to one of the finest performers of rural guajira music from Eastern Cuba.

Arturo Jorge Cabrales, better known as Arturo Jorge, is a talented singer-songwriter, composer and tres and guitar player from San Rafael. He founded El Cuarteto Tradición, an ensemble that brings forward the son and son montuno traditions to new generations. It’s music that brings together poetry, the Spanish guitar traditions and light Afro-Cuban percussion.

The amusing lyrics cover all kinds of topics, ranging from changing rural life and love to jealousy and unhappiness with foreign rhythms like reggaeton that are getting more attention than traditional Cuban genres.

The personnel on Finca Santa Elena includes Arturo Jorge Cabrales on vocals and tres (he uses a double-necked acoustic guitar instrument); Geovanis Oliva Aguilar on guitar and backing vocals; Gerardo Ramirez Valdé on acoustic bass; Ramón Vicente García Montero on percussion and backing vocals; and Erlis Ros Navas on percussion and backing vocals.

Buy Finca Santa Elena in Europe

Buy Finca Santa Elena in the rest of the world


Artist Profiles: Sierra Maestra

Sierra Maestra

Sierra Maestra is a seminal son cubano (Cuban son) band from Havana, Cuba. Currently, it’s one of the finest and most popular musical ensembles performing in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

Placing themselves apart from other Cuban acts, Sierra Maestra reawakened the traditional style son line-up: tres, guitar, trumpet, bongo, güiro and vocals, emulating the golden days of the 1920s and 30s. Sierra Maestra’s members are pioneers in revitalizing this genre for new generations and its re-introduction into the Cuban mainstream. Sierra Maestra named themselves after the mountain range in the eastern part of Cuba as a tribute to the birth place of son.

Sierra Maestra first performed in 1976 at the University of Havana, where all the group members studied. Their goal, then as now, was to recover this popular Cuban music style of the 1920 that had been all but forgotten.

The group slightly increased the original instrument line-up with extra percussion (congas and maracas) and replaced the tradiitonal marímbula with electric bass. Some of the guaracha rhythms were sped up in a move away from the slow, close pair dancing of the 1920s.

This revitalization of son with a modern attitude was a sensation for the new generation of Cubans, and Sierra Maestra quickly became popular, playing the annual festivals at the universities around the island of Cuba, capturing first place prizes in their first three years. They were also appearing regularly on national TV.

In 1978, Sierra Maestra was asked to represent Cuba a the “Festival Mundial de la Juventud y los Estudiantes” in Havana. Their first album, “Sierra Maestra llegó con el guanajo relleno” recorded in 1981, received a silver disc award for outstanding sales, spectacular popularity and critical reception. They also won individual prizes for best recording, most popular song and highest record sales. Also in 1981, they launched their first foreign tour to Nicaragua.

Sierra Maestra recorded their second LP, “Y Son Así” in 1982 and was awarded the Girasol prize for the year’s most popular group and finished the year with tours to Angola and Nicaragua.

In 1983, Sierra Maestra won the “Benny Moré” dance music prize at the Benny Moré festival and took part in the IV Song Festival held in Helsinki, Finland. They then traveled to Sweden and France and to the International Film Festival in Spain (where they’ve enjoyed playing over the years).

Also in 1983, Sierra Maestra recorded the soundtrack to the Cuban TV series “Las Impuras” and their song “A los rumberos de Belén” was used in Robert Redford’s film, “The Milagro Beanfield War”. Since then, Sierra Maestra has attracted international audiences in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. They have recorded numerous albums, singles and appeared on over seven compilations.

Sierra Maestra also have a French feature film called “Salsa” that was released in February of 2000 in France. It’s a feature film, written by Jean-Claude Carriére and directed by Joyce Buñuel, released by Universal Studios.

The ensemble’s arrangements generally use the classic formula: introduction of trumpet phrases over the basic melody of the song (this usually following A-B or A-B-C-A scheme) and then the montuno, based on vocal or trumpet solo improvisations with chorus work. Sierra Maestra also play Cuban rumba, a different clave -2/3- that accompanies a totally different dance to that of son.

Sierra Maestra’s leader for many years, Juan De Marcos González Cárdenas (vocals, tres, musical director) left the group to create the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Buena Vista Social Club. And Jesús Alemany, the band’s charismatic trumpet player for many years, left to form his group Cubanismo.


* Sierra Maestra llegó con el guanajo relleno (1981)
* Y Son Así (1982)
* ¡Dundunbanza! (World Circuit Records, 1994)
* Criolla Garabali (Iris Music, 1996)
* Tibiri Tabara (World Circuit Records, Nonesuch WCD051, 1998)
* Rumberos de la Havana (Iris Music, 1999)
* Rumbero Soy (Riverboat Records TUGCD1027, 2002)
* Son: Soul of a Nation (Riverboat Records, 2005)
* Sonando Ya (World village, 2010)


Artist Profiles: Leyanis Lopez

Leyanis López

Leyanis López Luque was born in Guantanamo on the 8th of October 1971. She started out at the age of seven as a member of the Guantanamo province Fabio Rosell del Rio Primary School choir, directed by art instructor Miguel Angel Duran. Her natural gift for singing soon singled her out and she became a solo singer for different musical groups within the Pioneers organization. During all this period, she performed in various cultural events.

From 1980 onwards, she constantly participated in the Jose Marti tribute youth festivals, Pioneers Trova festivals and summer festivals organized nationally, allowing her to perfect her artistic qualities. In 1984, she was a cultural representative at the forum of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), a non-governmental organization, held in Havana.

In 1985, accompanied by the excellent Ismaelillo group, she won first prize in the Summer Festival, with the support from her teacher Maria Balan and lessons from Angel Savin, an arts instructor.

In 1986, she took her first trip abroad, representing Cuba at the International Festival of Amateur Artists organized in Hungary in July, then touring the German Federal Republic and Czechoslovakia.

In 1988, she was ranked in the highest category of amateur artists. Her career as a professional singer began in 1989 when she performed at different guitar trio festivals, at the Boleros de Oro Festival and the Rafael Inciarte Brioso Festival of Popular Music. She gave concerts as a singer with orchestras or trios in theaters, community arts centers and open-air events in parks, going on tours throughout the country and appearing on the radio and television in Guantanamo and other provinces. She also recorded at the EGREM studios in Santiago de Cuba for the CMQ International channel and Japanese television.

In 1994, she was ranked in the higher category of professional singers. She then studied singing at the Guantanamo Further Training Centre for Professional Artists. In 1995, she was awarded her singing-category intermediate-level diploma with distinction.

She recorded her first CD in 1998 for the French label Lusafrica. Her repertoire, which includes different types of popular music, romantic ballads, bolero, cancion, waltz, guajira and Cuban son, allows the listener to appreciate the effect of more complex music on popular music since the beginning of the century in Eastern Cuba, as well as the influence of 1950s music. It also adopts a present-day innovations in terms of harmonies and tones.


* Como la Mariposa (Lusafrica, 1999)
* Mi corazón y yo (Lusafrica, 2002)
* Corazón Presumido (Lusafrica, 2005)


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.


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)


Global Songs about Miami Characters

The Baboons - Spanglish (Syncopated Sounds, 2016)
The Baboons – Spanglish (Syncopated Sounds, 2016)

Multi-ethnic band The Baboons is based in Miami and has absorbed many of the musical influences that characterize the most Latin American of US cities. On the album Spanish, the band sings in both English and Spanish and delivers a mix of world music sounds such as mambo and samba from Latin America, Trinidadian steel pans from the Caribbean, Afrobeat from West Africa, Balkan music from Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, along with American jazz, rock and blues.

“Spanglish is a love letter to Miami where diverse people from all over the world live, love and influence each other every day,” says lead vocalist, songwriter and percussionist Majica. “These songs are stories about real Miami characters. They come from different worlds, they struggle, but in the end they all call Miami home.”

Highlights include “Pequeña Habanera” that mixes son cubano with rock en español; an English-language blues song called “Prints”; the Latin party song “Alborotá”; and the fabulous Latin rock meets Afrobeat piece “Yuca.”

The lineup on Spanglish includes Majica on lead vocals and percussion; Mano Pila on drums and vocals; Miguel Rega on congas, timbales and percussion; Isaac Rodriguez on lead vocals and guitar; Michael Mut on bass; Dominick Cama on alto and tenor saxophones and flute; Paul Messina on tenor saxophone and flute.

Guests include Senegalese griot Morikeba Kouyate on kora; Jose Domenech on piano, AJ Hill on baritone sax; Rich Dixon on trumpet; Jose Elias on guitar; Buffalo Brown on soukous guitars’ Kenneth Metzker on steel drums and vocals; Phil McArthur on bass; and JJ Freire on jembe.

The “Spanglish” CD cover features artwork by Eva Ruiz.

Buy the Spanglish CD. Or buy the digital download version.


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.


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)