¡Felíz Cumpleaños! to El Goyo, born Nov 17, 1936.
A founding member and instructor with Conjunto Folklórico Nacional for 25 years, a folklorist, professor, stage manager, percussionist, composer, and actor, El Goyo is probably best known as a singer, with such classic performances as "Mayeya" on Rapsodia Rumbera, and "La Jerigonza" on Tata Güines' Aniversário solidifying his legend. He has also worked with jazz saxofonist and flautist Jane Bunnet, most notably on her Chamalongo CD and her Cuban Odyssey DVD. But El Goyo has much more in the works...
El Goyo was born in Pinar del Rio, but soon the family moved to the impoverished Havana neighborhood of Las Yaguas. Curiously, his birthday also marks his aniversary as a public performer, in a way.
In the early 40's Gregorio's father, Isidoro, went into business for himself as a "botellero," rising early each morning, going through the streets of Havana with a cart, "pregonando" and buying empty bottles from residents to resell at bottle collection companies.
One morning as Isidoro was preparing for the day's work, Goyo made a request that surprised him. As María del Carmen Mestas tells it in her book "Pasión de Rumbero" (which is the source for much of the info in this article):
"Papá, today is my birthday and for my present I want you to take me with you to pregonar."
"al poco rato ya andaba el chiquillo de siete años lanzando al aire sus pregones entre la admiración de los que disfrutaban aquella voz melodiosa."Later the family moved to El Moro, where Goyo really developed an interest in rumba, first as a dancer, then later playing palitos and tres-dos, and finally singing.
("soon the 7 year-old was pregonando to the admiration of those who enjoyed that melodious voice.")
It was an opportune moment for a budding rumbero. The advent of the victrola, radio and televisión gave rumba, formerly hidden in the barrios, much more visibility, and new groups "exploded" onto the scene :
"Te digo que fue toda una explosión: nacieron grupos como Alejo y sus muchachos, Los Chicos Buenos, Las Estrellas Amalianas, Los Principales, Rumboleros, Los Parraqueños, y Los Tercios Modernos, hasta llegar posteriormente a ese cuarteto magnífico que forman Los Papines."
El Goyo formed his first duo with Carlos Águila, then later worked with Daniel Sánchez, Jesús Estrella Gutierrea, Fico Fabelo and with Juan de Dios Ramos (both in CFN and later in El Sicamarié, Mambo Chambo and Los Principales.)
A renowned singer of Abakuá, El Goyo became curious about the secret male society with Calabar roots as a result of hearing the many Abakuá references in rumba:
El mundo del Abakuá está muy vinculado al de los rumberos y, especialmente, al de los cultivadores del yambú y el guaguancó; por eso, desde que me inicié en la rumba sentí interés por esa sociedad.
Later he became an Abakuá himself (his "plaza" is Moruá Iyuansá Uriabón) and through diligent study has become an expert in its songs and practices. "Lo que sí sé hacer es hacer al íreme salir del cuarto fambá," he says. ("One thing I know how to do is make the íreme come out of the fambá room.") His mastery of Abakuá song is evident in his work on the Antología de la Música Afrocubana vol. X, a long out-of-print LP collection recently reissued on CD.
Today El Goyo is as busy as ever. In 2000 he gathered the greats of the genre in the studio to tell the history of rumba from the bandos de calle and the coros de clave through guarapachagueo and rumba-rap in the CD "La Rumba es Cubana" (Abdala UN-CD6004).
As for future projects, besides attending conferences in the Festival Guanana 2006 in Cienfuegos, and at the ¨Festival La Conga y La Rumba, en Bejucal, El Goyo has plans for a DVD which he is going to call "De las Raíces a las Síntesis" ("From the roots to the synthesis") about his investigations into the interaction between the Spanish and African roots in the Cuban musical synthesis, especially the contributions of rumba to son.
He also has 3 CDs planned, for which he says he needs "apoyo material." They are "Goyo y sus Amigos," "Homenaje al Tío Tom," and a third as-yet-untitled disc which will explore how rumberos have sung about national and international political events.
Thanks Goyo for sharing your talent and your knowledge with us, and may you spend many more birthdays pregonando to the world the wonders of cuban music.
Gracias Goyo por compartir su talento y su gran conocimiento con nosotros, y que pases muchos más cumpleaños pregonando al mundo las glorias de la música cubana.
For a complete overview of El Goyo's career, download his Curriculum Vitae.