Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rumberos de Cuba: Tradition and Modernity

(This article was originally posted by Patricio at

Let’s take a look at the current discographic panorama of rumba: what do we have regarding groups who are making records, who are they, and how could we classify them? Here we will try to answer, and see what we have about groups who have made recordings in the last ten years:

  • Leading « historic » groups such as Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó, Grupo Yoruba Andabó, Afro-Cuba de Matanzas, and Los Papines.
  • A few important musicians who, as independent artists, make their own album under their own name, such as : “Pancho Quinto” Mora, Gregorio Hernández “El Goyo”, Mario Dreke “Chavalonga”, Pedro Celestino Fariñas, and some more yet internationaly unknown.
  • New groups playing « advanced » style rumba, such as Iroso Obba, or Rumba Eriera – both groups are composed with quite the same musicians.
  • New « agrupaciones » making « mixed rumba & afrocuban » or « mixed rumba & jazz » such as Wemilere (how difficult the birth of their CD), Awiri Yo (rumba-comparsa) or USA’s Deep Rumba.
  • A few american groups (with Cuban musicians who came to live in USA recently, or a few years ago) such as LP’s Montvale Rumba or Eddie Bobé’s Central Park Rumba…
  • A few provincial Cuban groups, who with many difficulties finally make their album, like Rumbatá (Camagüey), El Folkloyuma (Santiago), Rumberos de Hoy (Santiago)…
  • A few ethnomusicological recordings, produced all around the world from occidental countries or in Cuba itself.

Besides all these, there has been in Havana since the 1990’s a particular nucleus of rumberos, centered around Cuban producer Rodolfo Chacón Tartabull, a man close to Tata Güines and José Luis Quintana “Changuito”, both being very official artists and Egrem stars.

There never seemed to appear a single group out of this nucleus, nor a man able to gather those people under his own name – except for Tata during the « Aniversario » period.

This «conjunto de rumberos» existing since early 90’s could be called the «Rapsodia Rumbera school».

From this nucleus will finally emerge in early 2000 «Rumberos de Cuba», Rodolfo Chacón’s new project.

In this article we will now try to describe every single artist within this project.

Maximino Duquesne, Mario "Aspirina" Jauregui, "Marquito" Diaz
First version of percussion section of RDC
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Rumberos de Cuba is not what we could call a «guarapachangueo» group. It is more on the traditional side – but yet its style definitely belongs to modern rumba. The use of a « cajón and tumbadora » set for the tumbador player is a modern element, as is the style of the "conversations" between the tumbador and tres-dos. Compositions in RDC repertoire are either old songs (Omelé, Flor de Mayo), or « creative » (their version of the cumbia « El Cafetál » ), or new rumbas (El Trovador).

RDC is formed by old traditionalist musicians (Mario Aspirina) as well as young new rumberos (Ariel Monteresi). Therefore, Rumberos de Cuba is a clever mix of tradition and modernity.

The musicians’ resumes are so impressive that only respect can be shown to them, just this element is sufficient to put them among famous groups in the island. We can be sure of their future success when they become a bit more well-known. The quality of their first CD leaves no doubt about their future.

In the first version of the group, Mario “Aspirina” Jauregui Francis, Maximino Duquesne, “Marquito” Herminio Diaz, his son “Yosvani” Diaz played percussion, and Lázaro Rizo often palyed catá. Singers, (in addition to El Gato) were Luis Chacón Mendivel “Aspirina”, Miguel Ángel Mesa Cruz “Aspirina”, Sofía Rámos Morejón, and Pedro Francisco Almeida Berriel “Tatá” (at the same time working with Clave y Guaguancó). Dancers were « Aidita » Salina Sánchez and Dionisio Paul Palma. Both were in the coro in non-danced parts.

In year 2000 they recorded their first album, produced in 2004 by Egrem: “¿Dónde Andabas Tú, Acerekó?” (Egrem 0600), and a beautiful DVD, « Rumbón Tropical, » with guest Ricardo Gómez « Santa Cruz ».

(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Within this first version of the group they also recorded three unreleased CD tracks (“Yo Viné pa’ Ver”, “Dónde Andabas Anoche” and “Guantanamera”) with Tatá Güines and José Luis Quintana “Changuito”, with famous trumpet player Julio Padrón, tremendous tresero “El Guajiro” and a bass player, too. Within this project they toured in France during Summer and Autumn 2002 (I was lucky to see them at “Toros y Salsa” Festival in Dax).

The second version of the group added Santiago Garzón Rill “Chaguito” who also made a DVD named “Rumbambeo” with El Negro Triana and Juan de Dios Rámos.

After that Rumberos de Cuba worked in another project directed by Puntilla, as an “Homenaje a Gonzálo Asencio "Tío Tom"”. They recorded one still-unreleased 9 tracks cd with rumbas Tío Tom wrote, such as “La China Linda”, “¿Dónde Están los Cubanos?” or “Como tu Sabes”. Ernesto wrote a beautiful columbia called “El Tío Tom" for this project. The singers are Ernesto, Miguel Ángel Mesa and Puntilla, but some famous singers were invited too: El Goyo, Lázaro Rizo, and (from Grupo Yoruba Andabo) Juan Cámpos Cárdenas “Chán”, Geovani del Pino Rodríguez and Miguel Chapottín Beltrán.

Yosvani Diaz, Maximino Duquesne, "Marquito" Diaz
Second version of RDC percussion
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

In the last months of year 2004 Marquito Diaz died tragically, after a heart attack and being operated in a Havana hospital. Since 1992 he had formed with Maximino Duquesne one of the best “rítmica”, recording many famous albums, among them Rapsodia Rumbera.

After that, Rumberos de Cuba had to change for a 4th version of the group, with the famous “Cusito” (Jesús Lorenzo Peñalver), one of the best young akpwones in Havana, and tremendous drum player. Cusito had been a member of Juan de Dios’ Raices Profundas and Chavalonga’s “Ven Tú”, called now “Wemilere” (hear cd “Santería” at Harmonia Mundi). The young Yosvanni Diaz Herrera (Marquito’s son) is now more and more important in the group. I have see him playing better and better each year between 2001 and 2004. Their future and fourth cd project is called “Habana de mi Corazón”.

Members (or ex-members) of Rumberos de Cuba:

"El Gato"
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Ernesto Gatel Cotó “El Gato”- lead vocals
“El Gato” has always been a central character in the RDC project, as the main singer, and for being several times musical director of the group (see complete article about Ernesto).

Rodolfo Chacón Tartabull
( Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Rodolfo Chacón Tartabull - producer
Born in Cienfuegos, he enters the Egrem in 1990. “Songs and Dances” is the first record he produced. He won a “Gran Premio Egrem” in 1995 producing Tatá Güines and Anga Diaz “Pasaporte.” He also won a “First Prize in Traditional and Folkloric Music” with Tatá Güines’ “Aniversario.” He finally won a “First Prize at Cubadisco” Festival with the “Guajira con Tumbao” record.

(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Marcos Herminio Diaz Scull “Marquito” - percussion
Marquito began working as a professional dancer in the “Rita Montaner” company in Havana in 1968. Then he began to play percussion in many folkloric groups, then entered the “Conjunto Artístico de las FAR” (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias) where he stayed 10 years. He died in 2005, being not more than 43 years old. He was in Tata Güines’ group, in Rapsodia Rumbera and in Jane Bunnett’s project.

Yosvanni Diaz Herrera
(Photo Credit: Richard Housset)

Yosvanni Diaz Herrera - percussion (tres/dos)
One of the youngest member of Rumberos de Cuba. Marquito’s son. He has been member of many folkloric groups in Havana like “Iroso Obba” or “Awiri Yo”. He took part in the last cd of Miguel Ánga Diaz and in an experimental project leaded by Ry Cooder.

Yosvani Diaz & Maximino Duquesne at Palenque
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Maximino Duquesne Martínez “El Moro Quinto” - percussion and second vocals
Born May 29 1939 in the famous reparto “La Cueva del Humo” in Luyanó, barrio Concha y Fábregas, Maximino moved at the age of 9 to the barrio “Las Yaguas.” He has been a member of early 1950’s rumba groups such as “El Coro Folklórico Cubano,” and a founding member of the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional. He studied cuban folkloric percussion, and has always been considered a great rumbero, as well as güiro or bembé specialist. He’s been a part of many great rumba recordings, and took part in canadian Jane Bunnett’s project.

( Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Santiago Garzón Rill “Chaguito” - percussion and lead vocals
Born in Gantánamo, he began his musical career in changüí groups. He moved to Havana at the beginning of the 1990’s and entered “Conjunto de Clave y Guaguancó,” where he stayed for six years. He is a rumba composer, too. He has been musical director of Rumberos de Cuba at a time. You may find his very good dvd “Rumbambeo” at

Ariel Monteresi
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Ariel Monteresi - lead vocals
Many people present Ariel as a “spiritual son” of Juan de Dios Rámos “El Colo”. At the age of 12 he began to work with Juan de Dios. He’s been a member of famous groups such “Ébano”, El Goyo’s “Oba Ilú”, or “Clave y Guaguancó”. He stayed one year in Italy working at the “Cabaret Tropicana de Roma”. He has been quite famous in Havana for singing his rumba “Dile que Yo Soy tu Tío”.

Dionisio Paul Palma
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Dionisio Paul Palma - dancer
He was graduate of the ENA University of Arts in 1982, and then entered the “Conjunto Folklórico Nacional.” He still works with the CFN, with the title of “Primer Bailarin Solista”, and as a teacher too.

Sofía Rámos Morejón
(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Sofía Rámos Morejón - lead vocals
She began her career in folkloric music in 1994, in the “Iyá Aché” group, staying with them for seven years. Like many women do, she often sings yambú in Rumberos de Cuba.

(Photo Credit: Official RDC photo)

Aida Salina Sánchez “Aidita” - dancer and coro
Since she was very young, she acted as a professional dancer on stage with artists such as Merceditas Valdés or Celina González. She has been a member of “Raices Profundas” and “Havana Night”. Later she danced with Conjunto Rumbavana or Jane Bunnett.

Mario, Miguel Ángel, and Luis Chacón: “Los Tres Aspirinas”
This famous family of Guanabacoa rumberos has had numerous members, many of whom have passed on, and many grandchildren or nephews form the new generation. The name “Aspirina” comes from one elder brother of Mario, Pedro, who always had serious toothaches, and had to keep for hours a aspirin tucked against his bad tooth. People nicknamed him “Aspirina.”

Mario "Aspirina" Jauregui Francis
(Photo Credits: Pascal Gouy "El Chévere.")

Mario "Aspirina" Jauregui Francis - percussion
Born 22 July 1932, Mario is considered the greatest quinto player in Cuba with Jesús Alfonso in Matanzas. At the age of nine he began to play batá drums with legendary Pablo Roche Okilakpá, and is said to have learned much quicker than anyone else. When he was still a child he began to play in ceremonies. He says he was the quinto player in the first rumba record ever “El Vive Bien,” but the credits don’t mention him [Tumbao CD reissue says Giraldo Rodriguez]. He is a founding member of the Conjunto Folkórico Nacional as a dancer. He is definitely the main guardian of the Havana-style percussion tradition in rumba as well as in batá drumming. He is one of the very few “alumnos” of Pablo Roche still alive, along with Esteban "Chachá" Vega. But unlike another of Roche's alumnos, Pancho Kinto (ibae), who invented many things in batá drum and in rumba, Mario is the incredible living testimony of old times, for he never changed his own style, that he learned with “Los Rumberos de la Historia.” Unlike many Cuban musicians, Mario is a small, thin, discreet and quiet man, and keeps himself in a very good physical condition. The French musician Karim Ammour is writing a book on Mario’s incredible life.

Miguel Ángel “Aspirina” Mesa Cruz “El Caballero de la rumba” - singer
One of the oldest rumba singers in Havana, Miguel Ángel is undeniable champion of the columbia syle. El Goyo often tells that he had been inspired with Miguel Ángel’s style. Member of early Clave y Guaguancó, as you can see in the incredible 1967 documental “Y tenemos Sabor”, Miguel Ángel opens the Rapsodia Rumbera record with his famous song “Miguel Ángel el Divertido”. He worked in Cabaret Tropicana for years. He is the perfect example of self-taught rumba musicians, and worked many times with legends of rumba habanera, such as Flor de Amor and Odilio Urfé.

Luis Chacón “Aspirina” Mendivel (R) with the Author

Luis Chacón “Aspirina” Mendivel - percussion, singer and dancer
A little younger than the two others, Luis Chacón has been director of many groups since the 1960 years. He sings, plays drums and dances with an incredible energy. He began playing in la Orquesta Jorrín and was a founding member of the Conjunto Folkórico Nacional. In 1964 he had his own group “Sicamalié.”

Rumberos de Cuba have made one beautiful cd “¿Dónde Andabas Tú, Acerekó?” you may find at:

and a tremendous DVD you may find at:

(This article was originally posted by Patricio at


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this information, with great pics included, very informative

South Side Hombre said...

My head spins as I read through this well done exposition de la cultura de nuestra Raza. Whether we are Chicano, Rumbero, Boricuan,Salsero and the list goes on, this stuff is a history of our civilization. For so long, Raza has been force fed George Washington, Paul Revere, Davy Crockett, Roy Rogers, Vic Damone, Sinatra, et al ad naseum.....but not a word de nuestra Raza. Thank you for this running commentary on what is the future of our existence.......jose el chato from Aztlan, Omaha

CongaDr said...

My brother, you amaze me.. this is such a fat post! ...pure gold man.

Far be it for me to add anything, but lets not forget Carlos Aldama who is alive and well. (one of the very few “alumnos” of Pablo Roche still alive) just was over at his house last weekend. Carlos is a world treasure, and is doing very well with young wife with an active and strong house of Santeria in San Lorenso Ca.