Saturday, August 06, 2011

A discography of Guaguancó Matancero (and more rarities)

Vocalists of "Guaguancó Matancero": Esteban Lantri "Saldiguera," Hortensio Alfonso "Virulilla," Juan Mesa "Juan Bosco"

Photo credit: Vanessa Lindberg

UPDATE 1: Thanks to collector Didier Ferrand we have been able to identify labels and numbers for 5 more songs, plus we learned of one more we were unaware of: "En Opuestas Regiones."
UPDATE 2: Thanks to collector Matt Dillon we've identified 2 more songs.
UPDATE 3: Thanks to Mexico-based collector and DJ Brendan Flannery we've identified 2 more songs, and solved the "Manolo Ortega" mystery.
UPDATE 4: Thanks to collector Alex Gonzalez of we became aware of Rosy 45-018 Yamurí/Xiomara. The recordings are identical to FMR-018. This is the first I am aware of any overlap of recordings between labels.
UPDATE 5: Thanks to collector Emiliano Echeverria we have more info on Mercedita Valdés "Ya me cansé/Miénteme" Puchito 45.

This past spring, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas finished their first tour of the US in 9 years. The story of their origins is well-known: they started in 1952, spontaneously rumbeando with spoons, tables and bottles at the El Gallo bar, on the corner of Matanzas and Daoiz streets in Matanzas.

After the surprising success of "El Vive Bien," by Alberto Zayas' group, released by Panart in 1955, Jesús Gorís sought them out to record for his label Puchito. They recorded "Los Beodos" and "Los Muñequitos." The story goes that the latter song became such a big hit that audiences began shouting it out at their live shows, "Los muñequitos, Los muñequitos!" so they changed their name to Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.

The original members of "Guaguancó Matancero":
Standing (L to R): Florencio Calle "Catalino"; Gregorio Díaz "Goyito";
Esteban Vega Bacallao "Chachá"; Pablo Mesa "Papi"; Ángel Pellado "Pelladito"
Seated (L to R): Hortencio Alfonso "Virulilla"; Esteban Lantri "Saldiguera"; Juan Bosco Mesa

Discography of Guaguancó Matancero.

Most of us probably first heard the recordings of Guaguancó Matancero either on one of several vinyl versions of two LP records, "Guaguancó" (Puchito MLP565) and "Guaguancó Vol. 2" (Antilla MLP595), or on CD reissues of those. These LPs are both compilations of previously released 45s or 78s, and shared with other groups.

Guaguancó(Puchito MLP565)

As Mark Sanders has noted, the original pressing of "Guaguancó" was probably Puchito SP 103, released with a slightly different cover...

(Puchito SP103)

...and with credits properly given to the two groups, a detail which was omitted on later releases and led to much unnecessary confusion The correct attributions are:

Side 1:

Conjunto Guaguancó Matancero
1. Los muñequitos
2. Los beodos
3. Cantar maravilloso
4. Ta' contento el pueblo
5. El chisme de la cuchara
6. Te aseguro yo

Side 2:
Papin y sus rumberos
1. Tu olvido-Los Rosales (previously released on 45 as Puchito 385-A)
2. Mi quinto (previously released on 45 as Puchito 379-A)
3. María la O-La bien paga (previously released on 45 as Puchito 385-B)
4. Tani (previously released on 45 as Puchito 413-A)
5. Blancas margaritas (previously released on 45 as Puchito 444-A)
6. Yo soy cubano (previously released on 45 as Puchito 444-B)

Guaguancó Vol 2
(Puchito/Antilla MLP595)

Guaguancó Vol. 2 (Puchito/Antilla LP595) is another compilation, probably from other Puchito 78's and 45's, with only two songs by Guaguancó Matancero, despite the prominence of their name on the cover. The actual artists, as best as we can determine are:

Side 1:
1. Yo tenía una mujer - Fuico y su ritmo [previously released on 45 as Puchito 471-B]
2. El dia que naci yo - Merceditas Valdés y Coro Folklorico Cubano [previously released on 45 as Puchito 411-A, with "Papin y sus rumberos"]
3. Francicua - Papín y sus rumberos (previously released on 45 as Puchito 379-B)
4. Saludo nacional - Papín y sus rumberos [previously released on 45 as Puchito 413-B]
5. La bandera de mi terra - Conjunto Guaguancó Matancero
6. Guaguanco botao - Senén Suárez y su Conjunto Tropicana Nightclub

Side 2:
7. En este ritmo - Conjunto Guaguancó Matancero [Puchito 359-B]
8. Ya me cansé - Merceditas Valdés y Coro Folklorico Cubano [previously released on 45 as Puchito 411-B, with "Papin y sus rumberos"]
9. Un toque de bembe - Senén Suárez y su Conjunto Tropicana Nightclub
10. Guaguanco en el solar - Rene Álvarez y su Conjunto [previously released on 78 as Puchito 156]
11. Yambeque - Senén Suárez y su Conjunto Tropicana Nightclub [Puchito 120; 78rpm(?)]
12. Anana arena - Senén Suárez y su Conjunto Tropicana Nightclub

Three more recordings by the original group, or at least with the original vocal lineup of Esteban Lantri "Saldiguera" (1st voice), Hortensio Alfonso "Virulilla" (2nd voice) and Juan Mesa, "Juan Bosco" (inspirador), appeared on a 1967 French LP "Carnaval a Santiago de Cuba" (Chant du Monde LDX-A-4250), a disc with it's own complicated history, but here we'll just note the three recordings by Guaguancó Matancero (credited on the LP as "Los Matanceros" - perhaps due to contractual obligations?):

"Carnaval a Santiago de Cuba"
(Chant du Monde LDX-A-4250)

"Carnaval a Santiago de Cuba" (Chant du Monde LDX-A-4250)
1. Gloria a Cuba - "Los Matanceros"
2. La reforma agraria - "Los Matanceros"
3. 'Ta contento el pueblo - "Los Matanceros"

All three songs last well over 4 minutes, which indicates they were recorded for the Chant du Monde LP, and not previously released as 45's. (The version of "Ta contento el pueblo" is different from that on Puchito 565.)

The lyrical content of these songs suggests they were composed in 1959 ("Año de la liberación"),
1960 ("Año de la reforma agraria") and 1961 ("Año de la educación") respectively.

* * * *

For years, those were the most readily available recordings of Guaguancó Matancero, until 1999, with the CD release of "Rumba Abierta" by WS Latino (CD 4205):

"Rumba Abierta"
WS Latino (CD 4205)

This CD contained 10 tracks, all previously unavailable on LP. Unfortunately, no other discographic information was included. Apparently they were recorded by Rogelio Martínez Jr., son of long-time Sonora Matancera director Rogelio Martínez, for a label called F.M.R.

Rumba Abierta (WS Latino CD 4205)
1. Ritmo Abacuá
2. La Gitana
3. Madre, No Llores
4. Yumuri (Yamori)
5. Severa Y Lauta
6. El Enredo
7. Illabó
8. La Polémica
9. La Plegaria
10. Lamento Esclavo

A few years later Tumbao released "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas":

"Los Muñequitos de Matanzas"
Tumbao CD707

This CD collected most of the songs previously released on Puchito 565, Antilla 595, and WS Latino 4295, and added three more:

1. Oyelos de nuevo
2. Benny, adios
3. Recuerdos

The CD also includes a curious track, "Introducción por Manolo Ortega" that we aren't really sure what to make of. Manolo Ortega (1921-2003) was a popular TV broadcaster of the day. In this brief track he says, " música afrocubana...que gustosamente regalamos en este disco..." so we can assume it was released on a 45 at some point, probably post-revolution, and given its relatively short length (1:17) , possibly as a extra track on a 7-inch EP.

UPDATE: Brendan Flannery has solved the mystery of the "Introducción por Manolo Ortega" track for us. He writes:

When I saw the quote of the Manolo Ortega thing about "gustosamente regalamos" I started thinkin that rang a bell, then it came to me. Its from an LP called CUBA TE ESPERA CANTANDO, put out by Instituto Nacional de la Industria Turistica, I'd say probably 1957, 58 but maybe early period pos-triunfo. It doesn't have a record label as such, but credits Puchito, Gema, and Seeco for contributing tracks. No "rare" songs but its a cool compilation and between each song Manolo gives intro/explanation.

This CD also contains what is probably the first version of "Oyelos de nuevo," a song written to dispel rumors that the group had broken up, and that they have recorded at several other points in their career.

"De nuevo aquí tienen a Los Muñequitos
Here you have again Los Muñequitos

Ahora sí, es verdad, que aparecieron
Yes it's true, they have appeared

Aquí están..."
Here they are..."

and the chorus:

"Los Muñequitos de nuevo, hablen habladores"
Los Muñequitos again, let the talkers talk

This version is probably from 1963. It's notable that they refer to themselves here as "Los Muñequitos," when the recording was most likely released under the name "Guaguancó Matancero." This suggests that the name "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas" was in use informally before becoming official, probably when the group was re-formed in the 1970s.

* * * *

And again those were the only recordings of Guaguancó Matancero that we knew of until 2007, when courtesy of Raúl González Brito and Frankois, we found 5 more:

1. Canto para ti
2. Que te pasa, hermano
3. Chinito
4. Lo güiro
5. Tumba la caña

And from a cassette owned by Mark Sanders we got 5 more:

7. Tus promesas (in fact "Llora como lloré)
8. Omelé
9. Sacrificio
10. Lo que dice el Abakuá
11. Mira que eres linda

Recently we received three more from Dutch musician Otto de Graaf (who for his Master's thesis in 1993 wrote a pioneering analysis of rumba lyrics called "Poesía del Pueblo," available here.):

12. Por primera vez
13. No me trates
14. Xiomara

So if we consider the three tunes from the Chant du Monde LDX-A-4250 to have been released separately on LP, we get 34 titles recorded by the original Guaguancó Matancero, or 17 "singles" released on either 10" 78 rpm or 7" 45 rpm discs (or both).

Original vinyl releases of Guaguancó Matancero.Here is the list in an easy to read format. The same list follows below with photos and sound files:

Puchito 298 Los Beodos / Los Muñequitos
Puchito 309 Ta contento el pueblo / Cantar Maravilloso
Puchito 331 El chisme de la cuchara / La bandera de mi tierra
Puchito 359 Te aseguro yo / En este ritmo

F.M.R. 003 Severa y Latuá / El Enredo
F.M.R. 004 Illabó / La polémica
F.M.R. 005 Ritmo Abacuá / La gitana
F.M.R. 011 Oye mi Omele* / Mañana te espero niña - Mira que eres linda*
F.M.R. 012 Recuerdos/La Plegaria
F.M.R. 018 Xiomara* / Yamuri
F.M.R. 027 Madre no llores / Tus Promesas*

Rosy 45-018 Yamurí / Xiomara
Rosy 45-036 Que te pasa hermano* / Chinito*
Rosy 45-040 Lo que dice el Abakuá* / Sacrificio*
Rosy 45-047 Tumba la caña* / Canto para ti*
Rosy 45-053 Por primera vez* / En opuestas regiones*
Rosy 45-063 No me trates* / Lo Güiro*

Egrem 45-2685 Oyelos de nuevo / Beny, Adiós (Released in 1967 as "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas," first use of that name on vinyl for the name of the group.)

(A title marked with an asterisk * indicates it has never been released on any other format.)

Still missing are:

Lamento Esclavo
Oyelos de nuevo


Puchito (Number, Titles, Formats):

298 Los beodos / Los muñequitos (45, 78)

309 Ta contento el pueblo / Cantar maravilloso (45, 78)

[No photo available]

331 El chisme de la cuchara / La bandera de mi tierra

359 Te aseguro yo / En este ritmo (45)

F.M.R. (Number, Titles, Formats):

003 Severa y Latuá / El Enredo (45)

004 Illabó / La polemica (45)

005 Ritmo Abacuá / La gitana (45)

(click to hear "Oye mi Omelé")

(click to hear "Mira que eres linda")

011 Oye mi Omelé* / Mañana te espero niña - Mira que eres linda* (45)

(click to hear "Xiomara")

012 Recuerdos / La Plegaria (45)

018 Xiomara* / Yamurí (45)

(click to hear "Tus promesas")

027 Madre no llores / Tus promesas* (45)

Rosy (Number, Titles, Formats):

(click to hear "Lo que dice el Abakuá")

(click to hear "Sacrificio")

45-040 Lo que dice el Abakuá* / Sacrificio* (45)

(click to hear "Que te pasa hermano")

(click to hear "Chinito")

45-036 Que te pasa hermano* / Chinito* (45)

(click to hear "Tumba la caña")

(click to hear "Canto para ti")

45-047 Tumba la caña* / Canto para ti*

(click to hear "Por primera vez")

45-053 Por primera vez* / En opuestas regiones*

(click to hear "No me trates")

(click to hear "Lo güiro")

45-063 No me trates* / Lo güiro* (45)

Label, number, format still unknown:

Benny Adiós
Lamento esclavo
Óyelos de nuevo

There are now just 3 songs for which the label and catalog number are missing. Of course we need an even number of songs, so that means there is still another out there.

If anyone has any discographic information for these recordings, or knows of any others, we'd greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

From the Solar to the Salon: Silvestre Méndez, Miguelito "Cara Ancha" and "Sonerito"

It's well known that rumba has provided the raw material for countless songs in many styles of Cuban music, but seldom has that fact been illustrated more vividly than in a story told by Silvestre Méndez (1921-1997) to Mexican writer Gonzalo Martré (b. 1928).

The story appears in a small but invaluable little book called "Rumberos de Ayer: Músicos Cubanos en México (1930-1950)" ( Editorial Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura, México, 1997).

Silvestre tells the story of how he became a professional musician, and in doing so gives us a rare glimpse into the world of rumberos in Havana in the early 1940's, the rivalries that existed among them, and how those rivalries sometimes played out in "puyas," songs that directly or indirectly challenged or insulted particular individuals.

The story is also significant for vividly illustrating a process that has occurred countless times in Cuban music: a popular "anonymous" guaguancó from the solar is given a band arrangement, maybe a little lyrical adaptation, and taken to the salon.

We were recently privileged to come across the audio of this interview, which fully captures Silvestre's pleasure in telling the story, and incidentally rescuing a forgotten rumba song from obscurity. (A transcript by me is below, an English summary follows.

(Click above to hear audio, transcript appears below.)

"Entonces yo nací en el barrio de Jesús María, me llamo Silvestre Méndez. Jesús María se le dice cariñosamente, "Amalia."

Entonces desde chiquito, nosotros éramos cuatro hermanos, y mi papá, a todas las visitas que nos llevaba cuando yo tenía, lo recuerdo muy bien, apenas unos, como 5 o 6 años, así que cada vez llevábamos a una casa, de visita, mi papá se pone, "A ver niño, baila aí" yo bailando rumba desde que yo tenía 4 o 6 años.

Entonces, en Jesús María uno de los hombres que fue un gran rumbero, un gran compositor, que fue un guia mia, que se llamaba El Nino, Santos Ramírez, él era compositor del Alacrán, "Oye colega no te asombres cuando veas," se cantaba muy bonito guaguancó.

Entonces pues ya como digo, yo nací allí en este barrio de chiquitico la oía la rumba, pues la llevo desde fiñe. En Jesús María había muchos rumberos. Y entonces ya en el plano de la cosa profesional y eso...

Yo no sé si es un poquito largo pa contarte eso...Yo saqué una rumba cuando tenía como...unos 12 o 13 años por ahí, no, unos 14 años, saqué una rumba que se llama "Tambó" que todo el mundo la conoce:

Tambó, tambó, tambó,
escucho el eco del tambó...
Así decía un rumbero
del barrio de Jesús María
en una rumba que había
Tambó, tambó, tambó,
escucho el eco del tambó

Yo saqué esa rumba y se hizo popular en todo el barrio, y eso, y la empezamos a cantar después, y ... sacó una rumba...a así pero volando, volando se hacía famoso y ya se canta en todo el barrio, empezó a sonar esa rumba.

Entonces en mi barrio, pues había muchos rumberos, entre ellos había uno muy famoso que le decían Miguelito "Cara Ancha," era muy yamoso allí, pues que ya era de la gente más grande. Yo vivía allá en Águila entre Diária y Tallapiedra.

Y los muchachos chiquiticos estábamos de Águila y Puerta Cerrada, pues muy... entre Águila y Puerta Cerrada ... el parquecito donde estaba la gente más grande que eran los rumberos, no? Carlos Noa [compositor de "La rumba es cubana"], Juan De Saraguate (?), Miguelito "Cara Ancha", ..., Yoyo Casteleiro, esa genta que sacaba la comparsa La Jabonera que despues le decián La Jardinera.... Entonces se hizo muy famosa la rumba en el barrio, y Miguelito se puso celoso, se puso celoso, y sacó una rumba que decía:

En mi barrio hay un grupito
de rumberitos nuevos,
Yo siempre le digo así:
Con él que sabe no se juega,
y si se juega con cuidado.
Yo siempre le digo
a los rumberitos nuevos:

Oyelo bien, aé
Oyelo bien, aé
Sabes que yo soy la llave
Oyelo bien, aé rumba esa? Uno de los rumberos muy famosos, del barrio nuestro que se llamaba Carlos Noa. Y como nosotros los fiñes andábamos de Puerta Cerrada pa' allá, al hacerse famosa la rumba, un buen día Miguelito, este, Carlos Noa, estaban reunidos allí en Águila y Vives, en el parquecito, ellos se reunian allá a tomar y eso, era una barrita que había allí uno de esos restaurán comida por un lado y por la otra esquina servían la bebida, no?

Entonces, Carlos Noa, dijo, "Quién sacó esta rumba de "Tambó"?"

"Silvestre, muchacho, que anda por allí abajo"

Y entonces le dijo él a Miguelito, "Bueno, un rumbero de esa época sacando eso de "Rumberito de ahora y eso"..."Oyelo bien ae, sabes que yo soy la llave, oyelo bien ae..."

Me enteré de eso yo, y yo saqué...otra rumba. Que se llama, primero - lo que es conocido por "Sonerito de ahora", primero fue "Rumberito de ahora", entonces yo se lo saqué en contestación a Miguelito diciéndole:

Tú me dijistes
que era rumberito,
rumberito de ahora.
Yo canto hace tiempo
pero nunca quise
cantarte mi rumba
hasta cierto momento.

Después me dijistes
que tú era la llave.
¿La llave de dónde?
Tú canta un poquito
no seas alabancioso
Miguel, no te metas
con La Estrella Amaliana.

Porque nosotros los fiñes teníamos un grupito que le llamabamos La Estrella Amaliana allá en Águila y Diaria.

Muy bien, saqué esa rumba coño, también en seguida oye, pues se hizo famoso en el barrio.

Un día Carlitos Noa me mandó a llamar aquellos que estaban allí en la barra a tomar "Traen el fiñe ese de allá abajo pa' que le cante la rumba que le sacó a Miguelito!" Y se la canté en su cara y eso...

Bueno, pues ya a coger este fama que ser conocido por la gente en el barrio como rumbero y eso.

Pero un buen día entonces, oigo el numero en una emisora que se llamaba XEB
cantado por Cheo Marqueti y Los Dandys del 40 se llamaba el conjunto; Los Dandys del 40 de Joseito Bergerí, lo cantan ... yo lo oigo por radio ya no tenía conocimiento todavía de lo que era derecho de autor, ni nada, muchacho, rrronco pa llá, y voy para la emisora y voy para y lo espero afuera, a Cheo Marquetti, tocaba la trompeta un trompetista que se llamaba Manolo Berrio que era muy famoso también, fue trompetista de la comparsa Los Componedores.

Bueno, y lo fui a esperar afuera, chico, de la transmisión, porque pa mi era un ofenso que estuvieron cantando mi musica por radio, sin permiso, y lo espero afuera en la calle, digo, "Este númerito aquí, porque tu lo va cantando pa' radio si el numero que yo sacó era para rumbear nosotros en el barrio y eso, y tu lo va cantando en el radio y te va a ser dueño de él", y dice, "No, no, chico", aquellos entonces me dijeron, "No, eso te conviene que lo cantan por radio, mira, ve, registra tus canciones y ... te hace compositor, te registran a la Sociedad de Compositores y cobra derechos por regalia por compositores..."

Un momentico, sobre que año más o menos

Esto fue, como por 1940, 1940...

Muy bien, entonces, en vez de registrarlo con el nombre de "Rumberito" le puse "Sonerito", para que siguiera cantando Cheo Marquetti, con el conjunto, y fue entonces el numerito eso muy conocido aquí en La Habana, yo creo es muy conocido el numerito, después lo grabó Conjunto Casino, lo grabó Servando Díaz, mucha gente lo grabaron:

Tu me dijistes
que soy sonerito
sonerito de ahora
yo canto hace tiempo
canción y bolero
y canto una rumba
en todo momento

Despues me dijistes
que tu era la llave
la llave de donde?
Tu canta un poquito
no seas alabancioso
Oye, no te metas
en la vida de nosotros

Oye no te metas, en la vida de nosotros

y eso fue la iniciación de mi vida professional, registré mi número, y entonces composiciones y eso..."

Summarizing briefly in English:

In the late 1930's, when Silvestre was about 14, growing up in the famous rumbero barrio Jesús María, would hang out with they younger rumberos and they formed a group called "Estrella Amaliana." Silvestre composed a guaguancó called "Tambó" that became very popular at rumbas in the neighborhood:

Tambó, tambó, tambó, / The drum,
escucho el eco del tambó... / I hear the echo of the drum
Así decía un rumbero / So said a rumbero
del barrio de Jesús María / from the Jesús María barrio
en una rumba que había / At a rumba
Tambó, tambó, tambó, / The drum
escucho el eco del tambó / The drum, I hear the echo of the drum

One of the local elder rumberos, Miguelito "Cara Ancha" ("Mickey Big Face"), got jealous of the young rumbero's fame, and one day called Silvestre over to challenge him with another song:

En mi barrio hay un grupito / There's a new little group
de rumberitos nuevos, / of little rumberos in my neighborhood
Yo siempre le digo así: / Here's what I always say:
Con él que sabe no se juega, / Don't play with someone who knows,
y si se juega con cuidado. / And if you do, be careful
Yo siempre le digo / I always say
a los rumberitos nuevos: / To the new little rumberos

Oyelo bien, aé / Listen up good,
Oyelo bien, aé / Listen up good,
Sabes que yo soy la llave / You better know that I am the key (ie, the best)
Oyelo bien, aé / Listen up good
Silvestre took this in, and later came up with another rumba in reply:

Tú me dijiste / You told me
que era rumberito, / I was a "little rumbero"
rumberito de ahora. / A little rumbero of the moment
Yo canto hace tiempo / I've been singing for a while
pero nunca quise / But I never wanted
cantarte mi rumba / To sing you my rumba
hasta cierto momento. / Until just the right moment

Después me dijistes / Then you said
que tú eras la llave. / you were "the key"
¿La llave de dónde? / But the key to where?
Tú canta un poquito / You sing a little bit
no seas alabancioso / Don't be so stuck up
Miguel, no te metas / Miguel, don't mess
con La Estrella Amaliana. / with La Estrella Amaliana
This new song from Silvestre also became a big hit in the neighborhood. Some time later however, Silvestre is surprised to hear his song on the radio, being performed in a band arrangement by Cheo Marquetti. So Silvestre ran down to wait by the door of the radio station, where the band was giving a live performance. Confronted with the young composer, the group, to their credit, told Silvestre how he could register his song so he could get composer credits.

When registering the song, Silvestre kept the text changes that had been made, so the song would make sense when performed in a son style:

Tu me dijiste / You told me
que soy sonerito / I was a little sonero
sonerito de ahora / a little sonero of the moment
yo canto hace tiempo / I've been singing for a while
canción y bolero / canción and boleros
y canto una rumba / And I can sing a rumba
en todo momento / at any moment

Despues me dijistes / Then you told me
que tu eras la llave / That you were the key
la llave de donde? / But the key to where?
Tu canta un poquito / You sing a little
no seas alabancioso / Don't be so stuck up
Oye, no te metas / Hey, don't you mess
en la vida de nosotros / In our lives

Oye no te metas, en la vida de nosotros

The song "Sonerito" was recorded in 1944 by Conjunto Casino:

And later, "Tambó" was recorded by Machito:

And so Silvestre Méndez, a young rumbero from Jesús María, began his career as a professional musician.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Ibae: Guillermo Triana "El Negro"

We regret to pass along this sad news, El Negro Triana passed away yesterday, apparently from complications of asthma.

Below is a repost of a profile we did on him in February 2009.

Guillermo "El Negro" Triana Crespo
Havana, Feb 2008
(photo: Barry Cox)

Guillermo Triana Crespo, known as "El Negro" was born on February 10 1940, at 212 calle Ángeles, between Corrales y Gloria, in Jesús María, Havana, just down the street from the Embale family. He was always there at the rumbas in their solar, they were like family to him. Guillermo was inspired to begin singing rumba by hearing Carlos Embale's older brother, Luis. He would sing with a group called Estrellas Amalianas, along with Lazaro Suazo, Roberto Carillo (a nephew of Tio Tom), and Chino "Mala Noche," now all passed away.

While El Negro is appreciated by everyone as an all-around rumba singer, equally adept at guaguancó, columbia, yambú and Abakuá, his preference is for voz tercera, the high harmony part in a vocal duo. He also enjoys creating arrangements, adapting songs from other genres such as boleros, splicing them together into a creation all his own.

El Negro has enjoyed a long and varied career. In 1965 he joined Pello El Afrokán's Mozambique group and later joined Luis "Aspirina" Chacón Medivel's group Sicamarié.

He also worked with Lacho Rivero in carnavales, and even worked as a music therapist in a psychiatric hospital.

In 1970 he began working with Carlos Embale, playing tumbador on the LP "Conjunto Guaguancó Carlos Embale."

Later he began working with the great Coro Folklórico Nacional, (initally formed by Ignacio Piñeiro), with whom he continues today.

He was married to the great rumba singer Zuzana Calzado until her passing several years ago.

He has also been called more recently to participate in groups with Pancho Quinto as well as Ventu Rumbero, working with Chavalonga, Fariñas and Román Diaz.

-Grupo de Pello El Afrokán
-Grupo Sicamarié
-Grupo de Lacho Rivero
-Grupo de Carlos Embale
-El Coro Folklórico Cubano
-Grupo de Pancho Quinto
-Ventú Rumbero

Coro Folkórico Cubano "En un Solar Habanero" (Egrem 0424, 1991)
Pancho Quinto "En el Solar La Cueva del Humo" (RWCD 9704, 1997)
El Goyo: "La Rumba es Cubana - su Historia" (Unicornio UN-CD6004)
Pancho Quinto "Rumba sin Fronteras" (Riverboat 2003)
Clave y Guaguancó "La Rumba que no Termina" (2007)

-DVD "Rumbambeo" (Boogalu Productions) de Santiago Garzón Rill "Chaguito"

Liner notes, DVD "Rumbambeo" de Santiago Garzón Rill "Chaguito".
Pequeña Enciclopedia de la Rumba Cubana.

Singing "Una vez me dormí" in 2008:

Una vez me dormí
Autor: "Violino Tzigano (after Cherubini)" de Carlo Buti (La décima es de Tio Tom)
Género: Guaguancó
Grabación: Guillermo Triana "El Negro" in situ Feb 2008

Una vez fui a dormir
Y soñé que un vuelo
Un camino cogí
Y de pronto me vi
En la puerta del cielo
Y en el cielo rumor
De canciones venian
Y una diana de amor
Alivió mi dolor
Que en mi pecho sentia

Pues bueno,
Anoche estuve soñando
Que al cielo me transportaba
Apolo que me esperaba
Me recibió improvisando
Luego estuvimos hablando
Luego estuvimos hablando
Sobre de astrologia
San José y San Fernando
San José y San Fernando
Con Jesus Cristo llegaron
Y asombrado se quedaron
De la improvisación mia
María un beso me dió
Timbero, María un beso me dió
San José reza y suspira
Apolo botó la lira
Y Jesus Cristo me aplaudió
San Isidro y San Fernando
Mandaron a San Ignacio
Que construyera un palacio
Y el nombre mio llevara
Para que yo administrara
Y asombrado quedé yo
Y asombrado quedé yo
Del trato tan alagueño
Solo sin saber que sueño
Hacia el cielo me llevó

Y una vez me dormí...

Coro: Yo tuve un sueño feliz, y quise hacer una canción

Coro: Pa' que me mira con malos ojos, si malos ojos no mata a nadie

Singing voz tercera with Juan de Dios in 2001:

Singing "La Rana" in 2008:

Monday, May 30, 2011

The earliest recordings of Cuban rumba: A comprehensive summary

by Barry Cox.

Last year, musician, artist and collector Myron Ort posted on his website what we believed were likely to be the first recordings of traditional rumba (that is, rumba with only voice and percussion), by Carlos Vidal Bolado, under the name "Vidal Bolado y su ritmo de tambores" (SMC Pro-Arte 2519, 2520).

In this article we'll attempt to summarize our research so far about these and other early recordings of traditional Cuban rumba up to 1956, and provide a comprehensive overview of the discography. Percussionist David Peñalosa and I have been evaluating many of these recordings and we will be elaborating on them at a later time.

Part One: Rumba in the earliest days of recording.
In one form or another, rumba has been a presence on Cuban recordings since nearly the beginning of the recording industry there (Reyes 2000). References to rumba, "rumberos", rumba melodies, and song titles suggestive of rumba melodies or conventions are legion.

Unfortunately many of these early recordings are unavailable for listening. (Díaz Ayala (1994:16) estimates that only 15 to 20 percent of the music released on 78 was transferred to LP.) However we have posted examples where we are fortunate enough to have a reference.

Following are selections (from a much longer list) of recordings through the 1920s which reference rumba or contain rumba melodies. (Most of these recordings are referenced in Díaz Ayala 1994.)

1899 - Los Rumberos. Arturo B. Adamini.
(Edison cylinder 4247)
First known reference to rumba on record. This performance is most probably related to the rumba of the teatro vernáculo or variedades, a popular form of theater entertainment in Cuba at the time, where performers, often in blackface, performed "rumbitas" after comedy routines often featuring "negritos" "gallegos" and "mulatas." The word "rumba," in the context of the teatro vernáculo was used very loosely to say the least.

The term rumba was apparently used by variedades musicians to refer to any sort of lively, uninhibited movement on stage during the finale. The few existing recordings of "diálogo y rumba" form the Cuban popular theater similarly demonstrate that, as in the case of dance, virtually any musical composition could be described as rumba...variedades rumba was influenced stylistically at least as much by Italian light opera as by Afrocuban non-commercial musics. In many cases it incorporated virtually none of the characteristics associated with the latter (Moore 1995:174).

While we haven't heard this particular recording, this song of the same title from 1928, by Italian tenor Tito Schipa & the American Emilio De Gogorza (Victor 1751) could be similar:

"Los Rumberos" (1928)
Tito Schipa and Emilio de Gorgoza
Victor 1751

1907 - (July) La Rumba. Orquesta Típica Velázquez.
(Victor 12" 99023)
First appearance of the word "Rumba" on a record label. Recorded in Mexico, the genre is listed as "Danzón Veracruzano."

1913 - La Rumba. Victor Military Band.
(Victor 10" 17439)
Another early appearance of "Rumba" on a record label. Genre is listed as "Tango."

Click below to listen:

As is the case with the previous examples, besides the title this recording obviously has little to do with rumba as we think of it today. Still, it is instructive to see the varied contexts in which the term "rumba" has historically been used. Additional information about this recording can be found here.

1916 - (October 18) Lo Típico de Cuba. Terceto Nano.
(Victor 10" 72783)
Earliest attribution of Ignacio Piñeiro (1888-1969) as composer; genre is listed as "rumba." Ignacio Piñeiro is well-known today as one of Cuba's preeminent composers of guaguancó and sones, and he would later participate in one of the first recordings of traditional rumba in Cuba.

1916 - El Edén de los Roncos. Orquesta Reverón.
(Victor, no number)
The composer of this danzón is listed as Ricardo Reverón. Recorded but never released, this is most likely a version of the guaguancó today attributed to Ignacio Piñeiro.

1918 - Guaguancó. Orquesta Reverón.
(Victor 68558)
First known appearance of the word "guaguancó" on a record label. A danzón with ABACADAE structure, none of the melodies used appear to have any relationship to guaguancó or rumba (Díaz Ayala 2006:123).

Click to hear "Guaguancó"
by Orquesta Reverón (Danzón, 1918)
Victor 68558

Stretching to make some sort of connection, one could start speculating from the fact that danzónes tend to save the title theme for the last, which in this case starts at about 3:20.

This theme starts out with a three-note motif (tresillo), which could conceivably carry the lyric "gua-guan-có." Later the same motif appears paired with another note, which could be "el" or "mi."

1920 - Se acabó la rumba. Orquesta Felipe Valdéz.
(Victor 72759)
Probably the first danzón to feature vocals, this is a version of the guaguancó better known as "La Última Rumba." Reissued on "Early Cuban Danzón Orchestras 1916-1920" Harlequin CD 131.

c. 1920 - El yambú guaguancó. María Teresa Vera y Manuel Corona.
(Columbia C3557)
As Díaz Ayala has noted (2006:124), this could be considered the first recording of a traditional rumba.

Click to hear "El yambú guaguancó" c. 1920
by María Teresa Vera and Manuel Corona
Columbia C3557

The song structure is typical of yambú or older rumbas, starting out with a sung wordless chorus, alternating with a soloist who sings cuartetas. In this case the soloist is María Teresa Vera (1895-1965), and among her cuartetas she sings:

"Hay muchas conozco yo
que de sus males tienen culpa
y que le dan por desculpa
que el diablo les castigo"

The chorus then returns, this time with the familiar introductory melody today known as "Ave María Morena," or in some cases simply "Yambú." The cuartetas continue, including the familiar:

"Mi padre con cinco estrellas
no pudo ser general
y yo con una estrella y media
hago la tierra temblar."

The chorus then returns to sing "Ave María Morena," with Vera singing another familiar cuarteta:

Un jardinero de amor
siembra una planta y se va
otro viene y la cultiva
¿De quién de los dos será?

Although this recording features guitar, the melody, the style of singing, the claves and the style of the percussion instrument's (which could be a bongó, tack-head drum or even a cajón) soloing strike us as all pure rumba de solar.

Many of María Teresa Vera's earliest recordings feature rumba melodies which are still in the rumba repertoire today. Some of them can be heard on "El Legendário duo de la Trova Cubana" Tumbao CD 090.

Part Two: The earliest recordings of traditional rumba 1941-1956.

In this section we will summarize what we know about the earliest recordings of "traditional" rumba, that is, vocals with only percussion instrumentation.

1937/8 - Tam Tam, o el origen de la rumba.
(Directed by Ernesto Caparrós, BW, 22 min.)
Although never released on disc, the earliest recorded documentation of authentic Cuban rumba we have been able to find is from this short film, and we felt it deserved mention here. It features a short segment of a rumba shot in a nightclub, said to be the Edén Concert, at 28 Zulueta street in Havana. (de Palacios, 1988). A trumpet can be heard soloing briefly in the first part, but for most of the segment only voices and drumming are heard.

Click to view clip from
"Tam-Tam: O el origen de la rumba"
Dir. Ernesto Caparrós, 1937 or 1938

The rhythm played is a quite fast guaguancó, a style that is sometimes referred to as "jiribilla," while the male and female dancers both dance columbia simultaneously. At one point, an actor or dancer portraying a drunken patron joins them, and begins dancing with movements reminiscent of the íremes of Abakuá, while the woman takes his glass and dances with it balanced on her head, a common act in rumba cabaret acts of the time.

1941 - Harold Courlander records rumba, guaguancó, yambú, conga in Havana.
Archives of Traditional Music, Accession Number 54-058-F
EC 8178 item 5 - Conga
EC 8180 item 7 - Guaguancó
EC 8180 item 8 - Yambú
EC 8192 item 6 - Rumba

Harold Courlander (1908-1996) was an American novelist, folklorist and anthropologist who specialized in African and African Diasporic cultures, particularly in Haiti. His trip to Cuba was sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, in cooperation with Columbia University’s Archive of Primitive Music. He is well-known for having made the first field recordings of Afrocuban folkloric music, a small fraction of which were released in a 78rpm album (Disc New York, ca 1947) and LP (Ethnic Folkways Library P-410).

The liner notes to the Folkways release state that the recordings were made in 1940, but Courlander wrote two separate articles (Courlander 1942; 1984) referring to his Cuba trip as having taken place in 1941.

A complete copy of all 10 hours are at the Archives of Traditional Music ("ATM") in Bloomington, Indiana.

We will explore Courlander's recordings further in a later article. For now we will present "EC 8180 item 7," what we believe to be the earliest recording of guaguancó played in the traditional style.

Click to hear a guaguancó
recorded by Harold Courlander in Havana, 1941.
Probably of Alberto Zayas and Lulu Yonkori
From The Archives of Traditional Music, EC8108, item 7.

Although the recording is not of optimal quality, we can hear quite clearly the voice of Alberto Zayas as the "inspirador," leading the chorus with his dianas and floreos. Zayas was a major informant of Courlander's. (Although in Courlander's writings he is evidently sometimes mistakenly called "Alfredo," as even some of Zayas' recorded releases do (see Díaz Ayala ....).

As best we can determine, the lyrics are as follows:

Archives of Traditional Music
Harold Courlander
Accession Number 54-058-F

EC 8180 item 7 - Guaguancó

Ya yo estoy desengañado
de lo que es la humanidad,
Ya yo estoy desengañado
de lo que es la humanidad
[de poder] vivir
A mi no me engaña más
que él que yo quiera

Si acaso muero,
es por mi instinto natural.
(El hombre, caballero, O, ya yo estoy desengañado
¡De nuevo!

¡De nuevo, de nuevo, de nuevo!

Vamo', a, cantor, olá

Ya yo estoy desengañado
de lo que es la humanidad
de poder vivir.
A mi no me engaña más
que él que yo quiera

Si acaso muero,
es por mi instinto natural.

(El hombre, el hombre,
el hombre, el hombre, Vamos a ver,
Olá, olá)

El hombre,
sin zapatos,
sin calzones,
sin sombrero,
si tiene la [...] como estoy yo
no vale nada en la sociedad

(Cuando tenga, vamos a ver, olá)

Cuando tenga un sombrero
a cantar, a cantar (Llámalo)
[...] la vida [...] la realidad

Coro: Bobo eke na' ma'

The group is obviously professional and well-rehearsed, and was probably an early incarnation of Zayas' group Lulu Yonkori.

1946 - Bill Abel of Coast Records travels to Havana, to record "genuine Afro-Cubano rumbas" for Peerless Records. We are unaware of any recordings that resulted from these sessions.

From Billboard, Aug 31, 1946, p. 124

1947 - Katharine Beardmore records guaguancó and columbia rhythms in Havana.
The Cuban and Cuban American Collection at the Library of Congress holds many recordings, including some of Afrocuban music, and a few of rumba.

In 1947 Katharine Beardmore recorded some examples of drum rhythms for various styles. We know little about her. She was possibly Canadian, signing one letter "c/o the Royal Trust Company, Ottawa, Canada." We have not heard these recordings, but she appears to have made what could be considered the first instructional records for rumba:

"The music played in these records is normally accompanied by songs and dances. The purpose here, however, is to give examples of rhythm alone for students interested in this study. In the case of the Guaguancó, the Lucumí, and the Conga, the rhythms of each instrument are introduced separately at first to facilitate their analysis, and then the instruments are played together. In these instances, the instruments come in in the following order: claves, quinto, tumbador, conga, jimagua." (Beardmore 1947).

The Library of Congress describes these recordings as follows:

AFS 8562-8567: Six 12-inch discs of drum rhythms of five Afro-Cuban popular dances (columbia, comparsa, conga, guaguancó, and lucumí) and one example of combined rhythms played by an ensemble of five musicians. Recorded possibly in Havana, Cuba, by Katharine Beardmore, ca. 1947-48. The collection includes eight pages of correspondence, descriptions, and lists. (Twenty-two minutes; tape copy on LWO 5111 reels 121B-122A)

In a 1947 letter to Duncan Emrich of the Archive of American Folk Song, Beardmore proposes a rather extensive recorded collection of Afrocuban music (but no rumba), to be directed by Fernando Ortiz. We do not know whether any of these recordings were ever undertaken, but it seems similar to the project that was later carried out by Josefina Tarafa and Lydia Cabrera in 1955 (Beardmore 1947).

1947 - 1949 (?) - Chano Pozo and Carlos Vidal record for SMC-Pro Arte in New York City.
SMC Pro-Arte 2517-A Ritmo Afro-Cubano No. 1 ["Ya No Se Puede Rumbear"]
SMC Pro-Arte 2517-B Ritmo Afro-Cubano No. 2 ["Abasí"]

SMC Pro-Arte 2518-A
Ritmo Afro-Cubano No. 3 ["Tambombararana"]
SMC Pro-Arte 2518-B Ritmo Afro-Cubano No. 4 ["Placetas"]

SMC Pro Arte 2519-A
"Ritmo Afro Cubano No. 5 ["Columbia"]
SMC Pro Arte 2519-B "Ritmo Afro Cubano No. 6 ["Santo"]

SMC Pro-Arte 2520-A
"Ritmo Afro Cubano No. 7 ["Abakuá"]
SMC Pro-Arte 2520-B "Ritmo Afro Cubano No. 8 ["Guaguancó"]

The earliest known studio recordings of traditional Cuban rumba were made in New York City by Gabriel Oller's SMC Pro-Arte label. Chano Pozo (1915-1948) recorded four sides on February 7th, 1947. Personnel were Chano Pozo, Miguelito Valdés and Kike Rodríguez (congas and vocals), Carlos Vidal (congas) and José Mangual (bongó) (Pujol 2001).

Apparently with the intent of releasing an "album" (consisting of four 10" 78 rpm discs), Oller also released four numbers from a session headed by Carlos Vidal Bolado (1914-1996). The date and personnel on this session are unknown.

So for some reason, the recordings sat unreleased for two years, through a general recording strike that lasted most of 1948, and Chano's death in Harlem on Dec. 2, of that same year. The Chano Pozo sides begin to appear in the listings of Latin American releases in Billboard magazine of Feb. 5, 1949.

From Billboard Feb 5, 1949.

The Vidal tracks were probably released only in mid-to-late 1949, as part of an album called "Voodoo Drums" (SMC 5):

"Voodoo Drums" SMC#5 (ca. 1949)
Chano Pozo and Vidal Bolado's Afro-Cuban Drum Beaters

A review of this album appeared in Billboard's edition of November 26, 1949:

Some of the Chano sides were later re-issued on LP and eventually all of them on CD (Tumbao CD 305) but the Vidal Bolado recordings remained extremely rare, never having been reissued in any other format. The Vidal Bolado recordings can be heard here.

1948 (?) - Silvestre Méndez records "El as de la rumba" for Musart.
Silvestre Méndez has said that the first recording he made after arriving in Mexico in 1946 was "El as de la rumba" for Memo Acosta's Musart label:

"...y ahí está en el coro el Gallego de Matanzas, y está el Melón y el Chocolate, Antonio Díaz, entonces yo lo grabé en ritmo de guaguancó auténtico como lo compuse, la rumba auténtica de Cuba; después tuve la ocasión de ver a Machito la primera vez que fui a Nueva York y se lo di a él y lo grabó." (Martré 1997:48)

"...and in the chorus there is el Gallego de Matanzas, and Melón, and Chocolate, Antonio Díaz, and so I recorded it as an authentic guaguancó like I composed it, the authentic rumba of Cuba; later I saw Machito on my first trip to new York and I gave it to him and he recorded it."

Musart was founded in 1948, so this recording must have been made sometime after that date, and before Machito's recording in 1958. Silvestre Méndez would later record several early rumbas, but as of yet we have not been able to locate this traditional rumba version of "El as de la rumba."

1948 - William and Berta Montero (Bascom) record a columbia in Matanzas.
Archives of Traditional Music,
Accession number: 72-261-F

ATL 5391; Track 2 item no. 3 - Columbia
1948 - Richard Waterman records 14 rumbas in Regla.
Archives of Traditional Music,
Accession number: 72-087-F
EC 10" 969
Item no. 8, 5A - Guaguancó ["Cállate tu"] (July 28, 1948)
Item no. 9, 5B - Columbia ["Boku boku"]
Item no. 10, 6A - Guaguancó ["El Tasajero"]
Item no. 12, 7A - Guaguancó ["Que sentimiento me da"] (July 28, 1948)
Item no. 13, 7B - Guaguancó ["Julio Guzmani inspirador"]
Item no. 14, 8A - Guaguancó ["Dicen que soy un borracho"]
Item no. 15, 8B - Columbia ["Soy Uriabón"]

EC 10" 970
Item no. 1, 9A - Columbia ["Soy el primer caminante..."] (July 28, 1948)
Item no. 12, 15B - Columbia ["Blen blen blen"]
Item no. 13, 16A - Guaguancó - ["Yo tengo que mudar"] (July 28, 1948)
Item no. 14, 16B - Guaguancó - [Yo tengo que mudar] (cont'd)

EC 10" 971
Item no. 7, 20A - Yambú - "A vela vela"
Item no. 8, 20B - "A vela vela" cont'd
Item no. 9, 21A - Guaguancó ["San Dimas"]
Item no. 10, 21B - ["San Dimas" cont'd]
Item no. 11, 22A - Guaguancó - ["Mi Tercio tiene un güiro"] (August 1, 1948)
Item no. 12, 22B - Yambú - ["Chévere"]

Berta Montero and Richard Waterman in Cuba, c. 1946.
Source unknown, clipping courtesy of Dr. Kevin Yelvington.

In the summer of 1948, four anthropologists from Northwestern University went to Cuba to conduct field research. They were David W. Ames, William Bascom, Berta Montero (later Berta Bascom), and Richard A. Waterman.

During their stay, Bascom and Montero alternated between Havana, Matanzas, Jovellanos, and other places to study Ifá and Santería; Ames settled in Vedado to conduct research for his article "Negro family types in a Cuban solar;" and Waterman settled in Regla, across the bay from Havana.

Influenced by Melville Herskovits' interest in the search for Africanisms in the Americas (Waterman 1988), Waterman and the Bascoms made many recordings of all types of music during this trip. The Bascoms focused mostly on lucumi and palo, but Waterman recorded everything from children's songs to Palo Monte. Copies of all of these recordings are stored at The Archives of Traditional Music. (They even shot color film during the trip, which we look forward to locating some day.)

William Bascom left over 300 single-spaced typed pages of field notes of his 1948 trip to Cuba. Unfortunately there is no mention of any of the nearly 3 hours of recordings at the ATM (Bascom 1948). On many of the tracks a woman's voice can be heard prompting the informants to start recording or identify themselves, etc., which suggests that the recordings may have been directed by Berta Montero.

Richard Waterman began recording rumbas in the Puerto Nuevo section of Regla on July 28, 1948. We have so far been able to locate his field notes only from the period of July 13-21st (Herskovits, N.d.). However, from the scarce documentation included with the discs we know the names of some of the participants: Alberto Brito, Felix Díaz, Julio Guzmani, and Gilberto Hernández.

We have learned that Alberto Brito was the father of Reinaldo Brito, composer of the guaguancó "El Niño Rey." Reinaldo states that his father worked in the "Oriente Industrial" slaughterhouse at Línea and E streets in the Lawton Batista district of Havana. He was also "obonekue" (initiate) of the Abakuá Potencia Uriabón Brandi Mosongo Efí Enmemoro (Hernández, 2011).

The Waterman rumbas are significant because as opposed to the flashier "cabaret" style of rumba frequently heard on early recordings, they allow us to hear rumba as it was played by and for rumberos of the day. There is a casual feel, and the instrumentation consists of spoons, bottles, boxes and the occasional drums.

Obviously our research on these recordings is ongoing, and we will have more to say about them at a later date. For now, we will present the first rumba Waterman recorded:

Archives of Traditional Music,
Accession number: 72-087-F EC 10" 969 Item no. 8, 5A - Guaguancó

Hay quien tiene,
Hay quien tiene su warará
Sabiendo que nunca el vulgo
su secreto va a saber
Pero yo, qué me acuesto de madruga'
Pero yo, qué me acuesto de madruga'

Me entero de todo el chisme
sin que nadie me lo cuente

Y me callo porque soy hombre discreto
Y me callo porque soy hombre discreto

An dan dan dan dan etc.

[Se repite la canción]

Y me callo porque soy hombre completo
Y me callo porque soy hombre completo

Coro: Cállate tu, mira que soy Abakuá

About the term "wárárá," Ivor Miller has linked it to the Abakuá term "Awárandária." He writes:

"In a rumba context, wárárá means "to play": it is a code referring to a group of men who live in peace, who get along well, enjoying debates about the richness of their cultural history, because they have mystic bonds as Abakuá members." (Miller 2006:164 and notes.)

So we can translate the lyrics as:

"There are those who have their Abakuá group
knowing that the common people
will never know their secret

But me, I stay up late,
I learn all the gossip
without anyone having to tell me

But I stay quiet, because I am a discreet man
But I stay quiet, because I am a complete man

Chorus: Be quiet, you - I am Abakuá!
The song at once celebrates the bonds and benefits of Abakuá membership, the dignified manner expected of an Abakuá, and also issues a subtle challenge - be careful what you say about an Abakuá member.

1948-1949 - Filiberto Sánchez records Panart and RCA Victor in Cuba.
Panart 78 1196-A "Atájala que se va (Columbia)" (1948)
Panart 78 1196-B "Acere Ecobio (Ñáñigo)" (1948)
RCA Victor 78 23-1254-A "Ocamanllé (Canto Negro)" (1949)
RCA Victor 78 23-1254-B "Tumbador (Rumba Negra)" (1949)

The first studio recordings of rumba made in Cuba were recorded by Filiberto Sánchez.

Panart 1196

RCA Victor 23-1254
Images courtesy Matt Dillon

Released in 1948 and 1949, to our knowledge they have never been reissued in any other format. We obtained copies from the collection of Matt Dillon.

Besides being the first recordings of rumba made in Cuba, they also may be Cuba's first studio recordings of traditional Abakuá music.

Filiberto Sánchez was a percussionist from the Cayo Hueso neighborhood of Havana who worked as a percussionist for numerous groups such as Jóvenes del Cayo, Orquesta Casino de la Playa, Orquesta Adolfo Guzman, Cabaret Tropicana, La Mil Diez con Enrique Pilderot, and RHC Cadena Azul. (Sánchez, Jr., 2011)

In the 1940's he played tumbador with Agustín "El Bongosero" Gutierrez on bongó and vocalist Abelardo Barroso in La Banda de Música de la Policía (Petinaud Martínez, n.d.).

His son, Filiberto Sánchez Jr., is currently timbalero with Buena Vista Social Club.

Click to hear "Atájala que se va,"
by Filiberto y su ritmo
Panart 1196 (1948)

"Atájala que se va" Filiberto y su ritmo Cantan: Tata y Vega Panart 1196

Llamé, llamé, llamé
Llamé, llamé, llamé
No supiste compreender
Mujer, mujer, mujer
tu no tienes corazón

Tanto como la quería
Tanto como la quería
no me supo compreender
lo que yo quería saber
lo malo que ella me hacía

Coro: A e

Coro: Atájala que se va
"Atájala que se va" is listed as a columbia on the label but the rhythmic accompaniment is clearly a guaguancó. The song structure is an old style rumba, a short refrain sung by a chorus, repeated after a soloist recites a cuarteta.

Click to hear "Tumbador"
by Filiberto Sánchez y su ritmo "Abacuá"
RCA Victor 1254 (1949)

"Tumbador" Filiberto Sánchez y su ritmo "Abacuá" RCA Victor 1254

Los rumberos están diciendo
que la rumba está
pa' gozar

La timba se ha puesto buena,
el quinto y el tumbador
¡A gozar, a rumbear!

Coro: Ay, ay, ay, que bueno está mi rumbón
The song here is very simple, One remarkable aspect of "Tumbador" is that in the montuno section, at about 1:25, someone begins singing inspirations in a sort of mock-drunken English:

"Hello, hello, brother, helloooo!
Meanwhile Cubans are gonna give you new style!
C'mon and get my stuff now, I'm gonna do it for you!"

Cristóbal Diaz Ayala suggests these lines may be cabaret Dandy Crawford, a Cuban performer of Jamaican origin known for singing in English.

At 2:15, the solista sings "Agustín el Timbalero, rayas tiene en el bongó," right before a quinto solo. This suggests that Agustín "el Bongocero" Gutierrez is present on the recording, which would not be surprising given his known association with Sánchez.

Many questions remain about these recordings, and our research is ongoing.

1949 (?) - Juan Liscano records 5 rumbas by Cuban ensemble "Conjunto El Niño."
Library of Congress Cuban and Cuban American Collection
AFS 9907A3-B1: One disc containing two rumbas.
(Seven minutes; tape copy on LWO 5111 reel 278B
AFS 9909A1-A2, B2: One disc containing three rumbas.
(Eleven minutes; tape copy on LWO 5111 reel 279A)

Another set of recordings in the Library of Congress of particular interest, but which we have as yet not heard, is the Juan Liscano collection.

The full listing in the Library of Congress reads as follows:

AFS 9907-9909: Three 16-inch discs of Cuban and Venezuelan instrumentals and songs recorded by Juan Liscano before 1950. The collection includes eight pages of descriptions and lists. The Cuban examples consist of claves, drums, male chorus, rhythm stick, and solo male vocalist.

AFS 9907A3-B1: One disc containing two rumbas. (Seven minutes; tape copy on LWO 5111 reel 278B)

AFS 9908B1-B2: One disc containing two Afro-Cuban religious songs. (Seven minutes; tape copy on LWO 5111 reel 278B)

AFS 9909A1-A2, B2: One disc containing three rumbas. (Eleven minutes; tape copy on LWO 5111 reel 279A)

Dr. Kenneth Bilby (Personal comm. 2011) believes that these recordings are of a Cuban group called "Conjunto El Niño," and were recorded while that group was on tour in Venezuela.

1952 (?) - Mongo Santamaría records "Afro-Cuban Drums (Voodoo Rituals)" in Cuba (SMC Pro-Arte 535).

In 1952 or 1953 SMC released the 10” 33 1/3 LP "Afro-Cuban Drums (Voodoo Rituals)." Although SMC was a New York based label, according to Díaz Ayala, an SMC catalog says these recordings were made in Cuba during carnaval (Díaz Ayala 2006: 84).

This release contained on one side Changó, Conga Callejera, and two rumbas, which were also released on 78 rpm:

SMC 2535-A "Meta"
SMC 2535-B "Guaguancó"

78 rpm release of "Meta"
Mongo Santamaría's Afro-Cuban Drum Beaters.
SMC Pro-Arte 2535A

The other side is entirely dedicated to an instrumental, "Fiesta Abakuá." "Columbia" and "Guaguancó" are also instrumentals. Unfortunately, these two pieces were recorded or mixed with excessive reverb, greatly diminishing their historic value.

Later, three more songs were added, "Ochún," "Elegua," and "Yemaya," all sung by Merceditas Valdés, and re-released as a 12" LP called "Tambores Afrocubanos" (SMC 592).

Given that "Tambores Afrocubanos" is mentioned among "currently available" releases in Langston Hughes' 1955 book "A Short History of Jazz," this record probably dates from 1954 or early 1955 (Hughes 1955:60).

The cover artwork is almost identical to that used on SMC No. 5, released in 1949.

1955 - Mongo Santamaría records "Changó" in New York (Tico 137).

This record contained eight numbers, including three rumbas, "Columbia," "Caumbia," and "Margarito."

In 1957 the tracks from Changó were combined with four new numbers, including the guaguancó "Consejo al Vive Bien," on a 12" LP under the name "Mongo Santamaría's Drums and Chants" (Tico 1037).

Tico 1037
Courtesy Mark Sanders

There is some controversy surrounding this recording, regarding Silvestre Méndez's involvement and whether or not the original intention was to release "Changó" under his name or Santamarías. For more details, see Gerard, 2001.

1955 - (Spring) Odilio Urfé directs the recording of Ignacio Piñeiro's project "Festival in Havana."
(Riverside 4005).

This disc contains 12 numbers, 6 congas and 6 rumbas.

The rumbas are:

Consuélate como yo - Guaguancó
Dónde Andabas Anoche - Guaguancó
Última Rumba - Guaguancó
Desengaño de los roncos - Guaguancó
Malanga - Columbia
Ave María Morena - Yambú

This record was the result of a project initiated by Odilio Urfé (1921-1988), a musician and musicologist who founded Instituto Musical de Investigaciones Folclóricas in 1947.
Personnel included: Ignacio Pineiro, Oscar "Floresita" Velasco, Pedro Mena, Carlos Embale, Bienvenido Leon, Adriano Rodriguez, Oracio Endibo, Ana Maria Garcia, Giraldo Rodriguez, Pedro Aspirina, Raul "Nasaco" Diaz, Gerardo Valdés, and Nicholas Mauro (Díaz Ayala, N.d.).

The record has a complex history of releases and re-releases under several titles and labels that can be confusing. We believe they were released in the following order:

Riverside 4005 - "Festival in Havana"
Probably released in 1956 or 1957.

  • Liner notes say recorded in "Spring of 1955."
  • Referenced in Schwann Record and Tape Guide, 1957, p. 148.
  • Discussed at length, though in a general way, Roger Pryor Dodge's article "The Cuban Sextetos," published in the December 1958 edition of The Jazz Review (Dodge, 1958; 1995).

Judson 3011 - "Cuban Carnival"
Probably released in 1957 or 1958.

  • Liner notes say recorded "Spring of 1956"
  • Referenced in Hi Fidelity, Vol 8, Aug. 1958
  • Referenced in Schwann Record and Tape Guide, 1959, p. 197, 203

Washington 728 - "Cuban Festival: Traditional Music of the Famous Havana Festival."
Probably released in late 1961 or early 1962.

  • Liner notes say "recorded in mid-fifties."
  • Referenced in Billboard, May 12, 1962, p. 44
  • Referenced in Ethnomusicology, Vol. 7, no 2, May 1963, p. 146. A generally positive but rather vexed review by none other than Richard Waterman, who expresses his frustration at the lack of detail in the liner notes:
"The recording engineer, whoever he was, may have been blindfolded for the occasion, along with the A & R man, but it seems more probable, in view of the identical six-to-a-side lengths of the selections, that these are dubbings of ten-inch 78 RPM discs. So why not say so? It seems very odd to conceal the names of the artists and composers. Is Bill Grauer afraid Fidel might kick up a fuss?" (Waterman, 1963).

ICAIC ICD-508 - La rumba y la conga
Probably released in 1962.
(Thanks to Mark Sanders for the images.)

  • Same as Riverside 4005, Judson 311 and Washington 728 except without "El Barracón" and "Donde Andabas Anoche."
  • Probably released 1962. (Reyes Fortún 2007:108)

Carlos Embale has said that he was approached by Ignacio Piñeiro, Odilio Urfé and Rafael Ortiz about participating in this recording in late 1954, which supports the Spring 1955 recording date on the Riverside 4005 release (Mestas, N.d., 64).

1955 - Alberto Zayas' group records "El Vive Bien/Congo Mulense" in Havana
(Panart 1915).

This is the record that created a rumba sensation. "El Vive Bien," composed by Alberto Zayas and sung by Roberto Maza, became traditional rumba's first big mega-hit. It was sung from the perspective of the "Bon Vivant," the happy layabout who is supported by his wife's labor:

"...Y cuando te pongas bella
Y vengas de la cocina
Y me traigas la cantina
Y la sopita en botella
Te diré que eres mi estrella
Y que yo mucho te quiero
Tú vendrás con el dinero
De la primera mesada
Tú conmigo estás casada, mi amor
Lo tuyo me pertenece
Ven aquí todos los meses
Sin tocar del guano nada
Y al fin de la gran jornada
Dirás que yo soy muy bueno
Muy felices viviremos
Pero yo sin hacer nada..."

Panart 1915 was quickly followed by a flurry of recordings in 1956:

Panart 1942: Tata Perico / Se Corrió la Cocinera
Panart 1960: Una rumba en la bodega/ El yambú de los barrios
Panart 1979: La chapalera / Que me critiquen
Panart 2017: Ya no tengo amigos / A mi no me tocan campana, no

These songs, along with two new recordings, "La China Linda" and "Era una gran señora" were later released on a 12" LP, "Guaguancó Afro-Cubano" (Panart 2055), probably in 1960 or 1961.

Panart 2055

Review in Billboard, May 8, 1961

Díaz Ayala notes that all these recordings were released on 78 under the name "Grupo Afrocubano Lulu Yonkori de Rodríguez Zayas." However, the only original 78 we have been able to examine, Panart 2033, El edén de los Roncos/El guaguancó de los paises, contradicts this, listing the performers as "Roberto Maza y Carlos Embale, con Grupo Ritmico Afro-Cubano":

Panart 2033
Courtesy Matt Dillon

1956 - (October 5) Arsenio Rodriguez records "Con flores del matadero" and "Adios Roncona" in Havana. (RCA Victor 23-7120).
Arsenio came very close to recording a traditional rumba with "Timbilla" (RCA Victor 23-0362-B) in 1945, which includes an arrangement for trumpets, but here he really did it. His sister Estela Rodríguez is featured on vocals. Also released as a 45 rpm on RCA Victor 51-7120:

RCA Victor 51-7120

These recordings were released on CD in 2007 (Tumbao CD 315).

1956 - (October 16) Grupo Anabiaka records "No creo en los rubirosa" and "El destruido" in Havana. (RCA Victor 23-7121).
Very little is known about this group. From the label we can tell that the personnel includes Berta Villa and Horacio de la Lastra on vocals, and Juan Arrondo, listed as author or co-author on both numbers, is probably also on the recording in some capacity.

We have found a reference to a "Horacio L'Lastra" who was an Abakuá ("Endibó Efó") and composer of the guaguancó "Pongan Atención," recorded by Beny Moré in 1957, so it is likely to be the same individual (Miller 2000).

RCA Victor 23-7121

Click to hear "No creo en los rubirosa"
by Grupo Anabiaka RCA Victor 23-7121 (1956)

"No creo en los rubirosa" is a "contestación" or "reply" from a woman's perspective to the easy-living playboy (waiting for his "sopita en botella") of Zayas' "El Vive Bien," as Berta Villa sings:

"No creo en las rubirosa" (1956)
J. Arrondo - H. de la Lastra.
Grupo Anabiaka RCA Victor 23-7121

Oiga, amigo no se embulle
Que estás perdiendo su tiempo
Yo no soy de ese elemento
que usted costumbra tratar
No se vaya a equivocar
porque no se lo consiento

Pero, no
No creo en los rubirosas
y no vivo de ilusiones
Me gustan los pantalones
con dinero en los bosillos
Y usted nació pa' cepillo
y no sirve pa' otra cosa

A la la e, a

Pero no
No soy pariente de aquellas
que tragan su postalita
No cargo sopa en botella
ni frijoles en latica
Pero mire
Le apañaba el argumento
y tienes que comprender
Que al hombre todos los tiempos
le derrota la mujer

Coro: No me conveces mujer

RCA 75-376
Courtesy Matt Dillon

These recordings were released in France, together with Arsenio's rumbas (RCA Victor 23-7120) as a 7" EP called "Guaguancó, Rythme de Virtuoses " (RCA 75.376), probably sometime in 1957.

1956 - Grupo Guaguancó Matancero records "Los Muñequitos" and "Los Beodos" for Puchito.
(Puchito 298)
This record is well-known among rumba aficionados, the first recording by the group which would later become "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas." We are working on a comprehensive discography of Guaguancó Matancero and will have more to say about these at a later date.

Panart 298

"Rumba," broadly defined, has been a part of recorded music in Cuba since 1899. Although many titles from the earliest years of the 20th century are suggestive of traditional rumba, rather than the rumba of the teátro vernáculo, we have been unable to access many of them for this study. A review of the available recordings confirms that the songs of traditional rumba began to appear in earnest in popular music at least as early as 1916.

The earliest recordings of traditional rumba resulted from two factors. First, field recordings began to be collected by anthropologists, particularly those of Melville Herskovits' Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, interested in the study of music as a source of Africanisms in the Americas. Although rumba, as a hybrid form sung (mostly) in Spanish and played on common household items such as spoons, tables, and boxes, received considerably less attention from those researchers than the more exotic and clearly African-derived styles such as the music of Santería and Abakuá, we are grateful for the few historic recordings that were made.

Second, the advent of studio recordings of traditional rumba coincides with a process that Robin Moore refers to as the "gradual blackening of son and jazz-influenced musics" which began in the late 1940's, represented by "the increasing inclusion of percussive instruments and rhythmic patterns associated with the traditional rumba" (Moore 1995: 182-183). As popular musicians such as Arsenio Rodríguez, Celia Cruz, and Dizzy Gillespie began incorporating these elements into their recordings, the stage was set to produce recordings for more adventurous listeners ready for "the real thing."

The discography of rumba is extensive and complex, and has been overlooked by scholars for too long. Most of the original participants in the early days have passed away. As a result, many mysteries are likely to remain unresolved. Field recordings seem to have languished unexamined in archives for over 60 years. Alejandro Fernández Calderón once wrote, “much has been said about rumba’s styles, instruments and compositions, but little about its history as a process...” (Fernández Calderón, 2005.). A detailed review of these early recordings would help to correct that. We hope that this study advances that project in some way.


Bascom, William. 1948. Field notes, Havana, Cuba. (Microfilm)
BANC FILM 3266; BNEG BOX 3421. The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, Berkeley.

Beardmore, Katharine. 1947. Notes to Katharine Beardmore Collection, Library of Congress. AFS 8562-8567.

Bilby, Kenneth. Email to author, March 9, 2011.

Courlander, Harold. 1942. Musical Instruments of Cuba. The Musical Quarterly, Vol 28, No. 2 (April.) pp. 227-240.

_____________. 1984. "Recording in Cuba in 1941." Resound, A Quarterly of the Archives of Traditional Music. Vol III No. 4. (October.) Bloomington, Ind.

de Palacio, Gonzalo. 1988. "Tributo a la rumba" 17 April, publication unknown, Cristobal Díaz Ayala Collection, Florida International University, Miami.

Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal. 1994. Cuba Canta y Baila: Discografía de la Música Cubana. Vol. 1 ,1898 a 1925. Fundación Musicália. Puerto Rico.

_____________. 2006. Los Contrapuntos de la Música Cubana. Ediciones Callejón, Inc. San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dodge, Roger Pryor. 1958. The Jazz Review, December. Reprinted in Hot Jazz and Jazz Dance: Roger Pryor Dodge: Collected Writings 1929-1964. Oxford University Press, NY, Oxford, 1995.

Fernández Calderón, Alejandro. 2005. "La rumba de aquella primera republica," in "Cubaliteraria.”

Gerard, Charley. 2001. Music from Cuba: Mongo Santamaría, Chocolate Armenteros, and Cuban Musicians in the United States. Prager Publications, Westport, CT.

Hernández, Gregorio "El Goyo." (2011) Email to author, May 10.

Herskovits, Melville J. (No date.) Melville J. Herskovits Papers, Series 35/6, Box 42, folder 7. Northwestern University Archives, Evanston, IL.

Hughes, Langston. 1955. The First Book of Jazz. Franklin Watts, Inc., New York.

Martré, Geraldo. 1997. "Rumberos de Ayer: Músicos cubanos en México" Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura. Veracruz, Mexico.

Mestas, María del Carmen. N.d. "Pasión de Rumbero." Puvill Libros, S.A. Barcelona.

Miller, Ivor. 2000. "A Secret Society goes Public: The relationship between Abakuá and Cuban Popular Culture." African Studies Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp.161-88.

Moore, Robin. 1995. "The Commercial Rumba: Afrocuban Arts as International Popular Culture," in Latin American Music Review, Vol 16, No 2, Fall/Winter.

Pujol, Jordi. 2001. Liner notes to "El Tambor de Cuba" Tumbao CD 305, p. 134.

Petinaud Martínez, Jorge. No date. "Abelardo Barroso, estrella de todos los tiempos.", accessed on May 29, 2011.

Reyes, José. 2000. 50 años de rumba en la discografía cubana. Revista Salsa Cubana 11, Havana.

Reyes Fortún, José. 2007. Biobibliografía de Odilio Urfé. Ediciones Museu de la Música, Havana.

Sánchez, Jr, Filiberto. 2011. Email to author, May 26.

Waterman, Christopher. 1988. "Herskovits, Music, and Ethnomusicology." Paper presented at 31st Annual African Studies Association Conference, Chicago IL.

Waterman, Richard A. 1963. Record Review, in Ethnomusicology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (May), p. 146

We are grateful to Myron Ort for sharing the Vidal Bolado SMC recordings; to Mark Sanders for first alerting us to the existence of the Waterman rumbas; to Marilyn Graf at the Archives of Traditional Music for her assistance with the field recordings; to Matt Dillon for access to his collection; to Cristóbal Díaz Ayala, Patrice Banchereau, Veronica González and Gregório Hernández for their comments and research assistance.

Research for this article was made possible by a 2011 Díaz-Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection Travel Grant. We would like to thank the Latin American and Caribbean Center, the Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University Libraries and the U.S. Department of Education Title VI Grants for their support. Parts of this article were presented in slightly different form at FIU in May 2011.