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Born in the Las Villas province of Cuba, Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros became a master of the island's distinctive, horn-led musical musical styles. As a horn-player, composer, and arranger, he contributed to the development of modern Afro-Latin popular music.

Armenteros is a virtuoso player of the trumpet and the flügelhorn. He is also the last surviving master of Cuban septeto music, which is performed by a small ensemble featuring a trumpet backed by stringed instruments and percussion. He has played in many Latin American musical genres, including Afro-Latin Jazz big bands, small-group Cuban Descargas (jam sessions), and Salsa Music. On the 1979 album Knockdown Calypsoes. Armenteros convincingly re-created the sound of the Calypso bands of Trinidad in the 1930s and 1940s. Armenteros's trumpet-playing is instantly recognizable. Rather than seeking harmonic complexity or intricate rapid-fire melodies, typical of jazz trumpet playing since the Bebop era he projects a ...

Article

Gordon Root

Ignacio Villa, known by his stage name, Bola de Nieve, was born and grew up in a poor neighborhood in Guanabacoa, Cuba. His parents introduced him to Afro-Cuban music when he was a child, and he was exposed to European classical music in his formal studies. His classical training began when he studied privately with Gerado Guanche. Later Villa enrolled in the Conservatorio de José Mateu, where he studied mandolin and flute as well as piano.

At home Villa absorbed many elements of traditional Afro-Cuban music through his contact with Rumba and other rhythms and dances. It has been suggested that his parents participated in African-based religions and that young Ignacio had been educated in the music and practices of Afro-Cuban religion as well.

As a boy Villa helped support his family by performing in house for neighborhood audiences His professional career began in the 1920s ...

Article

James Sellman

Born in Havana, Cuba, Paquito D'Rivera entered the Havana Conservatory in 1960, where he studied woodwinds. Two years later he began playing professionally. During his mandatory military service, D'Rivera played in an army band. He then joined the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna (OCMM) and in 1973 became a founding member—along with Chucho Valdés and Arturo Sandoval—of the Afro-Cuban jazz rock ensemble Irakere, Cuba's most popular Jazz group. In 1980 D'Rivera defected to the United States, settling in New York City, where he worked with Dizzy Gillespie and pianist McCoy Tyner and started his own band. In 1989 he joined Gillespie's last group, the United Nation Orchestra, made up in equal numbers of African American and Latin American jazz musicians, for a tour of Europe and the United States. D'Rivera led the ensemble after Gillespie's death in 1993.

D Rivera plays alto saxophone in a ...

Article

James Sellman

When pianist Rubén González recorded Introducing…Rubén González (1996), he was seventy-seven years old. It was his first album under his own leadership. He had last recorded in the mid-1940s, as part of the legendary Afro-Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez's conjunto (a nine-to-eleven-member ensemble combining a rhythm section, stringed instruments, and two trumpets playing the melody line). In a career spanning more than half a century, González mastered many divergent styles of Cuban music, including danzón, Bolero, guaracha, Son, Mambo, and chachachá. He encapsulated much of Cuba's twentieth-century musical history. Although well known within Cuba, he was virtually unknown to the wider world.

González was born in Santo Clara, Cuba As a youth he studied at the Cienfuegos Conservatory where he devoted himself to learning and completed his studies by age fifteen He did not however continue formal studies that ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Ernesto Lecuona, who was born in Guanabacoa, Cuba, gained international recognition in the 1920s and is widely considered to be one of Cuba's greatest composers. Famed for such classical masterpieces as Malagueña and Andalucia Suite, he produced over 1,000 works, including 176 pieces for solo piano and thirty-seven orchestral scores. During the 1930s he founded the enormously popular rumba band Lecuona Cuban Boys, which helped to pave the way for Latin Jazz and Salsa. He also composed nearly a dozen Hollywood film scores, including the music for the 1947 film Carnival in Costa Rica.

Lecuona's compositions reflect three musical styles: pieces influenced by European classical styles, particularly the works of Spanish composers Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados; boleros and criollas inspired by Cuban folk sources; and works that delve into the rhythms and color of Afro-Cuban music. According to music critic Mark Holston ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Tania J. León, who was born in Havana, Cuba, is an internationally acclaimed composer and conductor, and a leading exponent of contemporary classical music. Her musical style is versatile and innovative: she incorporates elements of Jazz and Gospel into her compositions, as well as the rhythms and color of Afro-Cuban music. She debuted as a conductor at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy in 1971—a time when there were few professional women conductors of classical music. Indeed, León's unrelenting determination has been central to her career success. “It is not common for a woman of my skin color to conduct serious music, so I have to know the score inside out, or work twice as hard as male conductors,” she told Ebony magazine in 1989. Since the 1980s she has served as a guest conductor-composer with orchestras in the United States and Europe. From 1993 ...

Article

In 1912 Miguel Matamoros made his first public presentation at the Heredia Theater in Santiago de Cuba. A musician of natural talents, in 1925 he cofounded the Trío Matamoros along with Rafael Cueto, who was a backup singer and guitar player, and Siro Rodríguez who was also a ...

Article

Together with Arsenio Rodríguez and Miguel Matamoros, Ignacio Piñeiro is universally regarded as one of the most influential figures in the development of contemporary Cuban music, particularly of the Afro-Cuban genre Son.

See also Music, Afro-Cuban.

Article

Gabriela Pulido Llano

who helped establish the danzón as one of the favorite musical genres in Mexico City, was born in Guantánamo, Cuba, on 26 April 1899. Roberts grew up in the Los Hoyos neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba. His mother gave him the nickname of “Acerina,” an allusion to hematite, a black gemstone that Roberts wore on a ring, as described by the writer Gonzalo Martré (1997).

Acerina was enthusiastic about music as a child and played several percussion instruments as an amateur. His first contact with music was through his stepfather, Enrique Bueno, who had a Charanga band He performed in public for the first time at the age of 14 That year he went to Merida in the Mexican region of Yucatán with a band at first just carrying their instruments Later he moved to the city of Veracruz where he lived for ten years Both ...