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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 ...

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Born Raymond Quevedo, Atilla de Hun recorded with American record companies beginning in 1934, when he and Roaring Lion (Hubert Raphael Charles, later Raphael de Leon were the first Trinidadian calypsonians to record in New York City During his career he also recorded with the ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

As a performer, composer, and scholar of ethnic music, Susana Baca has become a leading expert on Afro-Peruvian musical traditions. Since the 1960s she has explored the distinctive rhythms, tempos, and instruments of the small but influential Afro-Peruvian community that has lived in relative isolation for nearly 500 years along the Pacific Ocean coast of Peru. Her research led to the path-breaking 1995 album The Soul of Black Peru, which presented Afro-Peruvian music to an international audience for the first time.

Baca leads a generation of musicians who interpret the Afro-Peruvian traditions first explored in the 1950s by the renowned ethnomusicologist Nicomedes Santa Cruz. Her performances use Afro-Peruvian rhythms that date back to the seventeenth century, as well as native instruments such as the Andean panpipes and the cajon a wooden box which when rhythmically struck with the hand produces a variety of unusual timbres Baca ...

Article

Born in New York of Puerto Rican heritage, Barreto joined Tito Puente's big band in the 1950s. In the 1960s, he established the Ray Barreto Orchestra, which recorded under the Fania label. In 1992 he established the Jazz band, New World Spirit.

See also Salsa Music.

Article

James Sellman

Mario Bauzá was a talented multi-instrumentalist whose greatest musical achievement lay in his prominent role in the founding of Afro-Latin Jazz. Prior to his 1930 departure for New York City, Bauzá had concentrated on classical music, playing oboe and clarinet in the Havana Philharmonic. But in the United States he found his true calling as a jazz musician. In 1932, while working in Noble Sissle's band, Bauzá began to perform on trumpet, and he went on to serve as a trumpet player and the musical director for Chick Webb's big band (1933–1938). Bauzá, who had always been impressed with Ella Fitzgerald, helped convince the initially skeptical Webb of Fitzgerald's great potential as a vocalist.

Later Bauzá played trumpet with bandleaders Don Redman (1938–1939) and Cab Calloway (1939–1941 Bauzá played a major role in convincing Calloway to hire the brash ...

Article

Christopher Dunn

Born in Rio de Janiero, Jorge Duílio Lima Menezes began his music career in the early 1960s using the stage name Jorge Ben, taken from the surname of his Ethiopian mother, who gave him his first guitar. He divided his energies between rock and roll and bossa nova, the sophisticated new style based on Samba rhythms and Jazz harmonies. In 1963 he recorded his first LP album, Samba Esquema Novo, followed by Sacudim Ben Samba and Ben é Samba Bom in 1964. He scored an international hit with “Mas que nada,” which inspired versions by Sérgio Mendes, South African diva Miriam Makeba, and Hugh Masekela.

In the late 1960s his music was embraced by the innovative tropicalist movement led by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso who celebrated his electric fusions of international black popular music while others criticized him for deviating from authentic Brazilian ...

Article

Peter Hudson

While Louise Bennett was not the first writer to use Jamaican dialect, the facility with which she reproduces it in her writing and performances has marked her as a pioneer. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bennett was the daughter of baker Augustus Cornelius Bennett, who died when she was seven years old, and dressmaker Kerene Robinson. Bennett, known as Miss Lou, studied social work and Jamaican folklore at Friends' College, Highgate, Jamaica. In 1945 she received a British Council Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

Bennett began writing in dialect in the late 1930s, inspired by the language she heard spoken by Jamaicans on the streets of Kingston. Soon after she began writing, she staged public performances of her poems. In 1942 her first collection of poetry, Dialect Verses, was published. Starting in 1943 Bennett contributed a weekly column to ...

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James Sellman

Rubén Blades is one of the creators of the Latin musical style known as Salsa, which blends various traditions of Afro-Caribbean—particularly Afro-Cuban—dance music. He first gained recognition while singing with Willie Colón and the Fania All-Stars (1976–1981). In 1978 Blades and Colón recorded the breakthrough album Siembra; after two decades, it remains the best-selling salsa album. Since that time, his recordings have enjoyed great success and have broadened the popularity of salsa, bringing Afro-Caribbean dance rhythms not only to Spanish-speaking listeners but also to a large English-speaking and international audience.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, Fania Records and other recording companies of New York City popularized the term salsa as a catchier alternative to the labels Afro Cuban or Afro Caribbean Dance Music Salsa draws from the musical traditions of those who settled the Caribbean basin making particular use of the styles and instruments ...

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

Gordon Root

Djalma Andrade received the stage name Bola Sete while playing guitar in a small jazz band in which he was the only black member. Bola Sete means “ball number seven,” the only black ball in Brazilian billiards.

Bola Sete began his formal music education at the Conservatory of Rio de Janeiro where he studied classical guitar. His early influences, including Andrés Segovia, Django Reinhardt, and Charlie Christian, reveal the young artist's interest in both classical music and jazz. His passion for these two genres remained constant throughout his career. As a young man he also played in various Samba and choro groups two Brazilian musical genres with roots in the nineteenth century composing numerous pieces including one of his best known early compositions Cosminho no Choro As a result of his exposure to jazz classical and Brazilian popular music the guitarist became familiar with a variety ...

Article

Born in the bustling city of Havana, Cuba, a cultural center for the development of Classical Music in Latin America and the Caribbean, Claudio Brindis de Salas was already a concert violinist at the age of ten. His father, Claudio Sr., was a well-known musician, teacher, and orchestra leader. Brindis de Salas studied with a Belgian teacher in Havana and later with Danclas, David, Sivori, and others at the Paris Conservatory. Brindis de Salas won awards and began traveling widely, earning many accolades in cities like Milan, Florence, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, and London. As a violin virtuoso he earned the nicknames “The Black Paganini” and “The King of the Octaves.” He toured with great success in Latin America, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, his admirers gave him an authentic Stradivarius violin.

Brindis de Salas lived for a time in Berlin married a German ...

Article

Christopher Dunn

Calinhos Brown (Antonio Carlos Santos de Freitas) grew up in the Candeal neighborhood of Salvador in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. He received early training from a local percussionist known as Pintado de Bongô. Inspired by African American Soul Music of the 1970s, he adopted a stage name after one of his heroes, James Brown. In the 1980s he played percussion for Bahian pop celebrities such as Luiz Caldas, Moraes Moreira, and Caetano Veloso, whose recording of Brown's tune “Meia-lua inteira” achieved mass popularity. In the 1990s he collaborated with Bill Laswell, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter on Bahia Black: Ritual Beating System; Sérgio Mendes on his Grammy Award–winning Brasileiro; Brazilian vocalist Marisa Monte onRose and Charcoal and A Great Noise; and Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura on Roots.

In the early 1990s Brown ...

Article

Zózimo Bulbul was born in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1970s he appeared in several films including Compasso de Espera (1973), Sagarana (1973), Pureza Proibida (1974), and Deusa Negra (1979). In 1974 Bulbul directed Soul in the Eye a powerful ...

Article

Born William Alexander Clarke, of an Irish immigrant father and a Jamaican mother of indigenous and African descent, Bustamante grew up in Blenheim, Jamaica, but ventured out into the world at the age of twenty-one. As a young man he served in the Spanish army, then worked in various capacities in Cuba, Panama, and New York City. He returned to Jamaica in 1932 as a wealthy entrepreneur. Although shrewd investments had made him rich, Bustamante's concern for Jamaican Sugar plantation workers led him to participate in protest marches, organize strikes, and become the treasurer of the Jamaican Workers and Tradesmen's Union (JWTU), which he helped found in 1937. His political activism continued alongside the social upheaval occurring in the 1930s throughout the West Indies. After he was jailed and released in May 1938 he became a symbolic leader of the workers movement ...

Article

Joy Elizondo

Domingos Caldas Barbosa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to a white father, Antonio de Caldas Barbosa, and a black mother, whose identity remains unknown. From an early age Caldas received a Jesuit education. He showed a predilection for poetry and musical composition.

While still a young man Caldas was drafted into the military and sent to serve in the Portuguese colony of Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata. Subsequently, Caldas obtained his discharge, returned home to Brazil, and then boarded a ship bound for Portugal. He arrived in Lisbon in 1763 and shortly thereafter enrolled at the University of Coimbra. It is unclear at what point Caldas's university studies were discontinued, but author Jane M. Malinoff asserts that the young poet took leave shortly after learning of his father s death Unable to independently support the cost of his education Caldas recalled ...

Article

Cartola  

Christopher Dunn

Born Angenor de Oliveira in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, “Cartola” (top hat) gained his nickname in the early 1920s because he always wore a fine hat, even while working as a mason. In 1929 he founded the second escola de samba (Samba school), Estação Primeira da Mangueira, together with his partner, Carlos Cachaça. In the Carnival of that year, Mangueira paraded to Cartola's composition “Chega de Demanda,” which he would not record until 1974. Mangueira soon emerged as the preeminent samba school and continues to rank among the top Carnival organizations in Rio de Janeiro.

Throughout the 1930s famous Brazilian radio stars like Carmen Miranda, Francisco Alves, Mário Reis, and Araci de Almeida achieved success interpreting Cartola's songs. In 1940 he participated on two albums titled Native Brazilian Music with Pixinguinha, Donga, and João da Baiana, produced by Leopold Stokowski ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Alejandro García Caturla, along with Amadeo Roldán, was Cuba's leading musical exponent of Afrocubanismo, an artistic and literary movement that looked to Cuba's urban black culture, folklore, and music for new art and literary forms. Caturla employed the prevailing European compositional techniques, but sought innovative ways to incorporate Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodic fragments into his works. He also experimented with European instruments, on which he achieved folk timbres.

According to Cuban composer Argeliers León, Caturla “showed himself from his earliest years to be opposed to the virulent racism clearly reflected in the shining floors of the colonial mansions, which were always polished by black servants.” Caturla was born in Remedios, Cuba to a prominent family of Spanish descent but he felt most at home within Cuba s urban black culture He married a black woman and played in Afro Cuban folk bands an experience that led ...

Article

Christopher Dunn

Dorival Caymmi was born in Salvador, Brazil, and worked at several jobs before becoming a singer. Despite winning a songwriting contest in 1936 he chose to study law, moving to Rio de Janeiro two years later to pursue that ambition. Friends, however, convinced him to try his hand at a musical career. Caymmi achieved widespread popularity in 1939, when Carmen Miranda performed his song “O que é que a baiana tem?” in the film Banana da Terra.

Caymmi's music—more than that of any other Brazilian singer-songwriter—encouraged the popular recognition and acceptance of the cosmology and beliefs of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé Several compositions such as É doce morrer no mar Rainha do mar and Promessa de Pescador portray the life of local fishermen and their relationship to Yemanjá the African deity of the sea In other compositions like Você já foi a Bahia Saudade da ...

Article

Gordon Root

Manno Charlemagne was raised by his aunt in the working-class neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he was born. As a boy, he was surrounded by the desperate violence and destitution of these poverty-stricken districts. According to Charlemagne, some of his earliest boyhood memories include images of people fleeing bullets or making homemade bombs. The extreme poverty that he encountered from such an early age helped to cultivate his acute sensitivity to political injustice. Later, as an angaje (politically engaged) musician, this awareness became his trademark and his ticket to success both in music and in politics.

Charlemagne began singing and playing guitar at the age of sixteen. In 1968 he formed his first band, a Mini-Jazz group called Les Remarquables. His second group, Les Trovères, provided the artist with his first involvement in twoubadou music It was in this environment that Charlemagne first began to address the social ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Jimmy Cliff was born James Chambers in Somerton, Jamaica. Like many Jamaicans, Cliff migrated from the countryside to Kingston, the country's capital, during the political upheaval that accompanied Jamaica's independence in 1962. By that time, Cliff had already been singing and playing music for years. He sought opportunity and adventure in Kingston, finding both when his improvised rendition of “Dearest Beverley” (1962) inspired a partnership between himself and Chinese storeowner Leslie Kong, who agreed to record and produce his music. Consequently, by the age of fifteen Cliff had become a Kingston celebrity. In the early 1960s, Cliff toured with a Ska band, appeared in the promotional video This Is Ska and recorded early hits such as “Hurricane Hattie,” “King of Kings,” and “Miss Jamaica.”

In 1964 Cliff appeared at the New York World s Fair and soon afterward moved to England to record for ...