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Gordon Root

Mercedes Valdés, or Merceditas, as she was widely known, was born in Havana, Cuba. She began her distinguished artistic career in the 1940s, studying at Havana's Supreme Art Institute under José Alonso. As a student, she received awards for several works, including “Babalú,” “La Negra merece,” and “El chureo.” During the late 1940s Valdés began to display her interpretive talents over the airwaves on Radio Cadena Suaritas. These appearances established the young artist's position as one of Cuba's most prominent interpreters of traditional Yoruban religious music. In the late 1950s Valdés's Santería recordings for the Panart label helped to secure her importance in the Afro-Cuban movement.

Throughout her career Valdés gained the recognition of Cuba's most acclaimed musicologists and critics, including the anthropologist Fernando Ortiz and the musicologist Argeliers León. In addition, she performed with many notable Cuban artists such as the composer Ernesto Lecuona the ...