120 years still going strong...

Cien Años de Tradición
Organo Oriental
Street Organ Music of the Oriente de Cuba
Organ: Cien Años de Tradición 
(Cuayo Family, Holguin) 


01. Carbonero Quema Madera
02. Ay Carolina de Mi Amor
03. Bilongo
04. El Perico
05. Tres Lindas Cubanas
06. Apprendre a Portate Bien
07. A Caballo
08. Mambo Que Rico Mambo
09. Burbujas de Amor
10. Aguita de Coco
11. Deja Que Roberto Te Toque
12. Baila Guaguanco
13. El Divertido
14. Lo Ajeno Se Deja Quieto
15. El Palo de Anon


Eugenio Cuayo Ochoa (organo)
Manuel de Jesus Leyva Barrera (claves, guiro, maracas, trumpet, lead vocals)
Guillermo Felix Ayala (timbales , bass drum, vocals)
Juan Rodriguez (vocals, claves, guiro, maracas)
Silvio Rodriguez (vocals, congas)
Ricardo Veranes (vocals, bongos)




 Philip Jamison about

 Street Organs in Cuba

Wybe van der Wal's recent posting got me thinking about the little-known Cuban organ tradition.  He mentioned the CD "Cien Anos de Tradicion" (100 Years of Tradition) released in 1995 by Holland's Royal Tropical Institute (PAN Records #4003 KCD).  I purchased a copy over the Web from "teleCD", a Dutch mail-order firm.

The K.D.V.'s "Het Pierement" magazine had an article about this a few years ago but, since it was in Dutch, I didn't fully understand it.  The CD notes (by Huib Haringhuizen) are in English, however,
and here are some excerpts:

 "The first report of mechanical organs in Cuba dates from 1876. Two families, Fornaris and Borbolla, both living in the eastern Cuban port of Manzanillo, obtained a mechanical organ built by
  Limonaire of Paris.  Though a Spanish colony for almost 300 years,  Cuba also had a strong French influence [many French colonists moved  to eastern Cuba after the Haitian revolution in 1804].  In Santiago  de Cuba, capital of Oriente Province, an important theatre and concert tradition arose.  Famous musicians and (opera) singers from  Europe were invited.  Orchestras with high musical standards were  formed and balls and dances were organized daily.

(This lead to a tradition of street music not unlike that in Europe. Soon, book-operated organs were imported and played.  Later, they were made in Cuba.  Around 1900, over 200 of these organs entertained.  Even more surprising, more than 60 of these survive!)

 "Unlike most European street organs, Cuban organs are simple wooden  boxes, without the typical colorful ornaments on the front.  The  sound...  resembles the French organs as built...by Gasparini and   Limonaire."

(Another difference is the lack of automatic percussion.  The organs are accompanied by live musicians on drums, timbales, claves, bongos, etc. (even trumpet).  This makes for a very lively Latin beat.  The organ operator exerts more influence than usual, also.  Apparently, the books are not "syncopated": all notes are about the same length. However, since the organ bellows and keyframe drives are separate, the organ grinder has complete control of tempo.  The organ sound is very much a "fairground" voicing with reeds and trumpets predominating. The CD's title is actually the name of the organ recorded.  All these organs have names as they do in Holland.)

It seems that these organs are still manufactured (and music punched) in eastern Cuba.  Alas, importation to the U.S. is impossible.  Has anyone ever visited this area and seen these interesting instrumental ensembles?

Philip Jamison
West Chester, Pennsylvania

some more


Anonymous said...

wonderful street music on the barrel organ - who said machines can't swing! 1000 dank, miguel :)

Miguel said...

Well, it is the man at the wheel... to be true and the Cuban percussion...

but then again the Dutch ones do swing too... the man or woman who cut all these holes in the paper I guess...


Anonymous said...

Of course it's the tension between the holes in the paper, which are organic and never perfect (man-made, of course, in contrast to computer music), and the fantastic cuban percussion - the music machine and the tight rhythm helps the freedom of music, seems contradictory, but quite contrary.

Listening to this while cleaning house :))