¡El Sucu Suco Vive!

Isla Caribe
Sucu Suco


01 - La chaqueta roja
02 - Santa Fe
03 - Popurri
04 - Algo mas del Son
05 - Chaila
06 - El rabito de lechon
07 - Felipe Blanco
08 - Siento por ti
09 - Por tu mente
10 - Tu corres con mi suerte
11 - Mi Sentimiento por la musica
12 - Cuidate del palo

Frank Federico Boza - director
Osmundo Calzado - musical director



 ...this sounds good, sucu-suco from the country in Cuba, played by a band led by Frank Federico Boza. It’s local, happy, meant for dancing, and full of sparkling energy. There’s a horn section, and an electric bass, and a female coro, and it feels recorded in some nearby meeting hall, open and rocking...It’s like visiting a provincial capital, and hearing the best band in town...

 Cuban Music: The School of Life
June 9, 2013

An interview with composer Frank Federico Boza, director of Cuba’s Isla Caribe.

Vicente Morín Aguado

  HAVANA TIMES - Composer Frank Federico Boza has been a professional musician for 35 years and the director of his own, orchestral ensemble for the last 20. Our conversation begins with a look at a rather well-received tendency we see in Cuban music, the use of crude refrains which draw from the language typical of underprivileged sectors of Cuban society.

“I don’t like using rough language for shock value; you don’t need it to remain popular. The important thing for me is being true to myself, working from my roots up, to sing about the beautiful things you see in this country.”

However, the catchiest songs have refrains that say things like: “If you don’t have a stomach for killin’, step down and let yourself be killed.”

“Look, Mr. Reporter, people forget the palm trees, the fruits of the earth, the city of Baracoa, its cocoa, its coffee, its papayas and other fruits, the people who work the land, Cuba without politics, the things we should remember and celebrate. To stay at the top, some people will do anything, from buying someone else’s musical numbers to using cheap commercial tactics.”

HT: So, is it a problem of corruption, of bureaucracy? As an artist, you see these problems in the field of music itself?

Frank Federico Boza: Let’s not be too harsh and say it’s a combination of luck and the fact that, perhaps, people are simply not interested in some ideas. If we worked from the bottom up, people who judge you afterwards wouldn’t get to decide what to produce, whether you get to travel or not, whether your music is played on TV, etc. That is, we need to democratize the process. I am not trying to be political when I use this word. I use it to mean an effective control over something, having the opinion of the artists, the musicians themselves.

Boza was born in El Entronque de la Maya, a small town near Santiago de Cuba. After completing his military service, he became an amateur musician and played at the Nueva Gerona Cultural Center in Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud.

FFB: I started out at a typical Cuban brass band, similar to Aragon or the Original de Manzanilla. I went from being an amateur to a professional percussionist. I enrolled at the Vocational Advancement School (Escuela de Superacion Profesional) and completed drumming and piano studies. I was already composing my own music when I took on the challenge of moving to Havana, in 1991.

HT: What role do lyrics play in your conception of art?

FFB: I sing to flowers, to palm trees, to children, to good ideas and good things. Ideas know no borders. My album, A Bit More Son (Algo más del Son) is sold out, and is faring quite well abroad. I got to know the Sucu Suco genre at Isla de la Juventud and wanted to do my own version of this very old son tradition, with a small ensemble, like a jazz band. At first, I met with a lot of rejection and distrust, but I stuck to my idea, I was persistent.

HT: What did you want from your band?

FFB: Like I said, I wanted a small, typical band, like NG La Banda, to give you an example. We had our debut at La Tropical. I pushed my ideas through. At first, people said I was crazy, but, in the end, they were hugging me with emotion. I had managed to re-launch the Sucu Suco from Pinar del Rio in a different style, something completely original. That’s when people started to congratulate me. There were people who wanted to work with me and that’s how Algo mas del Son, produced by Cuba’s EGREM label, was born. It was produced by Rafael Chacon and includes a song, inspired by a short story by former Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, sung by Sara Gonzalez, Guisazo’s Fault (La Culpa del Guisazo). The album also includes classic pieces from the genre, such as The Piglet’s Tiny Tail (El rabito del lechón), a masterpiece by Mongo Rives, Pinar del Rio’s folk music king.

My experience as a journalist is that Cuba tends to forget its musical traditions, and only regains an interest in them when a daring entrepreneur comes along and draws its attention to it. The Sucu Suco could be as fortunate as traditional ballad music from Santiago de Cuba or the Buena Vista Social Club. Many bands simply copy others, they’re part of commercial enterprise aimed at making a bit of money, getting on a plane, earning a bit more money, returning and continuing to do what they do in show business. Save for some rare exceptions, I don’t see a lot of originality around.

FFB: That’s the way it is, Vicente, and it’s because they don’t go to the root of things, they don’t go looking for the truly valuable artists. You see a lot of people who’ve been to school, working with the same directors and arrangers. They’re there, but they don’t produce anything novel. In the old days, Chapotin was Chapotin and Chocolate was Chocolate, La Aragon was her own unique thing and Benny quite another. When you see something original, look into it, you’ll see it didn’t come out of any school, and I say this not to deny the importance of schooling. Like I said, I am grateful for the opportunity to study I had when I was a young man who had just come out of military service. I was able to become a musician thanks to that.

HT: Are you satisfied with your career? What paths lie ahead of you? What challenges?

FFB: I’m not in the least bit satisfied, though I am pleased to be able to say the band has been playing in Havana for twenty years and that it continues to be successful. We haven’t travelled abroad, and we have a new series of songs for another album, which I’m sure will sell. It’s not a question of moving up or down, the important thing is to stay where you are, to hold your ground. The fact you’re not at the top isn’t always your fault. Whether people see you or listen to your music doesn’t always depend on what you do.

It seems we live in a world that is chaotic and out of control. Money talks and bureaucracy sets the rules.

I’m not into naming names, I am an artist and it’s not my place. It could be misinterpreted. But, let me tell you, even shows are suffering, because venues no longer have artistic directors, people who guide you, tell you what’s appropriate for the place, the time, the audience, people who can organize a show rationally.

HT: You spoke of the so-called “academic sin”, but you recognize the value of schooling nonetheless.

FFB: Music schools do produce relatively qualified musicians, but, as time passes, and with the new educational system in place, we start to see more and more of the same. Before, you had conservatories and maestros, without the massive classrooms you have today. New things emerged when you stepped out into the real world, when you got on stage or went on tour, when you recorded an album. It was a different and highly competitive world, with no room for boredom, repetition or coarseness.

HT: Maestro, the sad thing is that, while you sing about beautiful things, others compare themselves to a bus and yell stuff like “Oil and water, I’m a bus, get out of the way or I’ll run you down.”

Boza takes my hand and says:

FFB: Polo Motañez, born and raised in the Cuban sticks, was rescued from oblivion by a European label. The old men from the Buena Vista Social Club, that was a project put together very far away from here. I think you start to see where uniqueness is appreciated, where permanent success is found…

HT: So, Boza, what’s more important to you, school or life experience?

FFB: Life is a school, but it teaches you things in due course. When I was a student, I was young, I had less experience. Today, I have the experience that the school of life has given me, and that’s the reason I think the way I do.

interview source



Desde La Isla de la Juventud...

La Tumbita Criolla de Mongo Rives
"El Sucu Sucu"


01. Yo Quiero Bailar Con María Elena
02. Candela Son Tus Ojos
03. La Campana
04. Candela Es Mi Sucu Sucu
05. Sucu Sucu Para Ti
06. Que Bella
07. Los Masajes No Tienen Cuevas
08. Chinito Que Vendes Tu
09. El Melon
10. Dame El Rabito Del Lechon
11. Que Rico Baila Clarita




"Different regional migrations of Cuban workers resulted in varations of the son. One such variation was born in the 1920s out of the Isla de Los Pinos. This style, called Sucu-sucu, gave a particular flavor in terms of sound and dance. Tres, machete (used as a scraper), seed shakers, and bottles played with spoons created an orginal sound. Unlike other son forms, the dancers of Sucu-sucu don't move their hips and shoulders. Instead, complex foot movements are emphasized."

- Bruce Polin

Ramon “Mongo” Rives
from Fidels :

The 'Sucu Sucu', a "rural Cuban" rhythm that is reputed to have originated by a Woman named 'Bruna Castillo'.
It was purportedly created in 1840 in a house called "La Tumbita" that was close to a "village" named 'Santa Fe' which is now the second largest city on La 'Isla Del Pinos'. (now called 'La Isla de la Juventud' since 1978)

The rhythm originally was known to have several names: "rumbita", "cotunto" up until the 1920's when it was named 'Sucu Sucu' based on the sounds made by the style of playing the 'bandurria' and the sliding and dragging of the feet on the wooden floor of the "bohios" and "conucos". (small houses of the campesinos/farmers at that time).

To my knowledge, one the only few Cuban musicians still playing 'Sucu Sucu' and keeping it alive commercially is Ramon “Mongo” Rives, a 'Laúd' player and the great grandson of 'Bruna Castillo'.


by Maria del Carmen Mestas

The voice of the old man from Isla de la Juventud rose up in the night accompanied by the rhythm of a beautiful sucu sucu, and there, in that improvised get-together, was awakened the curiosity to investigate this rich expression of Cuban folklore.

Its origin dates back to 1840, in La Tumbita farm, close to the town of Santa Fe, in what is nowadays Isla de la Juventud, formerly Isla de Pinos. According to musicologist María Teresa Linares, the music is similar in its formal, melodic, instrumental and harmonic structure to a son montuno. It alternates a soloist with a chorus that sings a fixed passage, accompanied by the band. The soloist sings improvisations on a quartet or a ten-stanza verse.

The sucu sucu reached a greater standing around 1950, when the famous author Eliseo Grenet stylized it and composed pieces that achieved a huge popularity in Cuba and abroad. During that phase, the best-known one was called Felipe Blanco, which was promoted by the radio on a large scale and, later on, was prohibited because of the political jokes prompted by its lyrics.

The story says that Felipe Blanco was in service to Spain; his task was to cut off the ears of Cuban rebels.

On July 26, 1896, those participating in the uprising of the Evangelina Cossío conspiracy had dispersed themselves around the hills of the Sierras de las Casas and, worn out from the long treks, were sleeping in some caves close to the La Concepción ranch.

Felipe Blanco, using some tricks, attracted the rebels to his house and offered them food and shelter, before he betrayed them. They were all handed over to the Spanish and subsequently massacred.

The sucu sucu begins to spread around the 1920s and 1930s. By that date Jamaicans and people from the Cayman Islands, who work mainly in the recollection of grapefruit and other fruits, reach the North American haciendas established on Isla de Pinos. Workers from Niquero, Guantánamo, Manzanillo and other places from the eastern region also settle there, at the start of the construction of the so-called Presidio Modelo.

From 1948 to 1950 new elements enter into sucu sucu; in this way it breaks with the traditional scheme. The genre became more stylized, rapidly becoming commercialized. This was due to the work of Eliseo Grenet and Ramírez Corría, who introduced variations to that folkloric expression from Isla de Pinos.

There are two types of structure in the musical bands: one, made up by accordion, harmonica, kettledrum and güiro, violin or guitar; the other one, following the style of the traditional son bands, made up by marímbula, tres, guitar, bongo, claves and maracas.

Groups from Santa Fe and Jacksonville used a stool or conga drum in sucu sucu to mark the rhythm. More modern groups now use even trumpets. In the past, the machete was used as a rasper.

How is it danced? Many people describe sucu sucu’s choreography like that of the son, with the only difference that there is not a long and a short step, but two short shuffle steps with each foot. Older people tell us that in the past, the dancers used to light a candle to Saint Nicholas, and they would dance while it remained lit. The respite depended on giving a sieve to those who were awaiting the opportunity to join the dance.

What is true is that the choreography of this genre has been changing and that each generation has introduced its own modalities.

Several Cuban bands have worked for an international reach of sucu sucu in their albums as well as in their international tours. Among the best-known bands are Sonny Boy and Mongo Rives y su Tumbita. Nowadays this expression of great resonant strength arouses enthusiasm not only on Isla de la Juventud, but also abroad, thanks to the work developed by the Isla Caribe orchestra, directed by Frank Federico Boza.



El Hijo del Padre en la Casa de Nora : )

Elio Revé Jr y su Charangón
Changüí en la casa de Nora



01. Changui En La Casa De Nora
02. Bueno, Bueno Y Que
03. Muevete Pa' Qui
04. Soy Reve
05. Iyabo
06. Pensamiento Absurdo
07. Al Principio
08. La Visita
09. El Trompo
10. La Duena De La Habana


Elio Revé Jr. - piano
Giovanni Cofiño - bass
Raúl Martínez - güiro
Carlos Rodríguez - timbales, batá, bongó del monte, quinto, campana
Humberto Sosa - congas
Fernando Revé - clave
Luis Ravelo - bongó
Eulises Benavides, Fidel Laniel, Orlando Montaner - trombones
Leonel González - tres
Dagoberto Vazquez, Rosendi Diaz, Abdel Rosalps and Pascual Matos Aguirren, Hector Vaentin, Felipe Valdes Flores - vocals



The musical legacy of the father of changui, Elio Reve, lives on through his son Elio Reve Jr who, together with the legendary band of his father presents the rhythm of changui, both traditional and new. A big sound from a big band, Elio Reve Jr continues the tradition, leading the band that his father formed, the Orquesta Reve.
"The musical legacy of the father of Changüí, Elio Revé, lives on through his son Elio Revé Jr who, together with the legendary band, presents the rhythm of Changüí from a new and exciting angle."

Changüí, changüí, changüí, there are ten different changüí played here, all combining into a stylish, swinging presentation. Changüí en la Casa de Nora is a sizzling concept album brought into being by the people who most rightfully should be acknowledged. Created by Elio Revé, Jr., the son and heir to Elio Revé, Sr., the man who did most to bring the changüí from the province first into Havana, then into all of Cuba, and finally to the world. This is as authentic as it gets.

To think of changüí and where it came from, you must first think of the Eastern corner of island of Cuba. The Oriente’s most well-known province is Guantanamo, an area rich in musical culture, but unique because moving populations in the early 1800s brought many Bantu influences from the Congo and the Ivory Coast of Africa by way of nearby Haiti. At the turn of nineteenth century into the twentieth, the mountainous Oriente was a remote, rural area whose inhabitants had developed many traditions in music and dance. There and about then, the changüí settled into its recognizable form.

The changüí is a regional creation, a lively country music, with some Bantu rhythm influences. This is a pulsating earthy music, which sounds a little rough, but always seems spontaneous. The basic broad range of sound results from combining percussion from maracas, bongos, marinbola (a large wooden box with metal hoops which acts as a mixture of percussion and bass), and guiro (usually a metal can hit with a stick) all being driven by a tres (three stringed guitar) played aggressively. The lead singing I can only describe as acrobatic

The first song here “Changüí en la Casa de Nora” is how the changüí was traditionally played before Elio Revé, Sr. migrated to Havana in 1955. Nora was born in the same place as Revé, Sr. and maintains her home there where the jam sessions still take place. After hours of musicians playing and the country dance probably going all night until close to dawn, she is known to serve up her famous soup and seafood. The chorus, always sung rapidly in childish voices, says “Let’s go to Nora’s house to eat ajiaco”.

As a young man, Elio Revé, Sr. made his way to Havana and carried the changüí with him. He began experimenting, and began using trombones and piano to enhance the form, as heard here on the next track “Bueno, Bueno y Que”. He fused the changüí with son, which had made its way down from the Orientes a few decades earlier. In 1956, he formed the Orquesta Revé, which as well as becoming one of the most important Cuban bands has qualified as Cuba’s most important musical school, where many of the country’s top musicians began their careers. Revé, Sr. continued experimenting, adding the five-key timbale as well as the bata drum to the percussive mix, all of which earned his band the title of “Father of all Orchestras” and he became known as the “Father of Changüí”.

A few years back, the legendary and innovative musical director died in a road accident. His legacy lives on through his son, Elio Revé, Jr., who has since his first steps as a professional pianist has been a key element in his father’s band, Orquesta Revé, more commonly known as El Charagon.

Elio Revé, Jr. is musical director now and dedicates the record to his father, both as a tribute to his memory and a fulfillment of his wishes. Revé, Jr. has ladled up a wonderful serving of changüí. El Charagon is gifted with three different vocal soloists who genuinely soar and the chorus is a delight. “Soy Revé” is a solid dance tune, deserving of much play on Latin music stations. In “La Visita,” the singer bursts out with “toon, toon, toon” imitating the percussive sound of the clave to remind us the rhythm sticks are not found in the changüí. Whether you miss that particular rhythm spice or not, all the selections are pretty tasty.

For the best time, put this record on while you and your guests are preparing a friendly casual dinner at home. At over fifty minutes of play, it’s a pretty good serving, but there’s never enough changüí for a rhythm-hog.

Barbara Flaska



El Changüí se dice así...

Orquesta Revé
El Ritmo Changüí
 01. Yo soy el changüi
02. Yateras changüi
03. Changüi morena
04. Juaniquita
05. La betea changüi
06. Pulmeron
07. Mi ritmo changüi
08. Conel diablilo
09. Sama
10. Rigodon
11. Changüi esta en la calle
12. Los Reve del changüi lamas


Elio Revé founder of Orquesta Revé and the one who re-invented changüi says:

I play son-changüi: they call me the father of changüi – although changüi has been around far longer than I have. Changüi is a very old and traditional form… The son left the eastern provinces and, via Havana, went around the world; but changüi has just stayed at home until I took it to town and dressed it up.
 Elio Revé Matos
Talking of Orquesta Revé, it’s talking of Changüi, a rhythm and a musical genre coming from the so musical Oriente of Cuba.
Changüi is Celebration, Party, Country Feast, an encounter where music and dances are celebrating happiness and friendship.
The guantanamera province is the birthplace of this genuine festive expression of country music.
It is possible to indicate very precisely its birthplace in the areas of Yateras, El Salvador, Manuel Tames and in the very famous guantanamero district of the Loma Del Chivo.
Some improvised groups were gathering spontaneously in these places to play the primitive forms of Changüi with rudimental instrumentation.
During the genesis of this musical form, that according to musicologist sources goes back to 1860, were combined Hispanic-European, African and also afro-French elements, maybe the most fertile ones, due to the Haitian presence in that region.
The original core of instruments used to play Changüi was composed of the Tres, the Guayo and the Bongo De Monte, different from the traditional Bongo.
Over the years other instruments were added such as the Botjia, the Marimbula and the Maracas but the Tres and Bongo continued being the main protagonists.
This is the constant dialogue between the Tres and the Bongo that makes the originality and the rhythmic-harmonic wealth of this musical form that turns out to be much more syncopated than the Son.
In other words Changüi is a precursor of the Son with which it combined itself to become nowadays considered as one variant in the generic complex of the Son.
The first expressions of Changüi were nothing more than a ditty song reiterative that, like some other ancestors of the Son such as the Nengon, the Regina, the Kiriba, present itself like a Montuno built on the elementary Tumbao of the Tres and its dialogue with the Bongo.
The singing of the lead singer who begins expressing himself using quatrains or decimas, is then followed by the traditional scheme of call and response, between the soloist and the coro.
In the history two different ways to play Changuì can be identified: the traditional Changuì (played by Conjunto bands) and the orchestral Changuì (played by Charanga ensemble). Among musicians and groups that represent the traditional style, one can highlight “Changuì de Guantanamo”, group founded on 1945 with legendary figures like Pedro Speck, Cambron, Arthur and Chito Latamblèt and “Estrellas Campesinas of Yateras”, founded on 1952 in Yateras and directed by Eduardo Goulet (Pipi).
The other changuisera variant is represented by the work of the brilliant guantanamero Elio Revé who was able to innovate deeply this musical gene, dressing it with new colors.
The traditional Changüi under the direction of Revé, even if it have been maintaining its typical characteristics, does no longer sound the same due to the change of orchestral format. Revé brought numerous innovations to the Changüi in its execution, in the instruments used, opening Changüi to other national and foreign rhythms and more recent expressions of the Son (Salsa and Timba).
Revé was also the great ambassador of the Changüi that made it well-know worldwide.
Although Orquesta Revé represents Changüi’s most outstanding protagonist, today like yesterday, many musicians remain Changui’s best admirers and perpetuate its tradition in the Cuban musical panorama.
Even the great Benny Moré recorded in 1958 the track " Maracaibo oriental" that is perhaps the most famous Changüi song of history.
Also the Salsa movement explored the Changuì in several occasions leaving behind recordings of famous figures like Ray Barreto and Celia Cross.
In Cuba Los Van Van, Issac Delgado, Sierra Maestra, Felix Baloy, Pancho Amat, and last but not least, Oderquis Revé, the brother of Elio Revé and ex- member of the Charangon, have developed and continue cultivating the Changüi.



Low Class Dance Music : )

Grupo Changüí
Estrellas Campesinas

Recorded live in Cuba


 01. Mi Son Tiene Candela
02. El Güararey de Pastora
03. Mujeres
04. Chubi Chubi
05. La Rumba Está Buena
06. Hoy Es el Día
07. Lidia
08. Mayumbe
09. Los Animales
10. Vengan Mujeres Para Bailar
11. Fiesta en Cecilia
12. Maria Guevara en la Cumbancha
13. El Güararey de Pastora
14. Soy la Tradición




 Grupo Changüí and Estrellas Campesinas

In the era of sound recording, the music of Cuba has had an impact out of all proportion to the size of the country; its influence on jazz, and on the musics of South America and Africa, and its role as the source of numerous of this century's dance crazes (mambo, rhumba, cha-cha, conga), are well known. That said, I came to this CD as someone who has never been bitten by the bug; the Cuban tunes I can whistle are The Peanut Vendor and Guantanamera, and when I play the scattering of Cuban CDs in my collection, I re-hear them as pleasant sounds, rather than greeting the tunes, rhythms and arrangements as old friends. In other words, I approached changüí (the music) and Changüí (the CD) with a severe lack of context, and my account here is heavily reliant on Dita Sullivan's excellent notes.

I don't expect to be adding to the repertoire of Cuban tunes I can whistle, but listening to this CD is certainly a challenging and rewarding experience, and one that I expect to be repeating often. play Sound ClipSince I came to it with little idea of what I would hear, it seems appropriate to play part of the first track, Mi Son Tiene Candela; the title means My Son Is Hot, and the song proclaims that 'the son is traditional in our country, linked to the chords of changüí that we must never forget.' The clip gives a good picture of the sound of changüí, and in particular of its polyrhythms, and their division among the various instruments (which are discussed below) and the vocal line. Since this is dance music, the basic pulse is pretty clear, but it's equally obvious how much else is going on rhythmically, and listening to changüí is, for these ears at least, an exercise in being constantly surprised by the twists and turns of the music.

Changüí is defined by Cassell's Spanish-English Dictionary as a 'low-class dance' - and that may be recommendation enough. The distinction being made is a pre-revolutionary one, between salon music, played for the middle and upper classes, and known as puerta cerrada (closed door), and the dance music of the rural and urban working classes, played in aire libre (in the open air). Changüí is the dance music of Guantanamo, in the extreme southeast of Cuba. While it uses similar instrumentation to son, the arrangements and tunings are quite different; the tres is common to both, as are maracas and bongo, but in changüí the maracas are high-pitched and the bongo low-pitched, while the reverse is true in son. The guiro in changüí is made of metal, rather than being a hollowed-out gourd. Probably the most obvious difference between changüí and son is in the use of the marimbula as simultaneous bass and percussion instrument in place of son's bass and congas. The marimbula is clearly of African derivation - it's a bass mbira - and it is also found, under other names, in Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic; Dita Sullivan observes that changüí's instrumentation most closely resembles the perico ripiao of the Dominican Republic. (Perico ripiao may be heard for comparison on the splendid Corason CD Essential Merengue: Stripping the Parrots (CORA122), although the use of the accordion as lead instrument makes a considerable difference to the sound).

Other distinctive features of changüí are accounted for by sociohistorical factors. Changüí's African component 'is not the Yoruba-Ibo culture of Nigeria, but the Bantu culture of Congo and the Ivory Coast. The different language, though no longer widely spoken in Cuba, produces a different rhythm.' In addition, Guantanamo's cultural history is one of immigration and syncretism; the province was founded by French refugees from the Haitian revolution in 1804, and the construction of the US naval base in the early years of this century led to an influx of workers from the English- and French-speaking islands.

Of the two bands heard on this CD, Grupo Changüí was founded in 1945, and is a professional dance band, while Estrellas Campesinas are designated by the Cuban government as un grupo aficionado (an amateur group), a description which Dita Sullivan rightly calls 'odious,' as indeed is the mindset that feels it's the business of the state to fit musicians into bureaucratic pigeonholes. Despite its roots being very specific to Guantanamo, changüí has not been without influence on the wider Cuban music scene. Elio Revé, founder of Orquesta Revé, was a Guantanamero, and the band's music, among the most popular in fifties Cuba, had a changüí inflection. For a few years Orquesta Revé's bass player was Juan Formell, who left to found Los Van Van, one of whose first hits, in 1973, was Pastorita, which Formell had picked up at a dance where he was sharing the bill with Grupo Changüí. This CD includes two versions of El Guararey de Pastora, as the song was originally called, and Grupo Changüí and Estrellas Campesinas give the song very different deliveries, as may be heard by comparing their respective tracks.

Changüí lyrics typically invite listeners to dance, while celebrating good times, recounting local history, and boosting the importance of changüí and its traditions:

I don't care if you criticise my traditional changüí
It flows in my blood because I'm Cuban.
How groovy [sic] that the changüí of the past returns
Everybody dance and enjoy my changüí.

That said, I want, as Dita Sullivan does, to single out the complex layers of meaning in Mayumbe which, while functioning as dance music, is also a mambo in the original Bantu meaning: an invocation, in the syncretic religion palo monte, of the many aspects of Changó, the African god of thunder and lightning, in whose name the singer speaks. I give a summary of Sullivan's translation and comments in brackets:

Yo soy siguaraya (I am a sacred plant)
Yo soy siete rayos (I am seven rays of sun and lightning, also an 1823 anti-Spanish conspiracy)
Yo soy palo monte (I am [a priest of] palo monte)
Yo soy Bonifacio (a local palero)
Yo soy Lucumí (a reference to the Yoruba tribe, and to St Barbara, patron saint of the Lucumí, who represents Changó in santería)
Yo soy Lucifer (another palero)
Yo soy tumba yaya (a sacred tree)
Yo como candela (I eat fire)
Yo soy el diablo (I am the devil)
Yo soy palo caja (another sacred tree)
Yo soy mata ceiba (I am the leaves of the ceiba tree, sacred to Changó)
Yo soy mata siete (I am the leaves of the magic tree 'seven rays', also the nickname of a radio announcer in the late fifties[!])
Yo soy Santa Cecilia (patron saint of musicians, and the name of the recording location)
Sí, ven a parrendearlo! a guaracharlo! aha, ven a cantarlo! (Come dance and sing at the party!)

It only remains to say that the recordings, made on a rooftop by Stuart Deutsch in June 1988, are of absolutely outstanding technical quality. I've been trying to find a way that won't sound like damning with faint praise, to say that even people who, like me, aren't hugely interested in Cuban music, will find this CD compelling listening and great fun. On second thoughts, maybe that will do it.

Chris Smith - 2.4.1999 

Instrumentos del Changüí
bongó, maracas, guayo, tres y marímbula. 
(Foto: Ileana Pinedo, Archivo Centro Inciarte)
source of the picture above : ) 


Rincón Campesino

Música Campesina
Musique Populaire
Folk Music 


01. Zapatéo (1:52)
02. Décima (3:36)
03. Punto cubano (4:23)
04. Tonada menor (1:52)
05. Tenada camagüeyana (1:53)
06. Son montuno (2:48)
07. La guantanamera / J. Martí ; J. Fernandez (4:23)
08. Madrigal (3;58)
09. Guajira amorosa (2:14)
10. El verdor de la campiña (4:41)
11. Guajira moruna (3:48)
12. Son del Angelito (4:30)
13. Son de la loma / M. Matamoros (5:35)
14. A belgica (4:34)
15. Décima (2:21)
16. Yo no te pido / P. Milanès (3:16)
17. Solo de percussions (8:57)
18. El cataclismo (3:01)
19. Flores de pueblo nuevo (5:13).

Recorded 1985-1988 in Cuba by Herman C. Vuylsteke



Review by John Storm Roberts:

All the attention given to Afro-Cuban music certainly is merited. But the equally important and splendid campesina (country) tradition is grossly neglected. This is a gorgeous collection of tonadas, puntos, décimas and other forms from the Euro-Hispanic half of the continuum (though much affected by Afro-Cuban input), mostly backed by tres, guitar and percussion.

Short History of Cuban Music
The Caribbean island of Cuba has been influential in the development of multiple musical styles in the 19th and 20th centuries. The roots of most Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, a form of social club among African slaves brought to the island. Cabildos preserved African cultural traditions, even after the Emancipation in 1886 forced them to unite with the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, a religion called Santería was developing and had soon spread throughout Cuba, Haiti and other nearby islands. Santería influenced Cuba's music, as percussion is an inherent part of the religion. Each orisha, or deity, is associated with colors, emotions, Roman Catholic saints and drum patterns called toques. By the 20th century, elements of Santería music had appeared in popular and folk forms.

Cuban music has its principal roots in Spain and West Africa, but over time has been influenced by diverse genres from different countries. Most important among these are France, the United States, and Jamaica. Reciprocally, Cuban music has been immensely influential in other countries, contributing not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to Argentinian tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, and Spanish "nuevo flamenco".

Folk Music

The natives of Cuba were the Taíno, Arawak and Ciboney people, known for a style of music called areito. Large numbers of African slaves and European immigrants brought their own forms of music to the island. European dances and folk musics included zapateo, fandango, zampado, retambico and canción. Later, northern European forms like waltz, minuet, gavotte and mazurka appeared among urban whites.

Fernando Ortíz, a Cuban folklorist, described Cuba's musical innovations as arising from the interplay between African slaves settled on large sugar plantations and Spanish or Canary Islanders who grew tobacco on small farms. The African slaves and their descendants reconstructed large numbers of percussive instruments and corresponding rhythms, the most important instruments being the clave, the congas and batá drums. Chinese immigrants have contributed the cornetín chino ("Chinese cornet"), a Chinese wind instrument still played in the comparsas, or carnival groups, of Santiago de Cuba.


The original guajira was earthy, strident rural acoustic music, possibly related to Puerto Rican jibaro. It appeared in the early 20th century, and is led by a 12-string guitar called a tres, known for a distinctive tuning.

Música Campesina

Música campesina is a rural form of improvised music derived from a local form of décima and verso called punto. It has been popularized by artists like Celina González, and has become an important influence on modern son. While remaining mainly unchanged in its forms (thus provoking a steady decline in interest among the Cuban youth), some artists have tried to renew música campesina with new styles, lyrics, themes and arrangements... 



Queen of Cuban Country Music

Celina González
Con Frank Fernández Y Adalberto Alvarez

01 - Cantando Celina
02 - Aqui Nacen Los Soneros
03 - Aurora
04 - Santa Barbara
05 - Tonita
06 - Pedacito De Mi Vida
07 - Flores Para Tu Altar

Ensemble – Adalberto Alvarez Y Su Son
Leader – Adalberto Alvarez

Producer – Frank Fernández
Recorded By – Antonio López Rivero
Recorded At: Estudios de Grabaciones EGREM, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba. Julio 1987



 Celina González Zamora (16 March 1929, Jovellanos, Matanzas – 4 February 2015) was a Cuban singer-songwriter, who specialized in "música campesina", traditional music of the Cuban countryside. She is best known for co-authoring A Santa Bárbara with her partner Reutilio Domínguez. Her recording of it was a hit, as was Celia Cruz's version. Celina and Reutilio wrote "Yo soy el punto cubano": the recording was a hit in many countries throughout the world.

At age 16, Celina met Reutilio Dominguez in Santiago de Cuba. He became her singing partner and husband, resulting in a collaboration that lasted until his death in Guantanamo in 1971. In 1948 they began working with the famous Ñico Saquito and gained increasing popularity on radio, film and television. They performed in New York with Beny Moré and Barbarito Diez. In 1964 the duo stopped performing together and Celina continued as a soloist. In later years she sang with her son Lázaro, and was usually accompanied by the conjunto Campo Alegre.

Initially, her music was mainly that of the white countryside guajiro (peasant), with lyrics based on the poetics of décima. The musical form was often that of the punto cubano. The relationship with Ñico Saquito taught her a great deal about the son and the guaracha, and her later work made frequent use of those forms.

In 1980 she won Egrem's Disco de Plata award for the album Celina. This was the first of many awards. In 1984 she was awarded the Vanguardia Nacional for her artistic work and won a trip to the Soviet Union and Bulgaria with her son. In 1984 she won the award for Best Singer at the 27th International Music Festival in Cali, Colombia and after a successful tour in Europe in 1988 she recorded a session for the BBC.

Albums La rica cosecha and Desde La Habana te traigo were well received, and she was nominated, unsuccessfully, for a Grammy in 2001 in the 'Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album' category, for her CD Cincuenta años... como una reina. The album won instead the Cubadisco award for the same year. She died on 4 February 2015, aged 85 in her homeland Cuba.
this one and a lot more



Fiesta, Comida, Bailes, Danzas Cantares...



01. Celina González - Yo Soy el Punto Cubano [Punto] (4:03)
02. Inocente Iznaga - Sube la Loma Campana [Sucu Sucu] (2:42)
03. Conjunto Los Montunos - Parranda [Punto] (3:31)
04. Radeunda Lima - Mi Tierra Es Así [Guajira] (4:19)
05. Chanito Isidrón - Las Que Se Pintan el Pelo [Punto] (3:28)
06. Conjunto Los Pinares - Las Riquezas Naturales [Punto] (1:56)
07. Ramón Veloz - Amanecer Guajiro [Guajira] (2:46)
08. Martica Morejón - La Alborada [Punto] (5:33)
09. Adolfo Alfonso & Justo Vega - Controversia [Punto] (7:14)
10. Coralia Fernández - Mi Pedacito de Tierra [Son Montuño] (3:03)
11. Conjunto Palmas Y Cañas - Palmas y Cañas [Guajira Son] (3:30)
12. Chomat, Ana María - La Rosa Oriental [Son Montuño] (2:33)
13. José M. Rodríguez (Laúd) - Zapateo (2:22)
14. Ramón Veloz & Coralia Fernández - Guajira Guantanamera (4:23)

Production & booklet text by María Teresa Linares


  Guateque: (voz caribe) m. Fiesta con comida y baile que se da en una casa.
Guateque: El Padre Las Casas al hablar de los “bailes, danzas cantares”, que observó en Cuba, se refiere a los “Guateques” , una danza no ceremonial en la que circulaban, entre los que bailaban y cantaban, otros indios, dándoles de beber.

Oviedo dijo que los cantares y danzas se parecían a los de los labradores de España y tenían uno que los guiaba y cantaba solo, y le respondían en coro el resto de los bailadores. Tal vez esta es la razón de que a las fiestas campesinas de cantos y bailes en Cuba se les llama popularmente “guateques

Punto guajiro or punto cubano – or simply punto – is a sung genre of Cuban music, a poetic art with music. It emerged in the western and central regions of Cuba in the 17th century, and consolidated as a genre in the 18th century. Although it has Andalusian origins, it is a true Cuban genre because of its integration with African elements.

Punto is played by a group with various types of guitar: the Spanish guitar, the Cuban tres, the laúd and the tiple. The punto refers to the use of a pick (punteando), rather than strumming (rasgueado). There are three percussion instruments: the clave, the güiro and the guayo (also a scraper, but of metal). Singers form themselves into teams, and improvise their lines. They sing, or chant, an unvarying melody, with intervals between stanzas to give the singers time to prepare the next verse.

Early compositions were sometimes recorded in print, as were the names of some of the singer/composers. Beginning around 1935, punto reached a peak of popularity on Cuban radio. Nothing was done to record their work, but as it happens, a stenographer, Aida Bode, was a fan of this genre, and she wrote down the verses as they were broadcast. Finally, in 1997, her transcriptions were published in book form.

Celina González and Albita both sang punto in the first part of their careers, proving that the genre is still alive, though perhaps moribund in its original form. Celina has one of the great voices in popular music, and her supporting group Campo Alegre is outstanding. For aficionados, however, Indio Naborí (Sabio Jesús Orta Ruiz, b. 30 September 1922) is the greatest name in punto, for his decima poetry, which he wrote daily for the radio and newspapers. He is also a published author, with several collections of his poetry, much of which has a political nueva trova edge...

this one and a lot more


Que Buena Rumba...

Desde Cuba
¡La Rumba está buena!


01. Saludo de Matanzas - Afrocuba de Matanzas
02. Tambor (Batarrumba) - Afrocuba de Matanzas
03. Caridad (Batarrumba) - Afrocuba de Matanzas
04. Tasajero - Afrocuba de Matanzas
05. Roncona (Columbia) - Columbia de Puerto
06. Recuerdo a Malanga (Columbia) - Columbia de Puerto
07. Oyelos de Nuevo - Los Muñequitos de Matanzas
08. Lo Que Dice el Abakua, Lo - Los Muñequitos de Matanzas
09. Alma Libre (Guaguanco) - Los Muñequitos de Matanzas
10. Una Mamita, A - Cutumba/Carlos Embales
11. Columbia/Batarrumba - Cutumba



This is a fantastic and exciting collection of authentic rumbas presented in clear fidelity. The recording offers plenty of space around each instrument allowing you to hear each player's individual part in detail (if you listen intently, you can even hear the skin on the palm of the player's hand against the skin of the tumba on the bass strokes). This is good, because the music is so complex, that it has revealed new patterns and juxtapositions even after seven years of listening. I have acquired other cuban rumba discs, but this remains the reference.
~ Arise Therefore
Real Rumba is a collection of four different Cuban Rumba groups: Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Afrocuba de Matanzas, Columbia de Puerto Cardenas and Cutumba with Carlos Embale. The word "real" in the title refers to the fact that Son music has been mistakenly called Rumba (or Rhumba), outside of Cuba since the 1920's. This recording is truly the real Rumba.

There are three main styles of Rumba: Yambu, Guaguancó and Columbia. Yambu is a slow rhythm and partner dance. It has close ties to the Cuban-Congolese fertility dance Yuka. The Yambu surfaced with the end of slavery in the 1880's. At that time, the authorities who were of Spanish descent, looked down upon their citizens of African descent. Because of this, dances/rhythms with strong African roots were often suppressed by the authorities. So it was with Yambu. The pelvic thrust from the Yuka dance was not allowed by the authorities. African type drums were not encouraged and in fact, were often confiscated by the government. Yambu was not originally played on drums, but on packing crates. This style of playing Yambu on boxes (called cajones), has been preserved up to the present by many of today's Rumba ensembles. The group Yoruba Andabo plays cajones exclusively. Guaguancó is a partner dance like Yambu, only faster. Conga drums (called tumbadores in Cuba), are used in Guaguancó instead of the cajones. The contemporary style of Guaguancó we hear today was developed in the 1950s. Rumba Columbia is a solo dance done usually only by men. Columbia has close cultural and musical ties to the Abacua, a male secret society originating from the Cameroons, West Africa.

Real Rumba features all three styles of Rumba. In addition, we are treated to three Batá-Rumbas, two by Afrocuba and one by Cutumba. As far as I know, Grupo Afrocuba was the first group to fuse the Rumba and its three congas with three Batá drums. Batá-Rumba is a dense hybrid rhythm, but it's not really done justice here because of the rather flat fidelity of the recording. To date, the most audibly clear Batá-Rumba can be found on the CD Totico y sus Rumberos.

Cutumba comes from Santiago, on the eastern end of the island. Joining Cutumba is Cuba's most famous Rumba singer, Carlos Embale. This CD also has three typically remarkable performances by Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. Columbia de Puerto Cardenas are dock workers from the port of Cardenas. To the best of my knowledge, they perform only Rumba Columbia. They are a one-beat band. One of their trademarks is having the 4/4 cascara stick pattern played simultaneously with the typical 6/8 bell pattern. This creates a rhythmic tension and an excitement that is palatable.

The performances are excellent on Real Rumba. The sound quality of this recording is its greatest drawback. These seem to be the two main factors one considers when buying a new CD. Of course it would be great if the performance and sound quality were both extraordinary on every CD we buy, but often we must balance the strengths of one factor against the weakness of the other.

source & more to explore ; )



La rumba tiene color

"El Rey De La Tahona"
En El Barrio De Ataré


01. Anda Llevatela 2:51
02. Donde Vas, Que Te Ves Tan Bonita 4:17
03. Quimbonbo 5:39
04. La Bullanguera 5:20
05. Te Quiero, Porque Te Quiero 4:21
06. Sabina 3:10
07. Sali De La Habana Un Dia 4:22
08. Los Rumberos Se Ponen Orgullosos 5:11
09. Mientras La Sala Pide 20 Años 4:41
10. Volviste Ahora 3:22
11. Canto A Atares 4:37

Musicians include:

Mario Dreke Alfonso "Chavalonga" Voz

Pedro Celestino Fariñas Coros
Barbarito Lopez Coros
Ricardo Echemendia Coros
Gregorio Laza "Cordovi" Coros




  There aren't enough rumba records in the world, and this one helps out the situation. The groove here is stupendous; Chavalonga, a contemporary of Chano Pozo, from the Ataré neighborhood in Havana, has put together a great group, with tight coros. He's in his eighties, and his singing isn't always in tune, but there's an honesty to this that carries his work. And boy, does it swing.

Highly recommended.

(Peter Watrous, 2004-02-09)

Helio Orovio, in "Cuban Music A to Z," writes:

  "Dreke, Mario ("Chavalonga"): Author, singer, dancer, musician. Born 25 April 1925, Havana. Since the 1940s Chavalonga has been considered one of the most outstanding performers of African rhythms and rumba. Among his most popular guaguancós are "Palo quimbombó," "Los barrios unidos," "Muñequita," and "Oye lo que te voy a decir." He was a founder of the National Folkloric Ensemble [Conjunto Folklorico Nacional] and is currently the director of a company carrying his name."

Maria del Carmen Mestas, a cuban writer who has done more than anyone lately to document the biographies of rumberos, published piece about him recently here. (The piece was adapted from the chapter on Chavalonga in her (highly recommended) book "Pasión de Rumbero."

Below is (my) translation of her article: 

Memories of a rumbero
    If you walk through the Havana district of Atarés it's possible you will see Chavalonga, a "street encyclopedia" of rumba. Chava, as his friends like to call him, has seen many moons pass in his tired heart, but if drum is heard he is the first one in dancing.

    The night traveled in the light of thousands of stars. The scent of the leafy lemon tree competed with one of jasmins. Skinny, with a brilliant glance, the youngster entered the circle. The drums exerted their ancestral spell so that Chavalonga gave a skillful dissertation when dancing to a well-known guaguancó. It had not finished and even still many were applauding. "Avemaría! Yeah! He's fenomenal!" said the queen of jolgorio, Andrea Baró, with astonished eyes, while Carburo predicted, "Boy, you will be great!"

    "Yes, back then in Jovellanos, Matanzas, I was consecrated", exclaims Mario "Chavalonga" Dreke proudly, one of our great rumberos, when remembering that happy beginning in a genre to which he has brought his creativity to dance, song and percussion.


    Rumba has always accompanied Chavalonga, and together they've lived moments of great joys and others of secret pain. This mythical figure has worked the genre from its deepest root, giving it an expression uniquely his; that is to say, creating a style that identifies him.

    It's certain that his first rumba was savored "very small, because as soon as I opened my eyes I heard the drum, and if to others they sang it to sleep with lullabies, mine was with that sound that can be as sweet as honey.

    My family is from Limonar province in Matanzas, and when Christmas Eve arrived, everyone who could came to my house, to "the judgement," as the rumberos called it; the same
    he appeared one of Carlos Rojas, who was from Jovellanos or Jagüey, and from different municipalities. So it was that I got started in this music, drinking from that which the stars made: Carburo, Sagua, El Dinde, Celestine Domec, Jimagua and others.

    "That was my world since I was very small, and I love it because it's a part of my life that, by the way, was very risky. I couldn't exist without music because it is as if I lacked eyes to see or my voice to sing.

    "I worked with Chano Pozo in a cabaret that was called... something like
    Spotwind, and also in comparsas, that was our diversion. All year we were waiting for the carnavales to arrive and prepared ourselves by rehearsing.

    With Chano I learned to play the drum; now I dance and sing with seven. He was a very guarachero type, happy, but the atmosphere dominated him and he took the wrong path.

    "I participated in the film "Sucedió en La Habana," and I went to Mexico, where I acted in films with the comic actress Vitola [Famie Kaufman], but I became ill because the hot spices hurt me (I do not know if it was really that, or because I carried the weight of nostalgia in my heart). I came back on the boat "Lucero del Alba."

    If someone has been in Chavalonga's memory it is Benny Moré, with whom I worked in the Molino Rojo and other places in the federal district. "Benny is always in my thoughts: a man who gave it all. His thing was to sing, to throw his wonderful voice to the wind... "

    Creator of the Tahona rhythm and inspired composer of boleros in the guaguancó style, Chavalonga also appears in other films as "La última cena," "Rapsodia abakuá," the documentary about Tío Tom, "La rumbera" and "La historia del negro rumbero Mario Chavalonga."

    Chavalonga is a founder of the Conjunto Folclórico Nacional, where he not only contributed his knowledge, he also extended his own to master other genres like the songs of the Yoruba, Lucumí, Arará, Carabalí...

    With that famous group he traveled to many countries; the greatest successes of the rumbero were in Brazil, where he sang the prayer to Shangó and was highly applauded, and in Algeria, when we was inspired to compose the number "Los Gorritos."

    Brother of another famous rumbero, Enrique Dreke, El Príncipe Bailarín, my friend Chavalonga doesn't stop playing the drum, dancing the best steps, and remembering his youth full of great rumbas.

¡La rumba tiene coracón!