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.



Anonymous said...

Really nice cd, and great background info as always. thanks!

Miguel said...

Glad you like it :)

and thanks for telling us ...


Bert Boogaard said...


Miguel said...