Early Cuban bands

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Early Cuban bands played popular music for dances and theatres during the period 1780–1930. Early Cuban bands_sentence_0

During this period Cuban music became creolized, and its European and African origins gradually changed to become genuinely Cuban. Early Cuban bands_sentence_1

Instrumentation and music continually developed during this period. Early Cuban bands_sentence_2

The information listed here is in date order, and comes from whatever records survive to the present day. Early Cuban bands_sentence_3

Típicas Early Cuban bands_section_0

For about a hundred years, from early in the nineteenth century to about 1920, the main orchestral format for popular music was the típica based on wind instruments, usually about 8–10 members. Early Cuban bands_sentence_4

At the same time, there were also itinerant musicians, duos and trios: for them, see trova. Early Cuban bands_sentence_5

Orquesta Concha de Oro Early Cuban bands_section_1

Founded early in the 19th century by the black violinist and double bass player Claudio Brindis de Salas, it played the dance music of the epoch at the balls of the island's aristocracy: contradanzas, minuets, rigadoons, quadrilles, lancers. Early Cuban bands_sentence_6

It was basically a típica, or wind orchestra, which was sometimes augmented to 100 players for special occasions such as fiestas. Early Cuban bands_sentence_7

Brindis de Salas, a disciple of maestro Ignacio Calvo, was also a composer of creole danzas and the author of an operetta, Congojas matrimoniales. Early Cuban bands_sentence_8

In 1844 his musical career was interrupted by his involvement in the Escalera Conspiracy, for which whites were absolved, but blacks paid dearly. Early Cuban bands_sentence_9

Brindis de Salas was arrested and tortured. Early Cuban bands_sentence_10

He was banished from the island by the Governor, O'Donnell. Early Cuban bands_sentence_11

Returning in 1848, he was imprisoned for two years, and when he eventually was free to think about reorganizing his band, he found out that most of them had been executed. Early Cuban bands_sentence_12

Apart from the operetta, he is known for a melody dedicated to the General Concha, printed in 1854. Early Cuban bands_sentence_13

His son, Claudio Brindis de Salas Garrido (Havana, 4 August 1852 – Buenos Aires, 1 June 1911) was an even better violinist, of world renown. Early Cuban bands_sentence_14

Orquesta Flor de Cuba Early Cuban bands_section_2

Founded by clarinetist Juan de Dios Alfonso, who moved to Havana, where he played clarinet in Feliciano Ramos's band La Unión in 1856, and directed La Almendares in 1859. Early Cuban bands_sentence_15

It is not quite clear when he formed La Flor de Cuba, which became one of the most popular in the middle of the 19th century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_16

They played contradanzas, and other dances of the time. Early Cuban bands_sentence_17

The orchestra was a típica, with cornet, trombone, ophicleide, two clarinets, two violins, double bass, kettle drum, and güíro. Early Cuban bands_sentence_18

The ophicleide (ophicleide) was a sort of bass bugle with keys, invented in 1817; the t-bone would be a valve trombone. Early Cuban bands_sentence_19

They were playing in the Teatro Villanueva in Havana in 1869 when the Spanish Voluntarios attacked the theatre, killing some ten or so patrons who had been watching a bufo (musical satirical comedy), and applauding its revolutionary sentiments. Early Cuban bands_sentence_20

The context was that the Ten Years' War had started the previous year, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes had freed his slaves, and declared Cuban independence. Early Cuban bands_sentence_21

Creole sentiments were running high, and the Colonial government and their rich Spanish traders were reacting. Early Cuban bands_sentence_22

Not for the first time, politics and music were closely intertwined, for musicians had been integrated since before 1800, and "from 1800 to 1840, blacks were the clear majority of the professional musicians". Early Cuban bands_sentence_23

Bufo theatres were shut down for some years after this tragic event. Early Cuban bands_sentence_24

Orquesta Valenzuela Early Cuban bands_section_3

The descendant of La Flor de Cuba, led from 1877 by trombonist Raimundo Valenzuela after the death of Juan de Dios Alfonso. Early Cuban bands_sentence_25

We do not know exactly when the name of the orchestra was changed. Early Cuban bands_sentence_26

When Raimundo died in 1905, his brother Pablo became Director. Early Cuban bands_sentence_27

It was, like Flor de Cuba, the most popular típica of its day. Early Cuban bands_sentence_28

Under cornetist Pablo Valenzuela, the band became one of the earliest to record Cuban music, in 1906 with Edison cylinders (about 40), 1909 with Columbia Records (23) and with Victor (56). Early Cuban bands_sentence_29

The last recordings were in 1919; there were about 120 numbers in all, most of which were danzones. Early Cuban bands_sentence_30

The band dispersed after his death. Early Cuban bands_sentence_31

Orquesta Faílde Early Cuban bands_section_4

Founded 1871 in Matanzas by Miguel Faílde, the official originator of the danzón. Early Cuban bands_sentence_32

His band was composed mainly of wind instruments, and therefore was a típica. Early Cuban bands_sentence_33

Its initial members were: Miguel Faílde (cornet); Pascual Carreras (ophicleide); Pancho Morales (1st violin); Juan Cantero (2nd violin); Anselmo 'Frijolín' Casalín (1st clarinet); Eduardo Faílde (brother, 2nd clarinet); Cándido Faílde (brother, trombone); Eulogio Garrido (double bass); Andrés Segovia (timpani); Isidro Acosta (güíro). Early Cuban bands_sentence_34

The usual changes in personnel meant that by 1903 the personnel included Eduardo Betancourt (trombone); Alfredo Hernández (2nd violin); Magdaleno Rodríguez (2nd clarinet) and Benito 'Chacho' Oliva (tympani). Early Cuban bands_sentence_35

This is the band which played the Alturas de Simpson, the first danzón; it was one of Faílde's compositions. Early Cuban bands_sentence_36

It seems the band made no recordings, and it dispersed in 1921 after the death of its leader. Early Cuban bands_sentence_37

Orquesta Alemán Early Cuban bands_section_5

Founded 1878 in Santiago de Las Vegas. Early Cuban bands_sentence_38

Leader: José Alemán (Guanabacoa, 22 December 1846 – Santiago de Las Vegas, 1924). Early Cuban bands_sentence_39

Alemán was a tailor's cutter in Santiago de Las Vegas and a composer of dance and religious music. Early Cuban bands_sentence_40

He studied music under Pedro Álvarez, and became a double bass player, also a good violinist and pianist. Early Cuban bands_sentence_41

He played double bass in the orchestra of Havana Cathedral, and in the orchestra of Juan de Dios Alfonso. Early Cuban bands_sentence_42

Orquesta Alemán was a típica or band based on wind instruments. Early Cuban bands_sentence_43

It included Alejo Carillo (cornet); Pedro Espinosa (trombone); Leobino Zayas (ophicleide); Julián Allende (1st clarinet); Ramón Alemán (2nd clarinet); Elias Fuentes (1st violin); Juan Tómas Alemán (2nd violin); Aniceto Rodrígues (timpanist); Quirino Sastre (güíro). Early Cuban bands_sentence_44

On the death of José Alemán in 1924, the orchestra was directed by his brother Ramón, and there were numerous changes of personnel. Early Cuban bands_sentence_45

The band was active until the 1930s. Early Cuban bands_sentence_46

Orquesta de Perico Rojas Early Cuban bands_section_6

Típica formed in 1884 by the trombonist Pedro Rojas (aka 'Perico'), in Güines. Early Cuban bands_sentence_47

Its members at the start of the 20th century included the following: Perico Rojas (trombone); Patricio Valdés and Andrés Rojas (violin); Martín Caraballo and Miguel Rojas (clarinet); Jesús Urfé (cornet); Ambrosio Marín (trombone); Anacleto Larrondo (ophicleide); Juan R. Landa (double bass); Pedro Hernández (tympani); Leopoldo Castillo (güíro). Early Cuban bands_sentence_48

The band lasted to early in the 20th century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_49

Orquesta típica de Felipe Valdés Early Cuban bands_section_7

All that is known of Felipe Valdés is that he was a cornetist and composer, who was born in Bolondrón, Matanzas, in the second half of the 19th century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_50

He founded his típica in 1899, and it became popular in Havana. Early Cuban bands_sentence_51

Its instrumentation in 1916 was: 3 violins; 2 clarinets; cornet; trombone; double bass; saxophone; güíro and timbales. Early Cuban bands_sentence_52

Probably it had started with an ophicleide, and later substituted the saxophone. Early Cuban bands_sentence_53

They included a piano by 1929. Early Cuban bands_sentence_54

The group recorded more danzones than any other before 1920. Early Cuban bands_sentence_55

They recorded for Edison (1906), Columbia (starting 1906/7); Victor (starting 1907). Early Cuban bands_sentence_56

The total number of recordings was 315 numbers. Early Cuban bands_sentence_57

Valdés composed many numbers, including La Africana, Lamentos and Yeyé Olube. Early Cuban bands_sentence_58

Some of these recordings are available on CD: four numbers from 1907 (Victor), one from 1916 (Columbia) and one from 1929. Early Cuban bands_sentence_59

Díaz Ayala said, "It's incredible that there is no more information about this director who composed and recorded so many danzones." Early Cuban bands_sentence_60

Orquesta de Enrique Peña Early Cuban bands_section_8

Cornetist Enrique Peña's danzonera was one of the first to record, and that profusely. Early Cuban bands_sentence_61

This was the second band he organized (the first was called La Juventud): the line-up was: Peña (cornet); Antonio González (trombone); Féliz González (ophicleide); José Belén Puig (1st clarinet); José Urfé (2nd clarinet); Julián Barreto (violin); Alfredo Sáenz (violin); José de los Reyes (tympani); Rufino Cárdenas (güíro) and unknown (double bass). Early Cuban bands_sentence_62

The orchestra started to record in 1908, and became famous for El bombín de Barreto (Barreto's bowler hat), written by Urfé, which was supposedly the first danzón to incorporate a syncopated third part, influenced by the son. Early Cuban bands_sentence_63

Several members of the band went on to become well-known later on. Early Cuban bands_sentence_64

The group recorded about 150 numbers, some of which are available on CD. Early Cuban bands_sentence_65

Orquesta de Félix González Early Cuban bands_section_9

This, one of the last típicos to be founded, started in 1915 with a core of members from Enrique Peña's band. Early Cuban bands_sentence_66

The set-up was: González (ophicleide), Dolores Betancourt (t-bone); José Belén Puig (first clarinet); José Urfé (second clarinet); Miguel Ángel Mendieta and Benito Moya (violins); Guillermo Maherve (d. bass); Demetrio Pacheco (tympani) and Ulpiano Díaz (güiro). Early Cuban bands_sentence_67

Despite its old-fashioned format, the orchestra kept in work for 52 years, until the death of its Director in 1967. Early Cuban bands_sentence_68

Three of its recordings are available on CD, from 1916, 1925 and 1928. Early Cuban bands_sentence_69

Charangas Early Cuban bands_section_10

Charangas supplanted the típica as the standard instrumental line-up for the danzón. Early Cuban bands_sentence_70

Initially called charangas francesas (though they have nothing to do with France), they were 'invented' at the start of the 20th century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_71

The formulation is still going strong, with appropriate adjustments to the instrumentation. Early Cuban bands_sentence_72

The basic idea is to pitch the tone of the orchestra higher and brighter than the típica, by removing the brass, replacing the clarinet with a flute and replacing the kettle drums with a new invention, the pailas criollas, now called timbales. Early Cuban bands_sentence_73

This metal-cased drum, hit with timbales sticks, and not timpani sticks, produces a distinctive effect. Early Cuban bands_sentence_74

The two timbales drums are pitched differently, and may be supplemented with two timbalitos, pitched even higher, and one or two cencerros (cowbells). Early Cuban bands_sentence_75

Also noteworthy is the use of the sticks on the metal casing to produce a rhythm known as the cascara. Early Cuban bands_sentence_76

From early on these bands also included a piano. Early Cuban bands_sentence_77

The overall effect is to produce a lighter, brighter flavor to the music; who actually originated the idea is not known. Early Cuban bands_sentence_78

Orquesta Torroella Early Cuban bands_section_11

Founded at the end of the 19th century in Havana, this was the first charanga francesa in the capital, and the first to include a piano. Early Cuban bands_sentence_79

Its director was the pianist Antonio 'Papaito' Torroella, and from the start the band included Papaito Torroella (piano); David Rendón (violin); Faustino Valdés (flute) and Evaristo Romero (double bass). Early Cuban bands_sentence_80

Under the title Sexteto Torroella, the group recorded eight numbers on Edison cylinders in 1906. Early Cuban bands_sentence_81

Orquesta de Tata Alfonso Early Cuban bands_section_12

A charanga francesa formed early in the 20th century by flautist Octavio 'Tata' Alfonso. Early Cuban bands_sentence_82

Its line-up at its peak was: Tata Alfonso (flute); Bruno Quijarro (violin); Pablo Bequé (double bass); Jesús Lopéz (piano); Abelardo Valdés (güiro); Ulpiano Díaz (timbales). Early Cuban bands_sentence_83

The band recorded six numbers for Columbia Records in 1918, and was regarded as one of the three most important charangas in the history of the danzón, and the first to incorporate melodies from the cantos de claves y guaguancó in this genre. Early Cuban bands_sentence_84

Orquesta Romeu Early Cuban bands_section_13

Founded around 1910 by Antonio María Romeu (1876–1955), this was for thirty years the most important charanga in Cuba. Early Cuban bands_sentence_85

Romeu had previously played in Orquesta Cervantes, one of several charangas founded at the beginning of the 1900s, and became one of the most prolific composers of danzones. Early Cuban bands_sentence_86

The orchestra recorded hundreds of numbers over many years, beginning in 1915, and issued a whole series of albums after 1950. Early Cuban bands_sentence_87

It is not clear that Romeu was, as sometimes claimed, the originator of the charanga, but it is clear that his band was for many years the leading danzonera. Early Cuban bands_sentence_88

The initial line-up for Orchestra Romeu was: Romeu (piano); Feliciano Facenda (violin); Alfredo Valdés (flute); Rafael Calazán (double bass); Remigio Valdés (timbal); Juan de la Merced (güiro): quite a small group. Early Cuban bands_sentence_89

Much later the orchestra included Francisco Delabart (flute); Augusto Valdés (clarinet); Juan Quevedo (violin); Aurelio Valdés and Félix Vásquez (güiro); Antonio Ma. Early Cuban bands_sentence_90

Romeu (son, violin); Pedro Hernández (violin); Dihigo (trumpet); Regueira (trombone) and José Antonio Díaz (flute). Early Cuban bands_sentence_91

The singers (introduced after the introduction of the sung danzón, known as the danzonete) were, at two different times, Fernando Collazo and Barbarito Díez. Early Cuban bands_sentence_92

In the thirties it had become a big band, and included two brass instruments. Early Cuban bands_sentence_93

When Romeu died, the orchestra was led for a while by his son, also Antonio María Romeu, then by Barbarito Díez. Early Cuban bands_sentence_94

It still played the traditional danzón, but now was called the Orquesta de Barbarito Díez. Early Cuban bands_sentence_95

Son groups Early Cuban bands_section_14

The son dates back to the latter part of the 19th century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_96

Actual names of players and musical groups appear after the then Cuban President, José Miguel Gómez, sent the battalions of the Ejército Permanente away from their native provinces. Early Cuban bands_sentence_97

It was the Permanente from Oriente that brought the son to Havana. Early Cuban bands_sentence_98

There are a few early recordings which survive from before the famous sextetos were formed. Early Cuban bands_sentence_99

Some of the theatre music was interesting, for example, the Teatro Alhambra had a group of which Adolfo Colombo was the leading personality. Early Cuban bands_sentence_100

He was a singer and regular recording artist, though few of these recordings have survived. Early Cuban bands_sentence_101

One that has been reissued by Harlequin reveals a funky number which is hard to categorize. Early Cuban bands_sentence_102

Listed as a rumba, it is perhaps best described as a guaracha-son. Early Cuban bands_sentence_103

The artists singing are Colombo and Claudio García, the guitar probably Alberto Villalón, plus an unknown tres player. Early Cuban bands_sentence_104

All three named players were white, yet the number is creole, almost Afro-Cuban, in style. Early Cuban bands_sentence_105

Sexteto Boloña Early Cuban bands_section_15

In 1915 Alfredo Boloña Jimenez formed a son group in Havana. Early Cuban bands_sentence_106

He played the marimbula, the bongó and the guitar at different times and, despite his physical limitations (dwarfism), he was a force in Cuban music for half a century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_107

His first group was Hortensia Valerón (vocalist), Manuel Menocal (tres), Manuel Corona (guitar), Victoriano Lopéz (maracas) and Joaquín Velasquéz (bongó). Early Cuban bands_sentence_108

In October 1926, the Sexteto Boloña recorded in New York City a set of numbers for Columbia which is available today on the usual media. Early Cuban bands_sentence_109

The group split up in 1934. Early Cuban bands_sentence_110

Sexteto Habanero Early Cuban bands_section_16

Main article: Sexteto Habanero Early Cuban bands_sentence_111

In 1917 four musicians calling themselves Cuarteto Oriental recorded four numbers for Columbia in Havana. Early Cuban bands_sentence_112

The numbers are listed in a Columbia catalog for 1921, but are probably lost. Early Cuban bands_sentence_113

However, the same group expanded to a sextet in 1918, and were recorded by Victor in a field recording at the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana. Early Cuban bands_sentence_114

At least one of these records has survived, giving two numbers, which are probably the first surviving sones. Early Cuban bands_sentence_115

The new grouping called itself Sexteto Habanero in 1920. Early Cuban bands_sentence_116

The instrumental set-up is interesting, because they use some of the original instruments of the son: the botija and a unique square bongó. Early Cuban bands_sentence_117

Soon this (and other) groups appreciated that the double bass was a musically more suitable instrument: they never went back to the botija. Early Cuban bands_sentence_118

Five years later, the group had new members and a different look, including Agustín Gutierrez (bongó), Abelardo Barroso (sonero, claves), Felipe Nerí Cabrera (maracas, vocals); Gerardo Martínez (double bass, vocals, leader); Guillermo Castillo (guitar, vocals), Carlos Godínez (tres, vocals). Early Cuban bands_sentence_119

The group's recordings in New York 1925-26 are available on LP and CD. Early Cuban bands_sentence_120

The music is of high quality, considering the technical limitations of the time; the group won first prize in the Concurso de Sones in 1925 and 1926. Early Cuban bands_sentence_121

When the group added a cornet, soon replaced by a trumpet, namely Félix Chappottín, it became the Septeto Habanero. Early Cuban bands_sentence_122

This latter line-up lasted until the late 1930s, when sextetos were ousted by conjuntos and big bands. Early Cuban bands_sentence_123

The leader, Gerardo Martínez then formed a new group, Conjunto Típico Habanero. Early Cuban bands_sentence_124

Sexteto Occidente Early Cuban bands_section_17

One of the early son sextetos, formed in 1925 by María Teresa Vera and Miguel García, it went to New York and recorded numbers, but lasted only about 18 months. Early Cuban bands_sentence_125

Its set-up was typical of the early son groups. Early Cuban bands_sentence_126

Other types Early Cuban bands_section_18

Orquesta Avilés Early Cuban bands_section_19

The group with the longest continuous record, it was founded in 1882 and still in existence. Early Cuban bands_sentence_127

Manuel Avilés Lozano (Holguín, Oriente, 2 February 1864 – ?) Early Cuban bands_sentence_128

worked as a tailor, and studied music under the Spanish maestro Magín Torres. Early Cuban bands_sentence_129

Avilés, director and clarinetist, formed the orchestra with relatives and other musicians, and, eventually, his thirteen children. Early Cuban bands_sentence_130

Later still, he engaged other younger relatives. Early Cuban bands_sentence_131

He and some of the other band members fought in the Cuban War of Independence in the Ejército Libertador. Early Cuban bands_sentence_132

The band is unusual in several respects. Early Cuban bands_sentence_133

It started as a típico, then became a charanga, then became (in the 1940s) what Cubans call a 'jazzband', meaning a big band. Early Cuban bands_sentence_134

The band has always been based in Holguín, and scarcely ever left Oriente. Early Cuban bands_sentence_135

It is still organized around family members. Early Cuban bands_sentence_136

It is now called Orquesta Hermanos Avilés. Early Cuban bands_sentence_137

Estudiantina Oriental Early Cuban bands_section_20

This group developed in Santiago de Cuba at the end of the 19th century. Early Cuban bands_sentence_138

It was significantly different from the típicas, both in music, instruments and racial composition (the members were usually white). Early Cuban bands_sentence_139

The genres of music played included danzón, bolero, son and guaracha. Early Cuban bands_sentence_140

The instruments included tres, marimbula, kettle drums or pailas criolla (timbales). Early Cuban bands_sentence_141

This instrumental line-up prefigures that of the sextetos which appeared later, rather than the older típicas. Early Cuban bands_sentence_142

The members would be based on university students, probably reinforced by talent from other quarters. Early Cuban bands_sentence_143

Similar Estudiantina groups were formed in other provincial towns. Early Cuban bands_sentence_144

Giro gives this set-up as characteristic of Estudientinas: two tres, 1st and 2nd; two guitars; one trumpet; botija or double bass; paila (timbal); cencerro (cow-bell); güiro; three singers, 1st, 2nd and falsetto, and maybe both sexes. Early Cuban bands_sentence_145

It is clear that estudientinas in different parts of Cuba had variations in membership, instruments and repertoire. Early Cuban bands_sentence_146

Cuban jazz bands Early Cuban bands_section_21

The history of jazz in Cuba was hidden for many years by the unwillingness of record companies to make recordings available. Early Cuban bands_sentence_147

However, in recent years, it has become clear that its history in Cuba is as long as its history in the USA. Early Cuban bands_sentence_148

The key figure in revealing the early days of Cuban jazz is Leonardo Acosta, musician and musicologist, who has been working on this topic for many years. Early Cuban bands_sentence_149

Others have explored the history of jazz and Latin jazz from the U.S. perspective. Early Cuban bands_sentence_150

The pre-history of Cuban jazz includes musicians like Louis Moreau Gottschalk and W.C. Early Cuban bands_sentence_151 Handy, who visited Cuba and brought creole ideas into their music. Early Cuban bands_sentence_152

The Jazz Band Sagua was founded in Sagua la Grande in 1914 by Pedro Stacholy (director & piano). Early Cuban bands_sentence_153

Members: Hipólito Herrera (trumpet); Norberto Fabelo (cornet); Ernesto Ribalta (flute & sax); Humberto Domínguez (violin); Luciano Galindo (trombone); Antonio Temprano (tuba); Tomás Medina (drum kit); Marino Rojo (güiro). Early Cuban bands_sentence_154

For fourteen years they played at the Teatro Principal de Sagua. Early Cuban bands_sentence_155

Stacholy studied under Antonio Fabré in Sagua, and completed his studies in New York, where he stayed for three years. Early Cuban bands_sentence_156

The Cuban Jazz Band was founded in 1922 by Jaime Prats in Havana. Early Cuban bands_sentence_157

The personnel included his son Rodrigo Prats on violin, the great flautist Alberto Socarrás on flute and saxophone and Pucho Jiménez on slide trombone. Early Cuban bands_sentence_158

The line-up would probably have included double bass, kit drum, banjo, cornet at least. Early Cuban bands_sentence_159

Earlier works cited this as the first jazz band in Cuba, but evidently there were earlier groups. Early Cuban bands_sentence_160

In 1924 Moisés Simons (piano) founded a group which played on the roof garden of the Plaza Hotel in Havana, and consisted of piano, violin, two saxes, banjo, double bass, drums and timbales. Early Cuban bands_sentence_161

Its members included Virgilio Diego (violin); Alberto Socarrás (alto sax, flute); José Ramón Betancourt (tenor sax); Pablo O'Farrill (d. bass). Early Cuban bands_sentence_162

In 1928, still at the same venue, Simons hired Julio Cueva, a famous trumpeter, and Enrique Santiesteban, a future media star, as vocalist and drummer. Early Cuban bands_sentence_163

These were top instrumentalists, attracted by top fees of $8 a day. Early Cuban bands_sentence_164

All these bands no doubt played Cuban music as well as jazz, but there are few recordings of them playing jazz. Early Cuban bands_sentence_165

There can be little doubt that these early ventures built up a stock of Cuban musicians that were at home with both genres. Early Cuban bands_sentence_166

That led eventually to the Latin jazz fusions of later years. Early Cuban bands_sentence_167


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early Cuban bands.