Rhythms and Songs for the Orishas-Havana, Cuba, Ca. 1957. (Harmonies from Small to Large Nation)

By Holston, Mark | Americas (English Edition), November-December 2001 | Go to article overview

Rhythms and Songs for the Orishas-Havana, Cuba, Ca. 1957. (Harmonies from Small to Large Nation)


Holston, Mark, Americas (English Edition)


Rhythms and Songs for the Orishas--Havana, Cuba, ca. 1957 (SFW CD 40489)

No Spanish-speaking nation currently enjoys such widespread global appreciation of its music as does Cuba. In part, this unfaltering adulation can be attributed to the ease with which such elemental Cuban forms as bolero, mambo, and cha-cha were integrated into the music culture of many nations decades ago. The small island country's adroitness at assimilating a broad range of sacred and popular music idioms from African and European classical and popular sources and rendering them into expressive new hybrids is also a significant factor. Perhaps most importantly, a wide variety of Cuban styles appeal to non-Cuban audiences on a visceral level few non-Cuban idioms have been able to match.

A perfect example is Amistad 404, a long overdue survey of the artistry of Cuban composer Gonzalo Roig. In 1922 the Havana native founded the Havana Symphony Orchestra, but just five years later took over direction of the city's Municipal Band. Such versatility, says the album's producer, Roberto Fontanillas-Roig, the composer's grandson, served to emphasize Roig's often-voiced opinion that "music is one, each gender has its own dignity." Indeed, Roig was one of the first in his land to present the Creole side of Cuba's national culture to the country's middle and upper social classes. He made, as one observer at the time put it, "maracas, clave, and guiro ... respectable instruments."

Roig composed such popular classics as the beloved "Quiereme Mucho," his best known work, as well as operettas and suites. Pianist and arranger Reinaldo Casas, trumpeter Adalberto Lara, saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, and half a dozen vocalists are featured on this loving, meticulously crafted tribute to the late maestro in a program that explores both the popular and classical side of his craft. Roig passed away in 1970, just before the Cuban music entered its latest renaissance. …

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