Anacaona - biography
Everything began with the student strike against the tyrant Geraldo Machado, which triggered the closing of the University of Havana. Concepcion Castro Zadarriaga, a young, gentle and dynamic woman realizing that her studies have been stopped off, decided to drop everything to build up with some of her sisters the first and all feminine band.
The adventure really started on February 17th 1932 at the famous “Teatro Payret” in Havana. Five of the Castro sisters were members of the band: Concepcion, Caridad, Ada, Ondine and Alicia. By their sides, there were too: Gaciela Perez and Hortensia Palacias. They were ready for the challenge: changing the face of Cuban music that was, until then, all masculine. They chose Anacaona as a name, which was drawn from a legend where a young Indian woman, wife of Caonoa Cacique, preferred to die than to subdue to the Spanish Conquerors. As soon as they showed up, the young women disconcerted and fascinated the audience at the same time. The choice made by the band to play traditional instruments like bongos, claves, maracas and trumpets did up the Cuban rythmic beat. And once, the macho prejudices had vanished, they made a name for themselves and became the first feminine septet in the island.
In 1934, being very receptive to the first jazzy influences present in Havana, the others five sisters of the Castro Family –Olga, Argeminia, Xiomara, Yolanda, Emma– joined Anacaona. They opted for a band in the style of a jazz band, adding to it trombone, saxophone, piano and drums. Some important clubs like the famous “Tropicana” or the “Sans Souci” welcomed the band in any of their different forms. Every time, that was a success. Being sisters and strictly educated helped them to preserve the band from the easy temptations of the corrupted atmostphere of theaters, night-clubs that they were attending. The band rising establishing demanded a constant motivation and mobilization.
Between 1936 and 1951, the band made it in the U.S., in Colombia and in many other Latin American countries. Alberto Sacarras, a once famous musician, took the band in hand and added it a flute. As soon as they were back, becoming one of the pillars of the Cuban music, the band was «the stepping stone school» for many new feminine artists as Omara Portuondo or Moraima Secada who’d became the talented figures of the Cuban music. In Mexico, they shot 3 movies and while they were touring in Brazil, they heard of the Cuban Revolution.
Then, the sisters followed their career, in Cuba and outside, touring around the world until the eldest ones, who had been also succesfully in their private life, expressed the desire to go back home while most of them had prioritized their passion for music.
In 1983, after their graduation from the academy of music, two young sisters of the family –Georgia and Doris Aguirre– decided to join the mythical band Anacaona. In 1987, the five Castro sisters decided to move on with their life and to leave the band. However, Georgia and Doris wanted to keep the soul of the band and even if they were looking for other instrumentalists who’d shared the same passion for music. The most difficult was to find feminine trumpetists and percussionists, so they had to train them within the band.
February 1988: the band re-formed under the artistic management of Georgia, the bassist. They approached the traditional repertory with new arrangements and a new orchestration. Basing themselves on the ‘son’ rythm but also finding inspiration in the rythms of the Caraibs and Latin America, they fructified the heritage of the elders. For the press, there was only one word to define the particularly light timber of the 3 singers –Doris, Baby and Jarianna– Amazing !… and the journalists were also full of praise for Janisset, the 20 years old pianist, prolific composer and labelled «made within the band». She composed 3 pieces and six arrangements for this last album.
Yet, it’s in France, that the band had its most amazing experience: Jerôme Savary called up the band for «Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme» of Molière to make a Caribbean and salsa version of the music of Lully. This was made in collaboration with the Theatre National de Chaillot and played several times in May 98. Between June and July 98, they toured all over France and Europe –Spain, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands…
1999: the challenge was the U.S: at the famous Copacabana in N.Y.C, at the SOB Club, or in other american cities, in front of a passionate audience, Anacaona brought the house down! In Cuba, the cinema called them up and they shot some movies. Their first CD «Anacaona Ay» produced by Juan Formell, the musical manager of Los Van Van, was recorded in 1991 in Havana and was also released in Spain. The second one is a compilation of feminine bands compositions «Cien Lindas Cubanas» and was recorded live in “La Tropical” gardens. The third and fourth albums are a mix of recent and traditional themes. Then comes “Lo que tú esperabas”, produced by Lusafrica.
Indeed, Anacaona as a mythical band became an inspiration for many. Georgia, the current musical manager of the band, rejoiced and said “We are very proud to see so many feminine bands get developped here in Cuba”. Anacaona, which is the real challenge of the Castro sisters, have got lasting melodies and has been running for 68 years. Actually, they became one of the greatest success of the Cuban musical abundance. So, they have created the first feminine band but it would have been futile if those women hadn’t been, above all, unequalled singers and musicians.
Anacaona - album “Lo que tú esperabas...” - CD Lusafrica 362292