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Septeto habanero


SEPTETO HABANERO - biography

 

Septeto Habanero, founded in 1920 under the name Sexteto Habanero, is a veritable institution in Cuba and one of the oldest groups in the country. In spite of the increasing spread of certain kinds of present-day dance music, it keeps alive in all their verve and freshness the traditional creole genres such as the son, the guaracha and the bolero, with all their distinctive local flavour.

At the turn of the century, the son and bolero reached Havana. Bands containing one or two singers were formed, such as the Cuarteto Oriental which, in 1920, gave birth to the Sexteto Habanero, under the direction of guitarist and singer Guillermo Castillo. The Sexteto then included a botija, a pitcher blown into by the player, which was soon replaced by a marímbula (a wooden box containing strips of metal and reminiscent of the African mbira), and then a double bass. Scorned by the middle classes, who considered it too "African", the son  was initially confined to the black areas of Havana.

In 1925, the Sexteto Habanero went to the United States to make recordings for the Victor label, and these records were a triumph in Cuba. The songs: Tres lindas cubanas, La Lorna de Belén, Maldita timidez, Galán galán and Bururú barará, a reflection of Cuban society in the twenties, were on everyone's lips. Towards the end of that decade, the son, which was held to be subversive, was suppressed during the  rule of Gerardo Machado, but the Sexteto Habanero, alone, escaped the dictator’s wrath. Indeed, the band inspired many Cuban and Latin-American artists, including the Mexican singer Agustín Lara in his early days. It was to facilitate the acceptance of the son  by high society and open the way for similar groups, which proliferated from the thirties on.

In 1927, the Sexteto Habanero was transformed into a septeto with the arrival of the trumpeter Enrique Hernández, soon replaced by Félix Chapotin, one of the best-known interpreters of the son. And as the years went by, it nurtured such glories of Cuban music as the singers Abelardo Barroso and Cheo Marquetti, or the bongoceros (bongo players) Agustín Gutiérrez (who introduced the bongo into the United States in 1926) and "Papa Kila", who was at the height of his fame in the forties beside Arsenio Rodríguez.

At the end of the fifties, Manolo Furé took over the orchestra, making way in 1995 for the singer and guitarist Germán Pedro Ibáñez, a member of this same group since 1964. Ibáñez had previously belonged to other son groups including El Caribe, Ases del 48 and a trio also made up of himself and the singers Hilda Santana and Nene Enrizo.

The present-day Septeto Habanero actually consists of eight musicians, but it preserves the traditional instrumentation of the septeto. Besides Ibáñez, it comprises three singers, Gonzalo Emilio Moret López (who also plays the güiro), Digno Marcelino Perez Martínez (who plays the maracas) and José Perez Arregoitias (who plays the claves: wooden strips for percussion), a tres (Felipe Ferrer Caraballo), a bongo (Ricardo Vidal Ferro Vicente), a double bass (Faustino Sanchez Illa) and a trumpet (Servando Arango Garcia).

In 1998, Septeto was the first Cuban band to record for the Lusafrica label. This album “Orgullo de los soneros”   received a very enthusiastic media reception and gave the band the opportunity to become one of the most required Cuban bands through European festivals (very successful in France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Austria…).

In March 2000, their second album recorded for Lusafrica will be released, it will also mark the 80th anniversary of the band.

And it’s not that difficult, just closing your eyes, to recognize through this new Septeto Habanero album, the hearty and colorful atmosphere of Cuba, which is an inexhaustible mould of rythms. Then, as Ignacio Piñeiro, the talented master of sound, said: “The son is the most sublime thing, he who doesn’t appreciate should die”.

 

Albums available on Lusafrica:

« Orgullo de los soneros »  - CD  Lusafrica 262572

« Celebrando sus 80 años » - CD Lusafrica 362302

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