A history page of Cuban music
Double bass player Orestes Aragón Cantero formed the Orquesta Aragón in 1939. With now 70 years of uninterrupted existence, it is probably the oldest band still playing today, in terms of popular music.
The group played its first gig at a private party on September 30, 1939 in a house on the corner of Cristina and Gloria Streets. The date was chosen as the official birth of the band first called Rítmica del 39. The young musicians chose Rítmica rather than Tipica as they wanted to show that while they respected the old danzon, the interpretation they gave was full of real vim and vitality. The group’s name soon changed and their very first slogan proclaimed: “Dance with Rítmica Aragón. We take our commitments seriously, we’re carefully presented and have a select repertoire.” At the end of 1940 they settled on their final name of Orquesta Aragón. The first months were hard, but, by dint of their work, the band carved out a solid reputation in Cienfuegos that spread out through the whole Las Villas province. Rafael Lay distinguished himself as an outstanding violinist, and the band gradually filled out: after ten years, the Orquesta was a clear match for the best bands in Havana. The capital, however, operated as a closed shop, nevertheless Orquesta Aragón did succeed in it in an unexpected way. Then, led by Rafael Lay, the band set off to conquer the world at the start of the fifties.