FIVE YEARS WITHOUT MANUEL GALBÁN, THE ZAFIROS STAR

They are remembered like The Cuban Platters. Like the indisputable hosts of the clubs, nightclubs, bars and everywhere that smells party in the upheaval Havana from the 60´s.

Manuel Galbán and his guitar
Manuel Galbán

Being fair, it wasn’t necessary to label the Cuban Platters, but we gave in to the temptation because of the stubborn obsession to be compared to the abroad that has come along nowadays. The truth is the Zafiros, main band from the revolutionary Cuba, became a living myth for the Cubans, working people who after a fateful working day wanted to dance and dance at the Havana night, at the rhythm of the hot and tasty doo-wop that this vocal quartet proposed, which was made up by the singers Eduardo Elio Hernández (El Chino), Leoncio Murúa (Kike), Ignacio Elejalde, Miguel Cancio (Miguelito) and the composer and guitar player Manuel Galbán as a musical director in the most resounding time.

Some days ago, Manuel Galbán’s farewell turned 5 years, a date that passed quietly in Cuba and it was so demanding to remember the intrepid label done by this musician from Holguin in the Zafiros career, founded in 1961. Galban was almost a decade in charge of the band until its break up in the 70s but it wasn’t any season, it was about a time very turbulent for the quartet, a time in spite of the opposite context, Galban knew how to keep the quartet alive and went on defining that sound that made a competition on the island to the Rolling Stones, and The Beatles. Any Cuban band, until Van Van decade, was so popular like The Zafiros and it knew to calm down the likes and the furor of the dancers.

If one takes a good look at the time, we have to say that Galban together with The Zafiros didn’t have it so easy. While a great number of artists with a certain pedigree moved to Miami (with all that can take for them and for the Cuban music as well), The Zafiros together, were eager to develop its music in the country and go on giving it to the Cuban lively, its natural audience. A decision that obviously made impossible to be known abroad taken over by the American enterprises, that more than one saw this famous quartet which core was formed in Key West neighborhood and reached to record four records.

Who knew Galban closely, I just got to shake hands and thanked him to himself, and everything that was given to us in a short meeting held in a musician’s house who just came from New York, he was outstanding for his discipline, his good sense and his ability to face all the adversities and accomplish any goal to be on his mind. I think so far that’s no doubt a musician of that lineage was to the one wanted to keep The Zafiros alive during the 60s (by the way he was a complete instrumentalist, he played the guitar, the piano, did vocal arrangements and composed, and for more information, all an innate talent).

Unknown in USA but famous in Europe

They were never known in The USA (so we’ve said in some lines above, just the restrictions imposed by the American blockade that affected directly the musical business). However, they had the chance to make European tours, which the legend tells, in one occasion, the audience didn’t let them to go down stage at the Olympia in Paris, asking for more songs, after have sung the entire prepared repertoire for that moment. In these boys, who never got to be prepared to success, they were shattered in tears because of the emotion.

After his time of splendor,  ̶ like it has happened in Cuba with the musicians that after years of being forgotten, they’ve have been back to the first stages ̶ , The Zafiros lived the change of time and went into a kind of lethargy that finished with the known destruction of the band, among other things, internal conflicts, and problems with some of its musicians. Ignacio died from a brain bleeding in 1981, he was 37. Kike due to hepatic cirrhosis in 1983 and El Chino, victim of alcoholism in 1995.

Manuel Galban was a survivor from the turbulence that the band went through after leaving the stages and kept lit the legacy of his partners. He was back in an impetuous way to the musical life with the Buena Vista Social Club, idea created by the American musician and producer Ry Cooder, who with a good eye (commercial as well), saw the potential of great figures from the Cuban music who were in the darkness and isolated. Galban came back to be history together with Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Cachaito Lopez, Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo among other stars.

There’s a film which helped, above all the youngest to discover The Zafiros and Galban’s personality. The film was called Zafiros, Locura Azul and it took especially for its making with the support of the entrepreneur based in Miami and editor of OnCuba magazine, Hugo Cancio, Miguel Cancio’s son, another of the first from the group, who’s still alive.

Galban died at the age of 80 and he was given the last farewell in Cuba with the corresponding honors. The Ministry of Culture and the Cuban Artist and Writers Union sent messages of condolence to his family and the media broadcasted his death. More beyond the official backgrounds, to understand entirely the real meaning of the contributions of this musician, we need to go back to the history of The Zafiros and feel the doo-wop like a twist in the head.

Photos from: www.delrockaltwist.blogspot.com and www.montuno.com

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Celia Cruz con la bandera cubana de fondo

Celia Cruz: Salsa has the Name of a Queen

Few times an artist has raised so many passions in and out of Cuba like Celia Cruz, now she’s come out again due to the controversial serie that has caused divisions among the ones who met her personally and the producers of itself, determined, according to the first, to show a simple and sweetening image about the really one, no question at all one of the most relevant Cuban personalities from the XX century. Even president Obama in his speech, mentioned Celia among the most renowned Cuban musicians. The journalist Michel Hernández brings to our page a nice issue of the artist, which Tradicionales de los 50 makes a permanent tribute in every one of its shows.

By Michel Hernández (guest journalist)

A friend says when Celia Cruz shouted Sugar! (Azúcar), the singer shook and shook also the world spinning beneath her feet. Salsa sweetest phrase wasn’t more than the prime fire of the hip revolution, fever bodies, from dramatic and attractive passions which took the floor when the queen went down to the stage and began to perform her dictates on the dancers. They, simple mortals, knew with certainty that it was impossible to be resisted to this spurt of Caribbean rhythms and they were led by the loud gale extended on all and each one of them, she took them by the waist, she set fire on their heads and later she threw them to the floor, already changed into an impetuous paradise of sweat, joy and frenzy.

Celia changed with Tito Puente the face of “Salsa” music

There was no one who resisted the charm and the tropical and Caribbean voice of this singer who lived a life full of material for the legend. She was born in October, 1925 in Havana, where she stood out like a very promising singer with the Sonora Matancera at the end of the 50’s, she went out of Cuba because of a contract to perform in Mexico, she changed with Tito Puente the face of the salsa in New York and put the entire city into dancing with the rhythmical hit of the son montuno, the Cha Cha or the mambo; she performed in Zaire before the historic fight between the boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974, got a Grammy and the star in the hall of fame in Hollywood, and she was the most international personality of popular Cuban music of all times.

Being, she was one of the iconic personalities of the band Fania All Star, a project led by the musician Johnny Pacheco and the entrepreneur and producer Jerry Masucci, with the goal to spread the Latin music in the USA. The band, founded in New York in 1968, lived one of its most memorable moments in a concert at the Yankee stadium, which gave birth to a CD that takes the lead, mainly “Bemba Colorá”, one of the biggest themes of Celia Cruz’s repertoire. So far (we spoke in the mid 70’s), salsa wasn’t only a Cuban heritage, also an international phenomenon and the world gave thanks to that.

Her records are an invitation to free the hips, although, we have to say everything, the singer breathes nostalgia for her homeland on them as well. They are more than 70 published albums during 40 year artistic career, a mixture of stylized salsa, son, and Cuban and Latin rhythms with universal atmospheres. There are songs in her repertoire that were taken as anthems, for the musicians living abroad, as the ones living in the Caribbean country. It’s true: the singer left the island in the early 60’s but never left entirely, because her voice kept listened by many Cubans in the silence of their houses or in the family parties’ joy, sometimes in a very low tone, sometimes in a louder one.

Many danced, like holding their hearts in their hands, at the beat of legends like Burundanga, La vida es un carnaval, Quimbara or Yerbero Moderno. Today on the island media, references to her memorable interpretations are listened, if one deepens in the local programs, you can take a surprise and grab a dance, like the big dancers say, at the beat of famous chorus like Songo le dió a Borondongo, /Borondongo le dió a Bernabé, /Bernabé le echo a Burundanga/que hincha los pies.

Actually the singer had a power of audience, so any artist would kill. She performed on the stages of half world and gathered thousands of people, dancers or not, attracted by the curiosity to see live a popular music living myth or attending a concert of her own was certainly a unique moment.

In 2003, the so called “Guarachera de Cuba”, passed away due to a brain tumor and the city of New York gave her a farewell as she deserved: The Cuban music was listened loudly and her corpse was taken in a carriage thrown by white horses through the streets so her fans could give a last good bye to the singer with more sugar of the Cuban music.

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