Gina León is, if there’s no another opposite information, the first Cuban singer with a record recorded according to her performances in one of the most exciting cabarets in Havana, under the title: Gina sings in The Capri.
Like happens in some other occasions, everything was due to a chance like happens so often in the history of the great art singers.
It was 1961 and Anido opened at The Capri hotel Casino, his super production “Serenata Mulata”, starred by Olga Guillot, this popular singer. In the production were acting Celeste Mendoza, Gigi Ambar, the vedette Clarita Castillo, the corner Tony Escarpenter and the funny woman Juana Bacallao. Two leading roles made up of the team: Joaquin Riviera in the choreography and Rafael Ortega in the music direction.
But Guillot had other plans and in March of that year, she announced that a great contract was calling her in Caracas, Venezuela; on a trip she knew it was one way ticket.
It seemed that the show would come down without a main figure. Anido made up something out of nothing: Gina León who was already one of the stars of the Cuban musical firmament and she was strongly at The Habana Libre Hotel cabaret, so as the programs on the radio and television. Even in those moments she recorded for Gema, Guillermo Alvarez Guedes’s recording label, a 12 hit song longplay.
While the negotiations between Anido and the singer were taking place, Gigi Ambar took the vacant chair.
Having the deal off, Gina performed at Capri, with a big strength that the place became a popular site for the bohemians and their couples who disputed the possibility to reserve a table in that kind of feeling cathedral.
Her voice was the leading of the night and in July, 1961, Anido already conceived for her, “Me voy pa’Brasil” and even outlined the most striking and out of this world designs that have ever known in that time.
As a result of that explosion, united to his hard working presence in the most popular programs of radio and television, a vinyl record came out in 1962 under the title of “Gina sings at The Capri”, which includes compositions like Aléjate, Nada son mis brazos, Debí llorar, Qué nos pasa, among others.
When the story is written from The Capri cabaret or even from the farandula nights in Vedado, someone can’t be forgotten who trembled with her voice and presence.
School, what for?
Born on April 19th, 1937, when she was young she liked to sing, although her parents weren’t artists but her call seemed to be her grandmother Agueda who used to turn on the radio to listen to danzones and romantic songs and in many occasions she used to count on that with the company of her granddaughter.
Neighbors, friends and relatives discovered her skills real soon, with only 15, made the evenings nice, singing any melody.
Urgently needed for that situation, her decided to take her one day to school of music to make her a test which she came out really well (she has the voice of mezzosoprano, they said), but for the professor’s disenchantment, Gina refused to register. This unexpected attitude would explain her that she didn’t have any interest not even lyrical or opera.
A Star is born
A little by her likes and another to prove herself, she participated in an amateur singing contest on the Radio Popular radio station, where she was double winner. One, for the first award because of her “La novia de todos” singing, and another one because a musician, Candito Ruiz, realized that a star was born that night.
Ruiz was a pianist and composer and author of some popular melodies. He took her under his protection; made her a repertoire and soon she did her professional debut at the Monte Casino cabaret dance floor.
Her first trip abroad was to Panama where she acted at Bahia cabaret in 1957. In 1987 she returned to that country to perform at The Continental Hotel, in a show together with Bobby Carcassés. In this last occasion, La Estrella journal qualified her as an extraordinary singer with a very powerful voice.
Other of her trips abroad was in 1962 where she participated at Sopot Song International Festival, Poland and after she acted at the Friedrichstad Palace, in Berlin so like in other cities of the former German Democratic Republic.
Her repertoire of songs is wide and among them we can mention Canta lo sentimental, by Fuentes and Montiel, Eclipse by Margarita Lecuona, Como aquel día by Ricardo Rodríguez, Estar enamorado by Adolfo Guzmán, Perdóname by Felo Bergaza, Debí llorar by Piloto and Vera and her main song Que te cuesta by Ricardo García Perdomo, among others.
The composer Marta Valdés has said about Gina León that “She has very unusual vocal features in our current artistic field, first place because of her possibilities in the upper register, which isn’t frequent in our songbooks and in second place, because she has a furred pitch, nice and a way to use it in the moments of melodic climax, without an only shrill”.
Sources: EcuRed, Dictionary of The Cuban Music by Helio Orovio.