Monthly Archives: February 2013

28.02.13 : Paulito FG – Con La Conciencia Tranquila

Among the most recognized voices in Timba, one will find such as Isaac Delgado, Mayito & Guayacan of Los Van Van, Manolin el medico… and one more very important and talented figure – Paulito FG.

Born Paulo Alfonso Fernandez Gallo in 1962 in Habana, Paulo was singing before he could walk; his mother, a singer and pianist, encouraged him to sing along with her playing even before he could speak.
This was his initial musical education…

His musical career started during the mid 80’s, when he was discovered by Adalberto Alvarez, who was mesmerized by his vocal talent.
Paulito sang a short while with Adalberto, then Dan Den, and in 1991took leadership of a well established band, Opus 13, turning it to Paulito FG y Su Elite, starting his meteoric rise to the top of the musical scene in Cuba.

Paulito’s Elite truly is an elite band, a collection of very talented musicians; Juan Ceruto, arranger of Opus 13, became one of Paulito’s closest friends and partners, arranging hit after hit after hit during the 90’s… Together they also assembled one of the most creative and interesting horn sections in Timba history.
For example, the horn section included Alexander Abreu, now band leader of Habana De Primera.
The percussion section is also quite unique, and featured young talents who were (or will later be) with Charanga Habanera, Los Van Van, and Isaac Delgado’s group.
This great assembly of creative musical elements culminated in 1997, with the release of “Con la  Conciencia Tranquila”, one of the most regarded albums in Timba history.

Paulito is a very intelligent and talented musician himself, well known for his improvisation abilities; like many other Cuban bands, his live performances differ greatly from his studio recordings.
One of the unique features of Timba music is it’s “Guias” (or “gears”, if you like) – special parts of the song during which some instruments play solo parts, and the singer greatly improvises over the lyrics.
Paulito is the undisputed master of this “genre”, stretching songs to over 20 minutes long, mostly due to his line improvisations which are always performed together with the audience.

Later, a large part of the band moved to play with Isaac Delgado, and was replaced by other talents… over the years Paulito released 9 albums, the latest being “Sin Etiquea” of 2010.

21.02.13 : Manolin – Pegaito Pegaito

Today I would like to present a very interesting and controversial figure in the Timba scene, Manolin “el medico de la salsa”.

Born Manuel Gonzalez Hernandez in Guantanamo in eastern Cuba in 1965, Manolin was a singer since childhood, and learned to play guiter at an early age.
His family moved to Havana when he was still in kindergarten, thus he grew up in Havana.
Although successfully graduating from med school in Havana, instead of becoming a doctor, Manolin decided to quit medicine, and follow his true passion – music.

He started by playing and singing in a cabaret band in Havana in 1992; thanks to his talent, and even more than that, his tremendous charisma and ability to make the audience feel that they are a part of the show, his crowds were constantly growing in size, until in 1994 he was offered to tour Mexico, which he did, enjoying much success.
After 4 months away from home, he returned to Cuba, and released his debut album “Una Aventura Loca”, which was produced by Jose Luis Cortes of NG La Banda, and contained some NG songs.

His next album was the one that would bring him international recognition and fame; “De Buena Fe”, released in 1996, broke all sale record in Cuba of that time, and was also hugely popular outside of the island.
Songs like “La Bola” and “Pegaito Pegaito” drove the fans crazy, and are still big hits today.
What makes Manolin different is his incredible ability to improvise on the spot; his lyrics are clever and up to date, his arrangements and grooves very powerful, and his voice appears to hypnotize the listeners.
He also knows how to keep the crowds asking for more, making you, as a listener, feel that you’re a part of the band, and that’s a thing that gets you coming back.

Manolin had many problems with the government; during a tour in the USA in the late 1990’s his wife, daughter, and some band members defected and did not return to Cuba.
Manolin was torn apart by the separation from his family, a thing which made his lose concentration in his music, releasing only a few songs over 4 years.
Another thing made problematic was the fact some of his songs seemed to over sympathize the Cuban defectors in Miami, a thing that wasn’t received well by his audience, making his 2001 album “Jaque Mate”, which (objectively) was as good as the previous ones, a market failure, increasing Manolin’s frustration.
Later that year, Manolin goes working in Mexico, and after finishing his tour, comes to the USA with fake documents.
He defects to the USA, and starts over in Miami.

Since coming to Miami, Manolin started adapting his music to the local crowds, over time abandoning timba and salsa (just like other Cuban musicians, like Isaac Delgado, which moved to Miami, did) in favor of Reggaeton, Ballad, kitschy pop, and fusion of salsa rhythms with all the following.
Manolin released 3 albums as far as 2013, toured Europe several times, and nowadays has his own club & restaurant in Miami where he performs roughly once a month.

The song “Pegaito Pegaito” which I present to you here comes from Manolin’s good and creative times in Cuba of the mid 1990’s; in this song Manolin hosts 2 of the finest Timba singers, Roberto “Guayacan” Hernandez and Mario “Mayito” Rivera from Los Van Van, both of which sing a short ~15 second excerpt during the song.
Manolin also quotes famous los van van numbers in this song.

14.02.13 : Dan Den – Corazon De Leon

Good evening folks!
I know that many are getting ready for the Valentine’s day celebrations, and so am I (I’m DJying tonight at a voluntary salsa venue…), so I’ll try to keep it short and smooth, with a fine romantic track for you to enjoy tonight.

The band I will tell you about today is Dan Den.
Worried that his level of creativity could be restricted as arranger in Orquesta Reve, Juan Carlos Alfonso, the ingenious pianist of the band during the 80’s, decides leaving the orquesta to form his own group in 1988.

The band’s career started at a mega live concert at the “Las Charangas de Bejucal” traditional music festival which took place during December of the same year, with the band bringing classical standard tracks up to date with modern interpretations and instrumentation.
Audio tape recordings of the concerts passed hundreds of thousands of hands, and their 1st album “Siempre Hay Un Ojo Que Te Ve”, which came out in 1990, was a best seller, hitting the top of the charts.

Since then the band released over 10 albums, with music ranging from classics to groovy Timba, cleverly incorporating everything from Son and Bolero to Jazz and Funk into an ever smooth blend of old and new, releasing new tracks every now and then.

Although the band is much more famous for making hard hitting, high energy Timba, the song I present here, “Corazon De Leon”, represents their softer and more romantic side, which is a bit less known, but as dominant as the previous one mentioned, especially as time goes by…
It appears in the “Dale Campana” album from 2002.

07.02.13 : Tumbao Habana – No Hay Como Mi Son

Good evening folks.
Tonight I present you both a nice band from Habana, and a fine Cuban classic covered by that band!

Some of you might have noticed that in the salsa world of today everything is being mixed with just about everything; the order of the day is “coolness”, and new fads come and go… sadly many salseros have forgotten the roots and vast Afro Cuban heritage of salsa, and some musicians are abandoning the roots and core rhythms in favor of new and “trendy” tunes from the west.

Apparently, such a struggle isn’t a new thing at all, as we can hear in this classic song;
“se pasa la vida hablando del ritmo nuevo, mi hermano… del batanga, el chachacha y el mambo nacieron del son cubano… tenemos que conservar nuestra forma original… no te dejes enganar porque… para bailar no hay como mi son!…” .
Remember that thee who knows not his past, and is completely stuck in the present will have no future!

Tumbao Habana is a Son and Timba band founded by pianist Pascualito Cabrejas in 1997, and quickly established itself as a constant performer in ENGREM concerts in Havana.
Pascualito has an eye for talents, and thus the band has given a great many singers a chance in the casa de la musica and the major Timba scene over the year… also, the band has many foreign tours, and has an almost common practice of performing in Peru, for example.
The band consists of a keyboard, a bass, drum set, guiro, congass, 2 trumpets, a saxophone and a trombone.
It has 3 front line singers which are often joined by Pascualito, who leaves the keyboard and sings coros and gears during some live shows.
The band has a rich musical repertoire featuring everything from covers of the classics (like the one featured in this post), Son, Rumba, Mambo, Salsa, and Timba.