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.