Music in cuban culture

Researcher Lino Betancourt dedicates a chapter to these heroes in the book La trova en Santiago de Cuba.

On December 13, 1842, the literary newspaper La Prensa published an article saying that "music is doubtless the most seductive art, the one that most ties man to his homeland and even to his most beloved objects… that is why there is so much passion for national melodies; that is why there is no composition that holds more power over us or that we love more than a melody from our homeland."

In 1830 patriotic songs began to emerge, culminating in 1851 with "La Bayamesa" (lyrics by José Fornaris, music by Francisco Castillo and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, founding father of the country). This song was sung below the window of Luz Vázquez, the first woman to burn down her house in the Razing of Bayamo.

In 1853, José S. White composed the inspiring music of "La bella cubana" (Pretty Cuban woman), later adapted to lyrics by an unknown author. It was followed by "La guerrilla" (The woman guerrilla fighter); "Cuba para los cubanos" (Cuba for the Cubans); "La bandera cubana" (The Cuban flag); "La evacuación" (The Evacuation), "El combate de Mal Tiempo" (The Combat at Mal Tiempo).

"La Bayamesa" (the national anthem), composed by Perucho Figueredo, which was first played on May 8, 1868 — 140 years ago — was a pro-independence clarion call that accompanied all Cuban heroes in the 1868 War of Independence and subsequent battles.

In 1892, Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes composed the habanera "Tú" (You), and his brother Fernando (Fernán) wrote lyrics for it in 1894. It was an anthem of love and struggle with several different versions of lyrics, replaced with words referring to revolutionary emancipation.

On November 15, 1895, with the arrival of Major General Antonio Maceo in Camagüey, Enrique Loynaz del Castillo — with the musical support of Captain Dositeo Aguilera — wrote the verses of the Himno Invasor "Invaders’ Anthem," a song of war and longing for freedom.

By the 20th century, Sindo Garay (1918) had dedicated another song to the image of the woman from Bayamo and her sacrifice, courage and patriotism. It is a composition described by Aniceto Valdivia as "a truly patriotic, profound and heartfelt song."

In 1929, Ernesto Lecuona registered the song "Siboney," alluding to Cuba’s indigenous roots, a fresco, like the murmur of the palm trees, dedicated to Cuba’s first inhabitants.

The following year, "El manicero" (The peanut vendor) was recorded in New Jersey — after the explosion of son in 1920 — opening the way to recordings and the spread of that music throughout the continent. The worldwide fever for Cuban music had begun.

The saga of "Guajira Guantanamera," composed by Joseíto Fernández, began in 1941. It is the chronicle of an unequal society. The song took flight internationally as an anthem of solidarity and hope in 1952, with "Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses) by José Martí, Cuba’s national hero.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, many songs were written as forms of protest. We have only to remember "Al vaivén de mi carreta" ("To the sway of my wagon") by Ñico Saquito and that memorable version of 1950, recorded by Evelio Rodríguez with the Orquesta Aragón band. It was a true protest song.

A series of songs became part of the history of social struggles, especially through Carlos Puebla, one of the founders of the New Latin American Song Movement. "La engañadora" is a typical hallmark song of Cuban nationality. "Quiéreme mucho" is at the epicenter of all things romantic. The mambo of Pérez Prado was the big hit of the 20th century.

With the new times, in the 1960s, the New Trova Movement was at the top of the socially-conscious song movement, with Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanés and many followers.

In the 1990s, the Cuban salsa boom flooded half the world, demonstrating the power of pop music on the island blockaded by the corporate music world, and telling the world that "Cuba is alive."

The rebirth of son and traditionally trova via the Buena Vista Social Club project, a real phenomenon of diffusion, showed the world the wealth of music and art that Cuba possesses.

Music placed Cuba, engraved in stone, on the cultural map of the world; music for the "good times," as the ancient Greeks said. The poet Indio Naborí wrote years ago that "without music, we would be a people without wings.