This work, which aims to narrate the musical recording relationship between two countries for more than a century, must necessarily be presented in their two languages: English, for the United States, and Spanish, for Cuba. A discography is not, as erroneously defined by the Real Academia Española, “the art of pressing and reproducing phonographic records.” Horrible! I would dare to define it as the study and historical analysis of all the media capable of storing and reproducing sound, and cultural consequences of these contents. I learned this trade many years ago, from one of my professors, Richard K. Spottswood, when I helped him with my modest contribution, around the end of the 1990’s, to his monumental 7 volume opus, Ethnic Music on Records- A Discography of Ethnic Recording Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (University of Illinois Press, ) in its volume 4, Spanish, Portuguese, Philippines, Basque.
A necessary evil called the record.
At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, there appeared in Europe and the United States several important inventions: among them, the automobile and the musical cylinder, the latter son to replaced by the record. These two inventions had many similarities in common; basically, they were to change a large part of the lifestyle of all humankind; but let us focus on an essential similarity between them: the complement needed for its use, indispensable in both cases.
Regarding the automobile, this element was fuel; without it, the auto is simply not mobile. This problem had an easy solution: the fuel needed by the auto, gasoline, and with minor differences in quality, octane, etc., was easy to obtain, and the old coach stations and other establishments could provide it and became the suppliers, until gas stations started to appear. Of course, there were different brands of gasoline, but they all served the same purpose…The cylinder, and later the record, needed two essential complements: the equipment required to reproduce the sound contained in the cylinder or record, and the sound itself. There was no problem with the equipment: soon, there appeared factories that manufactured equipment that at first, using only mechanical means, could extract the sound from cylinders and records; and later, when cylinders had become obsolete and only records remained, using electrical means. Since the cylinder soon became obsolete, we will continue talking only about records.
Sound, however, was the problem; unlike gasoline, it was not just one type of sound, but all possible sounds, that is, the goal was to be able to hear the sound stored in the record, especially music and its complement, song…
Auto manufacturers did not have to worry about the auto’s complement, fuel; gas stations soon appeared to take care of the problem…But the makers of record players needed to deal, quite simply, with a universe of music…What music did their potential buyers want to hear? There were also limitations as to the capacity of this new medium of sound reproduction, especially in this first state of acoustic recordings, based on the ability of a needle to capture the sound, fix it to a mold, and then re produce it…And even after these difficulties were solved by electric recordings, who knew what the public wanted to hear? Which instruments could best capture and reproduce sound? And what about voices? Throughout this work we will see how these problems have been dealt with for more than a century.
Therefore, a discography is the study and analysis of the compilation of sound preserved in records or other media, of a certain period or a certain country, and/or musical genre and/or type of artifact where the sound is preserved. The one I am presenting to you covers what was produced and/or sold approximately between 1892 and the present, mostly of music from Cuban composers, and/or Cuban performers, and/or musical genres created in Cuba, and/or musical instruments of Cuban origin, recorded in the United States, or in other countries but sold in the United States.
I never imagined, when I began to search and gather the relevant content, that it would be so abundant. It is true that I already had a large part of it, which appears on line in my discography of Cuban music, available free at latinpop.fiu.edu.
This provided several thousands of recordings, and adding the new ones we found, we have reached more than 10,000 original recordings. Adding the copies that were made of each one, we are talking about many millions of recordings…
A discography is always an unfinished work; new recordings are found, errors must be corrected, there is no rest for discographers.
And it is, of course, a task that needs much help from others; in my case, this begins at home, with my wife Marisa, my accomplice in all my projects; my daughter, also Marisa, continually rescuing me from my problems with my nemesis, the computer, translating into English, and both of them, contributing ideas and correcting mistakes. Also, the rest of my family, my late son Carlos, my son Cristóbal, my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, whom I have robbed of many hours which I dedicated to my searches. And, of course, FIU.
There are many friends who have collaborated, some of them no longer present, that I will mention in an open list elsewhere, since it does not end with this publication. This is not a competed work: when, as in this case, one tries to collect all the data about a recording, its interpreter and biography, accompanists, author of the composition, and other possible details, plus correcting any error, one is never done. I hope that whenever in the future this new collection is updated, the names of those who provide information that is included in them will be added, as we have done with the Discografía de la Music Cubana de 1895 a 1960 already online at FIU.
To facilitate the reading, we have divided this discography in a series of periods, which the reader can use as an introduction to the long lists of recordings; we invite you to proceed:
Before the recording in the United States of topics relating to Cuba, there were two Cuban artists who made an incredible number of recordings in the United States of opera music. We will speak about them:
The honor of being the first Cuban artist to have made a recording belongs to the singer Rosalía “Chalía” Díaz de Herrera, born in Havana on November 17, 1864, who began her study of music in that city and, from 1893, continued with the Cuban professor Emilio Agramonte in New York. In 1894 she made her professional debut in that city and in 1915, in Carnegie Hall. Her recording career was more impressive than her theatrical career, since she was one of the first sopranos to make recordings in the United States, and possibly the first Latina. Only two male singers made recordings for Victor before she did. She recorded, between 1900 and 1903, at least 43 selections as a soloist, and in duos with baritones Samuel Holland Rous or “Signor Francisco”, one of the pseudonyms used by Emilio de Gogorza, who we will talk about later. But before recording for Victor, Rosalia had previously made 48 recordings between 1898-1900 for Bettini cylinders. During this time, each cylinder had to be recorded individually, since there was no matrix from which copies could be made, so it was exhausting work. Among these recordings was the habanera Tú, by Ernesto Sánchez de Fuentes, which makes it the first recording on Cuban music made in the world. In addition to her recordings for Victor, Rosalía made others for Monarch and Zonophone, for a total of about 135. https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/200011737/B-11580-Mulatica_de_mi_vida
Emilio de Gogorza was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 29, 1892, and died in New York on May 10, 1949. He is possibly the opera singer who has made the most recordings. His baritone was heard in hundreds of cylinders, and similarly later in records; they can easily reach one thousand, most of which were made for Victor under different names: Emilio de Gogorza, Carlos Francisco or Herbert Goddard. As a soloist, or sometimes accompanying other figures like Enrico Caruso. He was rather mysterious, never acted in public and limited himself to recordings and vocal professor. It is said that he was so nearsighted that he couldn’t move around a stage, while others say he suffered from an illness that caused him trouble walking. Although there are no expressions made by himself about his citizenship. he was usually considered of Italian or Spanish origin; however, investigations made separately by two discographers, James Rodríguez and Jaime Jaramillo, in United States Immigration archives and others, based on his parent’s marriage certificate and his father’s petition for US citizenship, prove that his father, Julio de Gogorza, had been born in Emilio de Gogorza Sworn statement signed in New York by Julio de Gogorza, father of Emilio de Gogorza, stating that he was born in Santiago de Cuba, in his application for United States citizenship. Santiago de Cuba and his mother, Francisca Navarrete, in Havana, and had moved to the United States at a young age. So, under international law, in spite of his US citizenship, being the son of Cuban parents, he can be considered Cuban under the Right of Blood. https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/2000000060/Pre-matrix_B-171-La_paloma
Particularly during this first period, women have had less access to recording opportunities, especially instrumentalists. That makes the case of Martha de la Torre very notable. She was born in Camagüey, Cuba, on July 29, 1888. She began to study the violin with her parents, who owned a conservatory in Camagüey, and later graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Belgium. In 1912 she moved to the United States, debuting at the Aeolian Hall in October of 1920. That year she also made recordings from Edison. She spent 1924 and 1926 in Spain and France, offering forty concerts in the latter. Married to the Colombian pianist Aníbal Valencia, they settled in the United States. She made her last public performance at the University of North Dakota in September of 1868, when she was 80 years old, but still continued to teach piano and violin. She died in September of 1990 at 102. She is probably the first instrumental soloist from the rest of America, not North American, to have made a recording.
The beginning of the recording relationship.
During this period the recording industry had just been born, and also, the war that Cuba was waging against Spain for its independence was a very important topic for the United States, because of its commercial relationship with Cuba and its interest in Cuba’s future; so the recording industry does something that was unheard of: it used Buffalo Bill, a legendary figure in US history, to record a cylinder with a statement, on April 20, 1898, titled “Sentiments on the Cuban question”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQKfoReVk4 This appears to be the first mention of Cuba in a recording.
Cal Stewart (1856-1919) was a vaudeville comedian who created a character called “Uncle Josh” which became famous, and he recorded around 1896 several monologues for the Berliner and Edison labels, one of which was titled “Uncle Josh on the Spanish question” (that is, the CubanSpanish war).
Early in February 1898, the United States had sent a battleship to Havana, the USS Maine, with the purpose of protecting US citizens who were in Cuba, especially in Havana, should it become necessary.
On February 15, 1898, the explosion in Havana harbor of the battleship Maine provoked the United States to declare war on Spain. And, as a result, there will appear in the United States several recordings that narrate this brief war, first the episode of the destructions of the Spanish fleet by the Americans, on July 3, 1898, and later, the capture of the city of Santiago de Cuba by the American troops, with the indispensable aid of the Spanish army; many recordings will appear during this decade, in cylinders and records. Titles such as “On board the battleship Oregon before Santiago, Cuba” by the Greater New York Quartette (Columbia brown wax cylinder 9044, 1898-1900) http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/download_file.php?param1=17000¶m2=17059 ,“The battle of Santiago” by the American quartet, Victor, 1902; the Peerless quartet (Victor 6641, 1908), the Haydn quartet, Victor 23106, and others, simply titled “Santiago”; Or “The battle of San Juan Hill” by the pianist Mike Bernard, Columbia 38466, 1912,or by the Peerless quartet, Victor B6041, 1908. Even the bugle calls of the Rough Riders, Columbia 638. And there continue to appear, up to the 1930’s, recordings about the explosion of the Maine.
The war in Cuba, although brief, was amply used by the recording industry; its most important events, such as the battle at the mouth of the bay of Santiago de Cuba, where the American fleet annihilated the Spanish one, was covered in a clever number, where the yankee sailors are having breakfast, the Spanish attack begins, and in less than a minute the yankees are singing victoriously…other numbers cover the events that took place on land, like the charge and capture of San Juan Hill, including the bugle calls.
Emilio Cueto, in his book Cien barcos en la historia de Cuba (Ediciones Universal, 1918) presents in detail the story of the Maine and an incredible list of 158 North American musical compositions where the Maine appears in their title or subtitle.
Except for possibly the sinking of the Titanic, there has been no ship that has received more publicity than the Maine; here follows a list of some of the recordings we have found that mention the Maine and its sinking:
1.-Cylinder “The talking Machine” 4096 ca. 1896-1899 The wreck of the Maine.
2.-Lp Starday SLP-213 “Soldier sing me a song”. The sinking of the Maine.1963. April 5/1931. Ridgewood. Maryland.
3.-Col. Cylinder 5316 1896-97 The brave crew of the Maine. Dan W. Quinn
4.-Col Cylinder 5320 1896-97 Remember the Maine
5.-Col Cylinder 5945 1896-97 Fate of the battleship Maine. Don Hopkins
6.-Col Cylinder 4154 1896-98 The wreck of the Maine
7.-Edison Cyl 11/31/1916 60028 El Maine (Antonio Ma. Romeu) Orq. Herrera
8.-Mercury LP 207080 Introducing Knob Lick Upper. 1963. Battleship Maine
9.-78” Col 6353 Remember the Maine William F. Denoy (Vaudevile performer) 10/2/1908
10.-78” Col 15586 D 10/16/1928 The battleship Maine
11.-78” Victor V-20-936. 8/12/1921 Battleship Maine (J. Patterson) Patterson Log Rollers.
String band with vocal chorus. Available at You tube.
One result of the explosion of the battleship Maine in the bay of Havana was that the wreck of the ship remained in the bay and could cause accidents; the United States assumed the costs of eliminating the wreckage. The project was undertaken in 1911, a feat of engineering, which consisted of building a wall around the remains, and, using pumps, extracting the water from around the ship, removing the remains and towing them out to sea, where they could be sunk without danger to navigation. Before disposing of them, objects were salvaged from the wreck, and were taken to the United States; some of them were deposited and exhibited in museums in New York, Arlington, and Key West, Florida.
At the time, Cuban discography was limited to describing the removal of the remains. The trovador Floro Zorilla recorded in 1913 Columbia record C-2080 “La ataguía del Maine” by Ruiz y Veloz. An “ataguía”, or cofferdam, according to the dictionary, is a watertight enclosure pumped dry to permit construction work below the waterline, as when building bridges or repairing a ship.
Tenor Adolfo Colombo recorded on Octubre 3, 1912, “El Maine”, Victor 63861; trovador Floro Zorrilla recorded in 1913 “La ataguía del Maine” de Ruiz y Vélez Col C-2680; and the Felipe Valdés Orchestra, the danzón “Cuidado con la ataguía” Co C2476, which appears as recorded between 1907-1909, which must be a an error in the dating. It was composed by Valdés and is possibly an instrumental piece; we have been unable to find any of these three recordings.
In Cuba, in 1926, a monument was built in Havana, in el Vedado, facing the sea, with two columns with an eagle on top, and the busts of President William McKinley, who declared the war on Spain; Leonard Wood, the first military governor of Cuba, and Theodore Roosevelt, president .
On January 18, 1961, after Castro’s revolution, the eagle was removed, as well as the busts, and the following inscription was added “To the victims of the Maine, who were sacrificed for the imperialist voracity in its quest to seize the island of Cuba.”.
The eagle has its own history. The original was toppled by the hurricane of 1926. The head of its substitute adorned the United States Embassy in Cuba, and the body and the wings are found in the Museum of the City in Havana. The original eagle was kept in the gardens of the residence of the United States ambassador in Havana.
Obviously, we are not done with the Maine, and its monument, and at the proper time, the monument will have to be restored to its historical reality.
American interest in Cuba continues to be evident during this period, up to 1925 which marks the end of the mechanical recordings. For example, the Song Cubanola Glide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwnmMekUfjs will have 18 recordings, and in all, there appear during this period about 110 recordings that have the keywords Havana, Cuba, Santiago, etc. In addition to the ones dedicated to the war, the rest make references to Cuba, including the “sidewalks of Havana”. These “sidewalks of Havana” may refer to certain streets, like Galiano, Reina, and Calzada 10 de octubre, where the houses have two stories, and the second story extends over the sidewalk, leaving a wide area underneath for pedestrians...
But what seems incredible is the amount of recordings of Cuban music made in the United States during this period of acoustic recordings; it is true that the Spanish American War had crated colonies of Cuban immigrants in several American cities, such as New York, Tampa, Key West and others; and Cuba began the century recovering from a war, but with a large amount of economic aid from the United States to help reconstruct the country. Confident that the nation would continue to improve, New York recording companies traveled to Cuba to record its music…
A discography always brings surprises, and we hope that this one will have plenty of them, including big ones, for its readers. That a country as small as Cuba has kept a recording relationship so full of surprises, for over 100 years, with one of the largest nations in the world, and which has always been the leader in recordings, is worth a look…
Within this period from 1898 to 1924 there is a first stage, until 1910, where two important things happen. The manufacture of cylinder recordings begins to decline until it disappears; the sound of its small speakers cannot produce the sound volume found in flat records, and, in addition, in 1910 records start to be recorded on both sides, which lowers their price by 50%, and the cylinder cannot compete.
During this first period, the US recording industry sent portable equipment to Cuba, in order to record matrixes that would be turned into records, for worldwide distribution, but mainly in the aforementioned areas of the US that had a Cuban presence, and also, of course, in Cuba and other Latin American countries, including Mexico. These recordings were made by large labels like Edison, Victor and Columbia, and other smaller ones; and the number of them is unbelievable. We have counted the ones that appear in my book, Cuba canta y baila, Discografía de la music cubana, Volumen 1, 1898-1925, and found 3,805, but later investigations added more recordings, which appear on the online discography; however, the ones found in the book can be classified as follows:
Punto guajiro 343
Teatro Alhambra 826
Lyric singers 320
From a political point of view, the more interesting recordings are those of the rural toreadors. The majority of Cuba’s population at the beginning of the twentieth century could not read or write; their vocal primer was the punto cubano, songs in decima form that narrated historical events, or the realities of the moment; they took the place of the radio (which did not yet exist) or the newspapers they could not read…When summoned to the recording studios, they recorded the same repertoire that they performed daily: praise to the nation’s heroes, like in 1906, Edison cylinder 18923 titled “Al General Mayía Rodríguez (To General María Rodríguez)” by Antonio Morejón or another dedicated “Al Apóstol José Martí (To the Apostle José Martí)”…and going further into political matters, “A Cuba (To Cuba)” (Victor 62393-A), also in 1906, where the lyrics ask when the United States occupation of the island will end... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO9cJMHsnns&list=PLGP8pAVeWcGaR_joDM6xuxWzK-eGlKQMg or in another, titled “Qué le falta a Cuba (What does Cuba lack?)” Another trovador, Miguel Puertas Salgado, recorded in 1919 Columbia Co3395, titled “La misión de Mr. Crowder (Mr. Crowder’s mission)” about a lawyer and representative of the US government who during many year, intervened in Cuban politics under the presidency of Zayas, from 1918 on; these were political topics and opinions, that, had they tried to be published in newspapers, would possibly have been censored, but coming from the United States, in records manufactured there, were freely sold in Cuba. As for the recording companies, their policy was to edit anything that was “dirty” or incorrect; but not political opinions, as long as they were expressed with correction. There are many recordings of this type.
The most numerous group of recordings corresponds to the danzones, which was Cuban national dance during the period. A classic danzón uses at least four different melodies, in the rondó form, thus: ABACASD, where melody A was usually a new creation, but often using for the other three melodies taken from other classic or popular music genres from Europe, particularly Spain. Soon, the Cuban dinners (orchestras that played danzones) began to use melodies or topics from the United States, mentioning them sometimes in the title, like Yakahula, (1917), by the Cuban orchestra Columbia, Co 1200, and Contesta de Yakahula (Reply from Yakahula), C3148… Domingo Corbacho’s orchestra titled one of its danzones from 1944, “Mister Charles”…And Félix González’s orchestra recorded in 1919 Co 3219, “El Ironbeer de Barrets (Barret’s Ironbeer)” possibly referring to a soft drink brought to Cuba from the United States. Like the Americans, the Cubans do not forget the Maine, and so in 1916 the Herrera orchestra dedicates one with that title, Ed 60028.
The conductors of the danzoneras were generally the authors of most of their own recordings. And it seems that they were up to date in current events not only in Cuba but also in the United States. That is how Enrique Peña uses the presence in Havana of the boxing champion Jack Johnson and dedicates a danzon, Co C-2947, with his name…And also, in 1920, he dedicated a danzón to ´Los cubanos de Tampa (The Cubans of Tampa”), Co. C-2947, and another to Miami, “Ecos de Miami (Echoes of Miami”), Co. 3902.
Due to the danzón’s need for different melodies, it is not strange that among the over one thousand recorded during this period, one can find some melodies from the United States…As when conductor Moreno reminds us, in a danzón, of the park in Havana that was given a name in English: Havana park (Co C-4191. Not to be outdone, Enrique Peña wrote and recorded with his orchestra, the danzones “Recuerdo a Edison (Regards to Edison)” Cyl. Ed. 18956, 1906; “Moon Dear” Vi 62-308, 1909; “Amanda (Chinatown)”, Co C-2970. 1910-15; another to Jack Johnson (CoC2947 (1915), and even the President of the United States is mentioned in “La sonrisa de Wilson (Wilson’s Smile)” (Co-C-3379, 1917-9). We also have “The good time” (Co C-3464, 1917-19); Oh Johnny(sic) Co C-3299, and even reaching much farther, “Mariposas del Hawaii (Butterflies of Hawaii)” (Co-C-3217, ca 1918). We don’t want to bore you with more…A manifestation of their desire to communicate with the United States….
During that time, the most famous black prima donna in the United States was Sissieretta Jones, called “The Black Patti”, born in Portsmouth Virginia in 1869. Her career took off, including tours in the United States and other countries, including Cuba. In 1892 she sang at the White House for President Benjamin Harrison, and that same year she performed in a concert at Madison Square Garden in NY.
She was a success in European, African and Asian cities, but the record companies in the Untied States did not open their doors to her due to her race. But in Cuba, Pablo Valenzuela’s orchestra, although they couldn’t record with her, dedicated to her a danzón titled “La Patti Negra (Black Patti)” a memento of her visit to Cuba. https://www.alexandria.ucsb.edu/lib/ark:/48907/f3gx4brz
In the discography of the Felipe Valdés orchestra, there is mention of a new figure in the history of Cuban music: a female composer. There are four recordings whose author is Rosa Valdés, who we assume was the wife or sister of the conductor, Felipe Valdés. Is there any contemporary account of this? Is it the first time a female songwriter is mentioned in the discography of Cuban music? Or perhaps even the first mention of a Latin American female songwriter in a recording?
Logic makes us think that in the case of danzones that used Cuban melodies in any of their four themes, or songs from other countries, especially the United States, it is very possible that the dancing audience would hum or sing these songs, foreshadowing what would become the danzón coreado in Arcaño’s orchestra and later one of the characteristics of the cha cha chá.
During the same period, other Cuban vocalists living in the United States made numerous recordings. Pilar Arcos (La Habana,1893-California, 1990) made more than 70 recordings for Columbia and other labels during this period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3BWzBo95agAlso in the United States, for the Brunswick, Columbia, Victor y Pathe labels, Mariano Meléndez, tenor, made more than 65 recordings; the songs are in Spanish, but they were made available to the American public, who would purchase and enjoy them in the same way as opera music from European countries.
The same is true about the Utrera family: Conchita, her brother Adolfo, tenor, and their cousin Antonio, baritone: among them they had recorded about 50 songs by 1925...
It must be said that in many of the aforementioned songs, the title appears in both
English and Spanish, a practice that will continue in the next period that begins in
SECOND PERIOD: 1925-1930: ELECTRICALLY REPRODUCED RECORDINGS
Beginning in the previous decade, the record industry was started to feel the impact of the radio, in addition to the economic crisis; but the electrically reproduced recordings, which had a very superior sound, saved it from disaster.
Another important development was that the United States, despite having a vast country, had few other countries near enough to vacation in, unlike European countries like France, England, Germany, Spain and Italy. Travel to Mexico was not easy, especially to Mexico City; there weren’t many attractions in Canada and traveling to Europe by sea required a lot of time and money. Thanks to the railroad, it was possible to travel from New York Chicago and other states, to Florida, with is beaches, and during the 1920’s, in an extraordinary feat of engineering, the railroad was extended to Key West and advertised “The Havana Special” in a way that it seemed to reach all the way from New York to Havana. In reality, from Key West, travelers would take a ferry to Cuba, and by road, to Havana. This coincided with Prohibition in the United States, which banned alcohol. This increased the flow of tourists to Havana, where there was no limit on alcohol consumption, in addition to its other attractions. Even after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Americans remembered Florida and specially Cuba.
During this period, songs written in the US with Cuban topics continue to appear, as for example, the piece titled “When Yuba plays the rhumba on the Tuba” of which at least 23 different versions were recorded. Americans found it difficult to sort the variety of names that appears in the sheet music: habanera, son, canción, rumba, guaracha, rumba, bolero, etc. The word a rumba was easier to pronounce with the addition of an h, rhumba, and it became the generic name applied to most of the Cuban repoertoir that was appearing, mostly by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona. He skillfully placed his music in the repertoire of a prominent American music publisher, almost always given a new title in English; an American composer, often an important one, was commissioned to write the lyrics in English.
These were not necessarily a translation from the Spanish; most of the time they change the original. “‘Para Vigo me voy”, a rhumba, became “Say si”; “Damisela encantadora”, a waltz, “It’s no secret that I love you”, “Andalucía”, an instrumental piece, “The breeze and I”; and another, “”Malagueña”, “At the crossroads”; “La comparsa” became “For want of a star”. Other composers began to do the same: “Quiéreme mucho”, by Gonzalo Roig, is given a brief title “Yours”, which corresponds sound-wise to the word “Cuando” which does appear in the song’s Spanish words. Sometimes, the English version comes first: when Lecuona was asked for a song for a movie to be called “You are always in my heart”, this song, originally composed with a different name, would keep this name in the Spanish version, “Siempre en mi corazón”.
Spanish version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaWMisV7SaQ
In later periods, more composers were added. The most important one was Osvaldo Farrés, who in the period beginning in 1930, will have several numbers that were important in their English versions: “Acércate más” became “Come closer to me”; “Tres palabras” as “Without you”, y one that kept its original title translated into English: “Quizás, quizás, quizás” as “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”.
Other songwriters were successful with the original title: such as Margarita Lecuona with “Tabú”, and also “Babalú”; Moisés Simons with “Marta”; Joseito Fernández with “Guantanamera”.
We will begin the next period with another piece that held on to its title: “El manisero” or “The peanut vendor”, by Moisés Simons.
As other Spanish speaking countries were added to the US musical catalog, the same system was used: for example, the Mexican song by Abel Domínguez “Vereda tropical” became “Havana for a night” even though it had nothing to do with Havana; “Perfidia” became “Tonight”, and by Agustín Lara, “Solamente una vez” was changed into “You belong to my heart”.
Lecuona’s presence in the United States musical sphere continued through the following periods, until the end of the century, even after his death in 1963 in Tenerife, Canary Island. An important researcher and writer of Latin Music, who directed for many years the museum of the Hispanic Society of America in New York, Theodore S. Beardsley, published in 2008 , the Discografía de Ernesto Lecuona, ISBN-10 0-87535- 160-3 and ISBN-13 978-1-56954-096-1.
Surprisingly, the discography comprised 425 songs by the maestro that have appeared in recordings mostly made in the United States. There probably aren’t many American composers who had so many of their songs recorded. Although some of these songs have few versions, there are others with many, resulting in about 4,439 different versions of these 425 pieces., Some have only one version, others more than a hundred. Malagueña, for example, has 292. Remember also that this count until includes up to the year 2008, when the book was published; in the more than 10 years that have passed, there surely must have been new recordings of these 425 titles...
If these recordings were issued with a minimum of 1,000 copies each, and surely more in the case of the more popular songs, performers or labels, we are talking about millions of records…
In this period, several Cuban singers continued to record in the United States, specially Pilar Arcos, who recorded about 600 songs between 1919 and 1933, including around 30 by American composers.
Tenor Adolfo Utrera (La Habana, 1901-Nueva York, 1931) recorded hundreds of songs
for Columbia, in New York, between December of 1926 and November of 1931, among
them about 33 American songs. His cousin, baritone Antonio Utrera, (La Habana,
1902-1964) returned to Cuba in 1929 and did not continue his artistic career, but he left
about 30 recordings, in many of them accompanying the Spanish tenor José Moriche,
who was also living in New York.
THIRD PERIOD: 1930-1952. El Manisero leads the way
Already, during the previous periods, in the recordings made in Cuba, the presence of musical instruments not used in the United States can be noted, but it is really during this period that, with a larger presence of Latin music, that these Cuban instruments begin to be heard first and later introduced even in the American orchestras, mainly percussion instruments. It was usual for the singer, in vocal numbers, to play one of these instruments, such as the claves (see picture) or the maracas (see picture).
But during this period, with the increasing presence (under other names) of the son, the use of instruments such as the one called tumbadora in Cuba (see photo) begins. This is a percussion instrument with one head; because the name was rather complicated for english speakers, it began to be called conga, which was actually the name of a musical genre, not an instrument. It also appears under the name of bongó, without the accent, which was the name of another percussion instrument, but with two heads instead on one (see photo). Another two-headed instrument is introduced, the timbal, which has a stand that reaches to the floor; it is an adaptation of the timpani used in symphony orchestras.
With the passing of time, and especially after Dizzie Gillespie, with the help of a Cuban percussionist named Chano Pozo, created the “Cubop” in the 40s, which was a mix of Latin music and jazz, which was not successful in itself, but caused many orchestras to add the conga (which was really the tumbadora) to their groups, sometimes under the name of bongo.
Several important things happen during this period. “The peanut vendor” “debuts in the movies! In more than one film, the catchy tune of El manisero is heard, even sung by Judy Garland. In order to compete with each other, the American music publishers decided to exploit the Latin American songbook, translating the songs and changing the title and the lyrics. Two of the composers most frequently used are Cubans: Ernesto Lecuona and Osvaldo Farrés. Orchestras who use this repertoire begin to appear; the most outstanding one is Xavier Cugat’s. Americans adopt the rhumba as one of their favorite dances, and it becomes a staple of the American musical diet.
For centuries, in Europe and elsewhere in the world where the climate permits, there has existed a very particular institution: the pregón, or street cry, which manifests itself in two forms: the official town cry, made by authority to provide the population with important information, which of course no longer exists; and its other form, the pregón used by street vendors to advertise their merchandise or service.as a means of advertising out loud throughout the streets This means of selling is more often seen in temperate climates, especially in Latin America, known as street cries. At some point, the street cry takes the form of a primitive song, and the street crier becomes a primitive composer.
That is the origin of the pregón, or street cry, as a musical genre, which differs from other in that it is not distinguished by its musical form, but its purpose (announcing a product or activity, such as selling fruits or chimney sweeping.
These pregones, or street cries, became very popular, especially in tropical countries like Cuba with a warm climate. One of the more popular products offered was warm toasted peanuts, sold in paper cones.
By the beginning of the 20th century musical pregones were being written and recorded in Cuba, announcing a particular product, usually fruits but of course the toasted peanuts…
In fact, as Dr. Jaime Eduardo Camargo Franco points out in his book “El manisero, el rey de los pregones (El manisero, the king of the pregones)” the first mention of what the author correctly calls the “protopregón”’ was a danzón recorded in Havana in 1905 for Victor by the Felipe Valdés Orchestra titled “Vendo cocos (I sell coconuts)”, Victor 98568. But it is not sung, the product is just announced in the title of the song. But by 1906, there is a recording made by two trovadores of the period, Floro Zorilla y Miguel Zaballa, accompanied by a piano, which they recorded in Habana for the Edison label cylinder 19014, “El tamalero, canto popular (The tamale vendor, popular song)”, They recorded it again in 1909 for Victor, 62233, but it is not yet called a pregón, just a “canción (song)”. This does not prevent it from being justly considered the first musical pregón published in the world, until an earlier one is found.
Villamil and Vilches, two trovadores, recorded in 1916 el Columbia C-2682 El manisero, but as a “rumba” composed by Vilches.
Arquímedes Pous in 1915-17 recorded Columbia C3127 “Coloraditas de California (Little reds from California)” (which referred to apples) and called it “pregón”. Other recordings follow in 1919 that call “pregones” the pulpero (Co. 3387), or the fruit vendor, (Co 3387) and even the Caramelero (candy seller) (Co. 2413). It is not until 1920, that Arquímedes Pous records Columbia 3562, “Maní tostao (Toasted peanuts)”... as a “Diálogo pregón” composed by himself, and in 1924-25, in Col 2152x, “De maní y ajonjolí(Of peanut and sesame)”, “Diálogo pregón”...
But we will talk more about this in the following period.
By 1925, American tourists had an important presence in Cuba, and one of their favorite places was the Casino Nacional de la Habana, where the Havana Casino orchestra performed, conducted by pianist Justo Ángel Azpiazu; around the year 1930 it was the favorite of the American public in Cuba..
Azpiazu had a brother, Antobal, who had recently married a young American singer, dancer and composer, Marion Sunshine; when she heard the orchestra perform, she thought that it could be successful in the United States.
Meanwhile, a pregón, or street cry, composed by maestro Moisés Simons, was very popular in Havana at the time, first performed and recorded in 1927 by Rita Montaner, an important figure in Cuban music, and in 1928 by the Cuban tenor Miguel de Grandy. When Marion heard the version of El Manisero by Azpiazu’s orchestra, she persuaded the brothers to undergo a process: first, the orchestra changed its name to Don Azpiazu Havana Casino and made its debut in the Palace Theater in New York in April of 1930; during that period, orchestras in the United States were segregated and could not combine white and black musicians; Azpiazu’s orchestra did, and we don’t know how they managed, but the orchestra made its debut like that, with Machín, its singer, dressed as a peanut vendor, with the container typically carried by them, and selling peanuts…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je1oYMblCqE
It was a great success, and shortly after, on May 13, 1930, they recorded El manisero for Victor, which at the time was the most important record label in the United Sates. It was a hit, and other orchestras, such as Louis Armstrong’s, also recorded it that year; the California Ramblers in December of 1930, Duke Ellington, Nathan Glantz and also Red Nichols in 1931,The Castillians Troubadours in 1934 and Raymond Scott in 1939. Azpiazu’s made other recordings, using Machín (singing even in English) and other singers, in sum, there are recordings up to 1933. El Manisero continued to open the way for Cuban music in the United States. El Manisero is featured in two musical shorts, one in 1931, with Machín singing, and another, from 1932, with Chiquito Socarrás singing. From that point El manisero can be heard in several films.
In the discography that follows this introduction, you will find thousands of recordings of El manisero, a musical number that follows in the steps of another Latin song that became immensely popular, and continues to be so: La paloma, an habanera, by Spanish composer Sebastián Yradier. El manisero has an advantage over La paloma: it is more danceable. Soon it spread, first through Latin America, and later around the world; like La paloma, and perhaps even before it, and in Spanish. There is an interesting book written about El manisero, by a Colombian author, Jaime Eudardo Camargo Franco, who published in 2002 his “El manisero, el rey de los pregones (El manisero, the king of the pregones)” in Barranquilla, Colombia. It is a very interesting work with a very complete history of the extent and recordings of this piece, that satisfied the wish of many collectors of El manisero in tha Latin world, especially in Colombia. For example, the collector Jesús Guzmán Aroca, in Barranquilla, Colombia, has several thousand versions of El manisero.
Another curious detail about this musical piece is that it is universally known under two forms of its name. Its author, a Cuban, used in the title word for peanut vendor as it is spelled in Cuba and other Latin American countries: manisero, with an “s”. However, in Spain, the grammatically correct spelling, manicero with a “c”, is used.
Additionally, El manisero is important in the musical origins of Latin jazz. Authors disagree about when and where the relationship between Latin music and jazz first appeared. For some, it begins with the Cuban danza called habanera; however, others attribute the presence of Cuban music in jazz to another musical phenomenon: close in date to the first recording of El manisero, and also in the United States, the Hermanos Castro Cuban orchestra recorded in New York, in 1931, a musical number called St. Louis Blues (afro Cuban jazz). As researcher Ned Sublette says, “it was a curious attempt at Latin jazz that combined the themes St. Louis Blues and El manisero (“The Latin and the Jazz”, jalc.org/Cuba). In the same place where a year earlier El manisero had been recorded, now appeared this mix of fox trot and Cuban music that combined the jazz by W.C. Handy with the flavor of Simons’ El manisero: is this the first composition of afro Cuban jazz? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjWI8LTLa78
Form the 1920’s, the larger labels such as Victor, Columbia, and others, regularly brought Cuban vocalists and/or musical groups to record in New York such as the Sexteto Habanero, Trío Matamoros, etc. These recordings were sold in the United States, Cuba, and the rest of the world.
Actually, the musician who profited the most from the path opened to Cuban music in the United States by El manisero was Xavier Cugat, a Catalonian violinist (1900-1990), who went to Cuba with his family when he was 4 years old, but emigrated to the US in the 1920’s. By the 1930’s his orchestra had already become known: he played at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and appearing in various recordings for Victor.
He realized that the average American was interested in Latin music, especially Cuban, as long as it wasn’t too loud or too fast. He began to make his arrangements accordingly; his repertory included Mexican songs, some tangos, some European music and he began to introduce Cuban music, never too loud or too fast. His first recordings date from 1933; the last, from the 70’s. Curiously, he did not record El manisero until 1940. But from the moment he heard it, he understood that this music, adapted to the American taste, could be a success; and that’s what he did. It is surely the American orchestra that has made the most recordings of Cuban music, and also the one that appears in the greatest number of movies. Possibly, his thousands of recordings are the most made, of popular music both American and Latin American, by any orchestra.
Little by little, the presence of Cuban music begins to grow in the United States, more than that of other Latin countries. It appears that this is due to several factors. In the first place, the largest center of musical production, both in direct form, like theaters, cabarets, radio and later television, and in recorded form, is the northeast, especially New York City. At the end of the 1920’s, advertisements say you could reach Havana from this city in 24 hours. Of course, this is an exaggeration; ¿but which other city could compete? Canada in the north, and its main city, Montreal, had essentially the same musical repertoire as the United States. To the east, the Atlantic Ocean separated the United States from Europe, and to the west, the Pacific Ocean separated it from Asia. That left Mexico to the south, but in spite of its long border with the United States, the border cities did not create enough music to be of interest to Americans; and Mexico City was very far from New York, by road or by train.
The monumental seven volume work, Ethnic Music on Records, by Richard K. Spottswood, compiles all the ethnic recordings produced in the United States from 1893 to 1942, including recordings of Cuban music made in the United States, by several different recording companies. This does not include recordings of Cuban music made in Cuba, both, which are thousands, were sold not only in the United States but also in the rest of the world.
From 1925 on, the United States continues an intense musical communication with Havana, especially regarding records; it is easier for the companies, most of which have their recording studios in New York, to pay the cost of transportation and lodging of Cuban singers and musicians to come to New York to record. They could also send personnel and equipment to Havana to record there, which they did during the first period, up to 1925; and they will continue this practice up to 1925. In 1947 Victorbecame RCA-Victor, after it was purchased by Radio Corporation of America, a very important group of radio stations that provided the label with many singers, soloists and musical groups to record.
Other important things were happening in music during the 1930’s and after: Many soloists and Cuban orchestras established themselves in the United States or traveled there to perform and record: Trío Matamoros, Septeto Habanero, Sexteto Nacional, Miguelito Valdés (see picture), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj6KhQfpjOo Antonio Machín, Panchito Riset, Cuarteto Caney, Eliseo Grenet, Alberto Socarrás, René Touzet, The Castro Sisters, Nilo Menéndez, Anselmo Sacases, Mongo Santamaría, Vicentico Valdés, Jorge Bolet, Alberto Iznaga, Rita Montaner, José Echaniz, José Curbelo, Lecuona Cuban Boys, Belisario López, Sonora Matancera, Hermanos Rigual, and others..
Many other groups and signers recorded in Cuba, Mexico and other countries but their records were sold in the United States and other parts of the world, like the Cuban orchestras Hermanos Castro, Casino de la Playa, Conjunto Casino, Orquesta Aragón, Orquesta Arcaño, Orq. Hermanos Palau, Orq. América, Orq. Aragón, Orq. Julio Cuevas, Orq. Cosmopolita, Cuarteto Dáida, Benny Moré, Orq. Riverside, Orq. Siboney, Orq. Enrique Bryon, and singers like Adolfo Utrera.
Curiously, Cuban music and musicians were not only present in the United States during this period; from the 1920’s, Cuban musicians and singers had been present in Europe, especially in France. Cuban Orchestras and singers performing in Paris began to make records. What began in a small way, grew and up to the start of the Second World War, in 1939, Cuban music had an important presence, especially in France but also in England and Spain. Following are the names of some of the orchestras and singers who made thousands of recordings of Cuban music in Europe during this period:
(note: the dates correspond to their first recording and/or performance in Europe):
Aquilino y su cuadrilla, saxophone player, 1940
Don Azpiazu, pianist and conductor 1932
Don Marino Barreto, guitarist and conductor 1932
Jorge Bolet, pianist 1974
Oscar Calle, saxophone player, pianist and conductor 1932
Fernando Collazo, singer, 1934
Celia Cruz, singer, 1971
Trio Cubain, vocalists 1934
Julio Cueva, trumpet player and conductor, 1932
Juan de la Cruz, singer, 1929
Ernesto Duarte, conductor 1979
Eliseo Grenet, pianist, conductor and composer 1932
Filiberto Rico, clarinet player and conductor 1931
Hermanas Benítez, vocalists 1959
Ivette Hernández, pianist 1968
La Lupe, singer 1971
Ernesto Lecuona, pianist, conductor and compositor 1935
Lecuona Cuban Boys, orchestra, 1935 París
Havana Cuban Boys (Armando Oréfiche, pianist and conductor), orchestra 1952 London, Paris
Oscar López, singer 1950 París
Los Siboneyes, singers, 1932
Antonio Machín, singer, 1938
Trío Matamoros, singers and guitarists, 1934
Sexteto Nacional, 1929
Dámaso Pérez Prado, conductor, pianist and composer, 1958
Omara Portuondo, singer, 1995
Chano Pozo, drummer, 1947-49
Tata Ramos, singer, 1967
José Riestra, bass player, París, 1932
Moisés Simons, pianist and composer, 1928
The record, in an indirect form, starts to increase its presence in other mediums: for some time it was already present in radio, but radios now begin to appear in cars, where logically, most of the time music is used, instead of voice broadcasts; slowly, on air time will become mostly dedicated to recorded music.
There will now be a more direct communication between the record companies and their clients, through the radio; the public will now be able to know what the more popular songs are, and which are the favorite performers and orchestras.
Music continues to penetrate the atmosphere. For some time, there had been experiments on how to open other public spaces, like bars, restaurants, barbershops, to recorded music, through the installation of some kind of equipment that would play records, operated by coins. By 1941 this equipment, first called jukeboxes, led by Wurlitzer, began to appear in cafes and restaurants. For five cents, the user could pick his favorite song and listen to it, along with all the other customers present.
At the beginning its repertory consisted of about 25 or more 10-inch records, played only on one side. Soon, however, its mechanism was adapted to be able to turn the record and play the other side, which doubled the repertory. With the juke box, or velloneras as they were called in Spanish, record manufacturers began to have faster and more direct information about the public’s preferred singers, bands and songs…It is estimated that by forties, 75% of the production of American record companies was used in juke boxes.
The use of jukeboxes soon spread to other counties, under different names. When
45spm records became available, the jukeboxes had to adapt their mechanisms; but the
advantage was that since the 45 rpm was smaller, the juke box could increase the
number of songs offered to the public.
FOURTH PERIOD: 1953-1959.
In 1948, Columbia Records had released a new sound reproduction medium: the LP, which registered sound more slowly (33 revolutions per minute instead of 78) and therefore could record for a longer time. The first LP’s were in 10” format, but one year later the 12” format appeared. That same year, 1949, Victor released the 45-rpm record as a substitute for the 78rpm, but made of plastic, unbreakable, same as the LP.
The 33 rpm speed,, instead of 78, coupled with more space for grooves and wider grooves, found in the 12 inch record, was a blessing specially for lovers of classical music, since it usually surpassed the 3 or 4 minute limit of the 78rpm; now, it was possible to listen, without interruptions, all the movements of a symphony, or all the acts of an opera.
At the same time, classical music required a quality of sound better than the one produced in the existing media. Record makers dedicated themselves to improving it, in two ways: a better quality of recording equipment, and also, a better quality for reproducing equipment. It was in this era that sound reproduction equipment with four speakers became available, in order to place one in each of the four corners of a room.
But let’s see what was happening in popular musica during those times…
Music takes strange paths… In 1953, a Cuban composer, Dámaso Pérez Prado, who had created a new rhythm, with different dance steps, but which had not met with success in Cuba, finds it in Mexico with his “mambo”. The genre becomes immediately popular in the United States, with the help of dance schools like Fred Astaire’s and others; in addition, American composers begin to produce mambos, and better still, the arrangers discovers that it is simpler to make an arrangement of existing compositions, like “Tea for Two”, in mambo rhythm. “Mambos” multiply rapidly.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CADAUKiieQ
By 1954 a competitor to the mambo arose in Cuba: the chachachá, which had immediately become immensely popular in Cuba, and also in the United States, because it was easier to dance and slower that the mambo, so it was preferred by dancers. Again, American songs were arranged to the rhythm of chachachá. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSg8RzJCum0
As a result, we find that during this period and the following ones, until the furor caused by these two genres begins to die down, more “mambos” and “chachachás”are recorded and more “mambo” and “chachachá” recordings are sold in the United States than in Cuba…
Within this same period, a very interesting phenomenon arises; on one hand, American music has produced in 1955 a new genre within jazz; the be-bop, which had a rapid but not lasting success, because it was not easy to dance to; add to this on the other hand, that, mixed with Cuban percussion, the cu-bop arose, which had even less acceptance; but both served to enable the presence of Cuban percussion to emerge with more force within American bands. The most important instrument in Cuban percussion is the tumbadora, a drum with only one skin, followed by the bongó or bongoses, a smaller percussion instrument with two skins, and finally the timbales, two redoubling drums that are played not with the hands, as the other two, but with sticks. The tumbadora, the most widely known and used, was played by a distinguished Cuban musician, Chano Pozo, sometimes playing several at the same time. As in the case of the bolero and the son which for Americans became the rhumba. the tumbadora, with four syllables, became bongo in the United States, two unaccented syllables, and therefore easier to pronounce. The truth is that during this period, the tumbadora under the name of bongo and others under the name of conga which is not the name of an instrument but of a dance, found their way into bands and orchestras in the United States.
The tumbadora or conga, as the instrument was renamed, had a dance version, especially in New York, where under the simple melodic one-two-three-four rhythm, partners, instead of facing each other, were led by the woman, who started the steps, and the man, from behind her and holding to her waist, would follow; they were joined then by another couple, and so on, other couples joined the line, until the entire dance floor was covered. Starting with the left foot, they would move forward, alternating, until the music stopped.
It was a fleeting phenomenon, seen mainly in New York, but until the 1960’s it was still practiced in Cuba and in Mexico City.
But as an instrument, the tumbadora, or conga, was here to stay, as an instrument in the many bands and orchestras that were using Cuban rhythms.
In a smaller scale, the same happened with other instruments from Cuban orchestras, such as the claves, maracas, quijada, and timbales.
FIFTH PERIOD: 1960-1964. The arrival of Rock and Roll sweeps away a large part of the American and Cuban musical genres existing in the United States. But the relationship continues, from the 1959 Revolution in Cuba up to the breaking of relations between the two countries. However, this does not erase the Cuban presence, fortified by the thousands of Cubans who become exiles in the United States. These are two phenomenon that will change the American musical landscape: on one hand, rock establishes its presence not only in the US but in all of the Americas, possibly most forcefully in the American country most distant from the United States, Argentina, where it still has followers today.
On the other hand, the Cuban revolution produces a large exodus of musicians to the US after 1960; Miami becomes the city with the largest number of exiles, followed by New York, where in conjunction with the Puerto Rican presence in that city, the Latin presence becomes more intense.
SIXTH PERIOD: 1964-to date. Partly as a dam so stop the rock tsunami, salsa emerges, with all the debate about whether its origin is Cuban or not. The void made by the absence of Cuban music created in Cuba is filled by the Puerto Rican presence, and by salsa, which is influenced by Cuban music but is undoubtably something new… nuevo...
Even African music, little used until then in the United States, starts to become known, especially in cities like New York.
Miami begins to emerge as the mecca where the music from various Latin American countries and Spain is blended. Relations with Cuba, musically at least, begin to improve from the previous period, such as Irakere’s resounding success in the United States. A young American researcher and producer, Ned Sublette, records a CD in Cuba containing the new music being created there in the 70’s; its title, pure genius, is “Dancing with the Enemy”. This breaks the ice so that Cuban music can again be heard in the US. It also helps that Irakere’s music receives awards in the United States, and Miami becomes the city that receives and mixes American, Cuban and South American influences. Musical groups both from inside and outside Cuba become eligible for awards such as the Grammy, winning some of them. On several occasions, musicians from Cuba make brief performances in the United States, well received by Americans and Latinos, but not so well by the Cuban exiles.
The Cuban group Miami Sound Machine has a big role in improving the Cuban American musical relations, which are also helped by the presence in the US of Cuban jazz musicians such as Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera, and others…