For those who briefly recognize his voice, Miguelito Valdés was hardly a reference in …
For those who briefly recognize his voice, Miguelito Valdés was hardly a reference in Cuban music. For posterity, for the tasters of Cuban music, on the other hand, he is one of the most brilliant figures in the history of son, rumba, bolero, Afro song … His influence was decisive on Benny Moré, Cascarita , Tito Rodríguez and many others. His unrestricted approach to melody, harmony and rhythm, as well as his percussive vocal technique, continue to be appreciated as his voice goes round and round in players spreading the flavor, enthusiasm and energy that gave him a wide advantage on any other figure in its genre and language.
In the centenary of his birth, today we remember Miguelito Valdés for his absolute and sincere dedication in stages, for his influence, for his recordings and films, because he was unique … the myth keeps growing.
To Bethlehem it is now
As if in the old Cuba the names were missing, he was baptized with five names: Miguel Ángel Eugenio Lázaro Zacarías Izquierdo Valdés and Hernández, and registered as born on September 6, 1912 – some authors claim that his birth occurred in 1910 and others in 1916- in a humble house in the Callejón de Velazco, located in Calle Casting between Picota and San Isidro, in the populous Belén neighborhood, in the heart of Old Havana. His father Emilio, born in Spain, arrived in Cuba with the antecedent of having been Colonel of the Imperial Navy. His mother, Norberta América Valdés Torres, came from Yucatan, Mexico, with fine Mayan features. As is often believed, his surname is not related to the legendary House of Charity and Maternity of Havana, descendants of some Cuban musicians surnamed Valdés.
The Casa de Beneficencia began in 1705, then called “Casa Cuna”, under the auspices of the bishop of the Havana diocese, Fray Jerónimo Valdés, who not only gave the work its goods and enthusiasm, but also baptized and gave its name to all the disinherited and abandoned children who arrived as innocent victims of the unjust colonial society to the House. Fray Valdés, in turn, was a noted musician who taught his proteges to play different musical instruments.
Miguelito was raised only by his mother who lived on public charity, along with five brothers and a sister, in the Aurora Passage of the Havana neighborhood of Key West, poor neighborhood cradle of rumberos and soneros. Near his house was the solar Africa, along with his brother Oliverio participated as soon as “touches of saint” and “rumbas de cajón” were organized and there he met Chano Pozo and they became friends and they sang and played rumbas. There, his knowledge and mastery of the ancestral Afro-Cuban songs and rhythms was born.
He studied his first years at the Emiliano Zapata School. He arrived until the sixth grade, there were no resources to continue them. Miguelito’s childhood was, like so many other poor children, a constant struggle for survival that included different jobs: at age eleven he worked as an assistant in a mechanics workshop, located in Zanja between Castillejo and Aramburu, repairing bodies. In 1926 he tried to make a living as a boxer and, after a promising 23-fight welterweight division career, he even won an amateur championship, retired to join, in 1927, the Sexteto Habanero Juvenil where he played three, guitar, double bass, maracas and sang. The son was fashionable. His idol at that time was the Mexican singer José Mojica, a tenor very famous for those years in Cuba.
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“There, there, there, in the shade of a flamboyant among a thousand bouquets of red flowers full of spring scent …” Yes, there, leaning on his cyclopean flamboyant, but not in his shadow as the theme of Leavitt, but face to the sun, shining with its most peculiar light, with its mocking and rebellious gestures. Frankie Dante, the singer of the thousand faces, of the lost look, of the delinquent pose; the man with the chameleon covers, the mafia smile and the dark glasses as gangster ‘coppoliano’; sonero of cynical grin, the maverick Marxian breathing and laughter to the ears and here I mean the old red and community of the Capital , but the mustachioed pure boat chimney, American humorous: Mr. Groucho Marx.
Lenin Francisco Domingo Cerda was born on a historic day: September 15, 1945 in Quisqueya. They baptized him with the name of the leader of the Russian revolution. It was not political but it was rebellious and rebellious. He chose the path of musical protest and began the “great march” from Santo Domingo to New York with his cowboy hat and steel heels to fight for social justice and settled in ‘The Big Apple’ with the alias that would make world famous: Frankie Dante, yes, as well as he reads it, Dante, as the illuminated writer of The Divine Comedy .
Frankie Dante, extravagant of the sauce, misunderstood and loved, reviled and adored. His timbre borrachón (drunken version of Ismael Quintana), his youthful outbursts and the humble label in which he recorded condemned him to the catacombs of the musical trade, elevating him, however, to the category of ‘underground’ and this translates: musician of a elite Whose? Of the chosen from the basement: The plebe of the ‘cloaca’. With his combo of insurgents banished to the subway, he inaugurated his rumbón with different directions, setting up from the beginning, how different and refractory his creed was. It was 1968 and Dante put the chest, like the untamed jibaro that he was, before the criticism of the salsa ‘establishment’ of the time for Happiness! of the subversive mass that accompanied him.
The big apple is huge and at the same time small. In 1972 Dante dared to climb the stairs, unclog the culvert and know the other side of the concrete jungle. Covered with his barrel and his inseparable lantern Eureka !, found the Man … He crossed with a jewish wig who was disgusted with racism and who caressed black and white without difficulty. What emanated from his piano was magic; the name of this formidable producer and performer: Larry Harlow. What a success! Very clever Dante, he did his accomplice and they were photographed for posterity on a plaque that, tells the anecdote, Larry wanted to get it after a collector and his fan and, what he received by response was a resounding negative. For these new games, Frankie, still without renouncing his extravagances, He looks like a Baretta beanie, a bald face and a conservative smile, something feigned perhaps, worthy of a campaign politician. Although the appearance was different, the speech remained similar and the protest changed into pretension. Total, the occasion warranted it and it was a worthy resource, fruit of its ability that of insurance remedy of some seasoned politician. It is well known that Dante never read Machiavelli, but he longed for the highest magistracy in the musical world.
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