martes, 13 de julio de 2010

Ignacio Piñeiro and Cuban Son


The Septeto Nacional, founded by Ignacio Piñeiro in 1927, is a renowned Cuban orchestra that has recorded dozens of albums and toured the world several times.

In the words of Ricardo Oropesa, the group’s current artistic representative:

“After being nominated for a Grammy, the group’s popularity has significantly increased. Everybody wants to see the Septeto Nacional live, especially those who have never done so before. Internationally, the most popular Cuban music right now is the Buena Vista Social Club, which is Cuban son music, although it doesn’t represent the whole gamut of Cuban son. The popularity of the Buena Vista Social Club artists is quite understandable because the musicians all have an extraordinary level of talent, but their way of playing son is quite different from ours. The Buena Vista Social Club project started only a few years ago, while the Septeto Nacional has been around for more than seven decades.”

Cuban son is both music and dance. The origin of the word is unknown, but is now used to identify a genre of Cuban music that began during the start of the 20th century in the eastern mountainous area of Cuba —land of the son.

One of the fundamental instruments in traditional son is the tres. The tres was invented by Cuban peasants who couldn’t afford a piano or a Spanish guitar. The tres would replace the spot taken by a piano and at its beginnings, was made using household utensils and natural materials.

In Havana, the son from the country became more elegant, and it was Ignacio Piñeiro who was largely responsible for bringing it to the bourgeoisie dancehalls and parties of Havana. Piñeiro changed the face of Eastern-Cuban son by introducing African and Afro-Cuban elements, creating a whole new style.

By mixing in these new elements and fusing different genres, Piñeiro took son into a new era; he dressed up the son in a suit, hat and tie.

Legend has it that it was Pineiro who first incorporated the trumpet into the septet, although opinion is still divided. What remains without a doubt is that it was Ignacio Piñeiro’s Septeto Nacional that made the first recording of a septet with a trumpet, with trumpeter Lázaro Herrera, who recently passed away.

“His creativity allowed him to bend the confines of Eastern-Cuban son, allowing him to expand and develop the music as well as to incorporate lyrics that were more profound and thematically varied,” Helio Orovio, renowned Cuban musicologist.

What is today known as son, owes a lot to this Havana composer, born in 1888 and raised on the African songs and rhythms of the neighborhoods of Jesus Maria and Pueblo Nuevo.

Two elements that set Septeto Nacional apart from all other son orchestras and solidified there place in the history of son were the role of the trumpet and the greater independence given to the singer.

Furthermore, it was the Septeto Nacional who made Piñeiro’s composition Echale Salsita, a huge hit; a song that will forever be remembered as the recording, according to numerous experts worldwide, from which the term ‘salsa’ (to refer to that musical genre of Latin American dance music) came from. Although, this is not with out its controversy, as the song itself only makes a gastronomical reference (“Pour a little sauce on the sausage…”).

During his career, Ignacio Piñeiro wrote 327 sons; including the immortal Echale Salsita, Esas no son cubanas and Suavecito.

Ignacio Piñeiro passed away on March 12, 1969.

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