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Cuba · The History that Anacaona Made

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Anacaona


They were called the “Queens of Havana” in the 30’s when it was anathema for young women to be seen at nightclubs, let alone perform there, and perform they did with savoir faire breaking rules, stirring souls and creating history that would change forever the course of women’s role in the musical arts in Cuba. In her account of it all, Alicia Castro, one of the last surviving members of Anacaona, tells the story of her sisters in Queens of Havana · The amazing adventures of Cuba’s all-girl dance band, to Ingrid Kummels and Manfred Schafer.

1930’s Cuba: The shock of seeing ten beautiful young ladies on stage seducing the audience—including some rather raucous members—with beautifully constructed and rehearsed son and danzón; with lively cha-cha-chá as the girls swayed gently to the sounds of the saxophones and tres and bass and güiro all of which they played themselves… This must have been something unheard of as long ago as that. Cuba was a fiercely patriarchal society then, but Emma, Bola, Ada, Flora, Ondina, Cachito, Cachita, Alicia, Elsa Rigual and Milla were defiant. Encouraged by their parents—a father whose retail business enabled the girls to have a musical education, no matter how basic—and a mother who adored her children and never lost trust in them, the girls not only planned and executed a career that was the envy of many male musicians, as they played their own material, much to the chagrin of many male band-leaders. During that time Bandleaders such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway jumped up and took notice. As did the great Celia Cruz, of whom mush is said in the book by Alicia Castro.

Anacaona - Queens of Havana 1950 - 1951
Anacaona – Queens of Havana 1950 – 1951

Ms. Castro is a fine story teller. She can tell the mundane and the glorious, never mixing the two but always keeping her best witticisms for the men in the lives of her sisters and more especially the ones who wooed her. Many of these admirers were met when the band toured not only in Cuba, but in other parts of Latin America. Mexico was a big hit for the girls. But the biggest thrill seems to have come when the group was invited to travel to Florida and to New York, where they gave the performances of their lives. Everywhere there were admiring audiences, especially wealthy men who were hard to resist. Some of these were fine gentlemen, but several had back-stories, were married, but promised to give up their wives—more like a bare-faced lie. But on tour the girls—now all grown up—became lonely and easily fell in love. And it is here that the story comes apart.

Anacaona Orchestra - Queens of Havana
Anacaona Orchestra – Queens of Havana

With fewer members available to play the great variety of instruments that the ladies of Anacaona had come to play as an ensemble, the remaining members of the group decided to master other instruments and as a result they came to master each other’s instruments. This, was not, however, the beginning of the end. The resilience of the women of Anacaona was legendary and Alicia Castro describes it best when she says that: “I feel happy when former colleagues who now have a worldwide reputation remember the years they spent with us. It’s great that they are successful, that they are able to enjoy their moment of glory. That’s why we musicians practice for years, trying night after night to capture an audience, and when without you really knowing how or why, fate is kind and you stand in the spotlight and receive applause from the crowd—it feels like justification for all the time and energy you invested over the years. Suddenly everyone thinks you’re wonderful.”

Publisher: Grove Press
Release date: December 2007

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

Book Reviews

Boricua Jazz: La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño

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Boricua Jazz - La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño - Wilbert Sostre

Desde Rafael Hernández a Miguel Zenón (Second Edition)

In November 2020, author, journalist, educator Wilbert Sostre Maldonado released the second (Spanish) edition of Boricua Jazz: La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño · Desde Rafael Hernández a Miguel Zenón (Boricua Jazz: The Story of Puerto Rican Jazz from Rafael Hernández to Miguel Zenón).

Maldonado was introduced to jazz and other genres when he studied music and guitar in high school. The seed for Boricua Jazz was planted in 2005, when he wrote reviews for a variety of publications, including Jazz Times, Jazz Inside Magazine, and Latin Jazz Network, and realized, apart from random biographies there were no publications that contained accurate, credible information about Puerto Rican artists.

Through the use of existing biographical data, interviews, requests for information, books, magazines, articles, websites, and active participation in Puerto Rico’s music scene Maldonado created the First Edition of Boricua Jazz in 2019.

The Second Edition contains updated biographies, discographies, and new photos. Also, it contains a comprehensive index (which the First Edition lacked) and information about artists and groups that participated in the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival (1991-2017), biographical data, and in most cases, a discography.

Chapter Breakdown

• CHAPTER 1 – Shines a light on jazz in New Orleans (the cradle of jazz), blues, ragtime, black military bands, and Billie Holliday, Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Bechet, among others. The chapter also includes an excellent selection of early jazz recordings (1940-1960).
• CHAPTER 2 – Summarizes the musical forms developing in Puerto Rico during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Also, it documents the first encounters between American and Puerto Rican music.
• CHAPTERS 3 & 4 – They focus on Puerto Rican jazz and draws from Basilio Serrano’s groundbreaking book, Puerto Rican Pioneers in Jazz – 1900 -1939 – Bomba Beats to Latin Jazz (iUniverse, 2015), and other publications.
• CHAPTER 5 – Dedicated to the valve trombonist, composer, arranger, crack shot sight-reader, transcriber, and progenitor of Latin jazz, Juan Tizol.
• Chapter 6 – Documents the interactions between jazz and salsa. Also, it highlights the trajectories of Puerto Rican musicians who made significant contributions to jazz on the island and in the States.
• CHAPTER 7 – Pays tribute to the independent organizations (1960-1970) that exposed the island to jazz, such as the San Juan Jazz Workshop, the Don Pedro Jazz Workshop, and the Caribbean Workshop. The more prominent, international festivals such as the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest would not be possible without these organizations.
• CHAPTER 8 – Focuses on festivals, concerts, and jazz on the island.
• CHAPTER 9 – Proposes the emergence of Bomba Jazz (Afro-Puerto Rican Jazz), which is unique to the island.
• CHAPTER 10 – Brings readers to the present-day and features emerging jazz players who are giving continuity to the history of the Boricua Jazz Masters.

Throughout the book, Maldonado rightly credits the musicians, composers, arrangers, bandleaders, promoters, presenters, educators, universities, websites, radio show hosts, authors, historians, and journalists whose contributions to jazz were critical to its development and popularization on the island.

Boricua Jazz is a primer for readers who are curious about American jazz, Puerto Rican music and culture, and the relationship between the two. On a personal note, it’s an invaluable reference tool. According to Maldonado, an English Edition is in the works.

En Español

En Noviembre 2020, el autor, periodista y educador Wilbert Sostre Maldonado lanzó la segunda edición (en español) de Boricua Jazz: La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño · Desde Rafael Hernández a Miguel Zenón (Boricua Jazz: The Story of Puerto Rican Jazz from Rafael Hernández to Miguel Zenón).

Maldonado conoció el jazz y otros géneros cuando estudió música y guitarra en la escuela secundaria. La semilla de Boricua Jazz se plantó en 2005, cuando escribió críticas para una variedad de publicaciones, incluyendo Jazz Times, Jazz Inside Magazine y Latin Jazz Network. Para su sorpresa, se dió cuenta de que, aparte de biografías al azar, no había publicaciones que contuvieran información precisa y creíble sobre artistas puertorriqueños. Esto, a pesar de que los artistas puertorriqueños, hombres y mujeres, se “escondían” a plena vista.

Mediante el uso de datos biográficos existentes, entrevistas, solicitudes de información, libros, revistas, artículos, sitios web y participación activa en la escena musical de Puerto Rico, Maldonado creó la Primera Edición de Boricua Jazz en 2019, una nutrida base de datos de 500 páginas y una valiosa herramienta de referencia.

La segunda edición contiene biografías y discografías actualizadas y fotos nuevas. Además, información detallada sobre artistas fallecidos. También contiene un índice completo (del que carecía la Primera Edición) e información sobre artistas y grupos que participaron en el Festival de Jazz de Puerto Rico Heineken (1991-2017). Boricua Jazz también contiene datos biográficos y, en la mayoría de los casos, una discografía.

Desglose por Capítulo

• CAPÍTULO 1 – arroja luz sobre el jazz en Nueva Orleans (la cuna del jazz), el blues, el ragtime, las bandas militares negras y Billie Holliday, Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong y Sidney Bechet, entre otros. El capítulo también incluye una excelente selección de primeras grabaciones de jazz (1940-1960).
• CAPÍTULO 2 – Resume las formas musicales que se desarrollaron en Puerto Rico durante el siglo XIX y principios del siglo XX. Además, documenta los primeros encuentros entre la música estadounidense y puertorriqueña.
• CAPÍTULOS 3 y 4 – Se centran en el jazz puertorriqueño y se basan en el innovador libro de Basilio Serrano, Pioneros puertorriqueños en el jazz – 1900-1939 – Bomba Beats to Latin Jazz (iUniverse, 2015), y otras publicaciones.
• CAPÍTULO 5 – Dedicado al trombonista de válvulas, compositor, arreglista, visionario, transcriptor y progenitor del jazz latino, Juan Tizol.
• Capítulo 6 – Documenta las interacciones entre el jazz y la salsa. Asimismo, destaca las trayectorias de músicos puertorriqueños que hicieron importantes aportes al jazz en la isla y en Estados Unidos.
• CAPÍTULO 7 – Rinde homenaje a las organizaciones independientes (1960-1970) que expusieron a la isla al jazz, como el San Juan Jazz Workshop, el Don Pedro Jazz Workshop y el Caribbean Workshop. Los festivales internacionales más destacados como el Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest no serían posibles sin estas organizaciones.
• CAPÍTULO 8 – Se centra en festivales, conciertos y jazz en la isla.
• CAPÍTULO 9 – Propone el surgimiento del Bomba Jazz (Jazz Afropuertorriqueño), único en la isla.
• CAPÍTULO 10 – Lleva a los lectores a la actualidad y presenta a jazzistas emergentes que están dando continuidad a la historia de los Boricua Jazz Masters.

A lo largo del libro, Maldonado acredita con razón a los músicos, compositores, arreglistas, directores de orquesta, promotores, presentadores, educadores, universidades, sitios web, presentadores de programas de radio, autores, historiadores y periodistas cuyas contribuciones al jazz fueron fundamentales para su desarrollo y popularización en la isla. Additionally, Maldonado deserves credit for being up to the task in this dedicated investigative endeavor.

Boricua Jazz es un manual para lectores curiosos por el jazz, la música y la cultura puertorriqueña. En una nota personal, es una herramienta de referencia invaluable a la que me refiero a menudo. Según el autor, se está preparando una edición en inglés.

About the Author

Wilbert Sostre Maldonado is a freelance contributing writer, creator of Jazzin’ magazine and the author of the book Boricua Jazz: Desde Rafael Hernández a Miguel Zenón, La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño. Also, he is the host and producer of Puerto Rico Jazz @ Radio Vieques, Brave New Radio, William Paterson University & Radio Procer, 1380am, 98.5FM Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. His writings appear on Latin Jazz Network, Vid 90 magazine, All About Jazz, Jazz Inside Magazine, Jazztimes, and other publications.

Author, journalist, educator Wilbert Sostre Maldonado

Reference

• Lapidus, Ben – New York and the International Sound of Latin Music – 1940-1990 (University Press of Mississippi-Jackson, 2021)
• Maldonado, William Sostre – Boricua Jazz, La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño (First Edition)
• Serrano, Basilio – Juan Tizol, His Caravan Through Life and American Culture (Xlibris)
• Serrano, Basilio – Puerto Rican Pioneers in Jazz, 1900-1939 – Bomba Beats to Latin Jazz (iUniverse)
• Sublette, Ned – Cuba and its Music, From the First Drums to the Mambo (Chicago Review Press)

© 2021 Tomas Peña – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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