August 5, 2014

Arsenio Rodríguez – Primitivo
Mas Records 1965

Arsenio Rodríguez, front

One of the key figures in latin music was this great man.
Arsenio Rodríguez is considered father of the modern afro-cuban
sound. His musical roots lay in the Congolese rituals of his
family, instilled in him by his grandfather who was a slave,
and it is said that he brought many of the toques used to
adress deities into son. He was a predigious composer –
his sones remain dominant in the repertoire – and his group,
which he expanded with first congas and later an extra trumpet,
more percussion and piano, became the most influential of the
1940’s. Rodríguez also changed the structure of son, expanding
the montuno with a descarga section of improvised solos.
Arsenio Rodríguez ( 1911 – 1970 ) was blind from age eight,
he was kicked by a horse. He was a superb tres player and one
of Cuba’s all time great bandleaders and son composers. Arsenio
grew up in a ‘solar’, a small neighbourhood community. It was his
custom to play the guitar, his neighbours would join in both
vocally and instrumentally, using sticks, pieces of chairs, boxes
or anything they could find to create a musical sound. On such
a night, someone used a cowbell as their contribution to this
primitive music and it was from this that the cowbell evolved as
part of the instrumentation of today’s Latin-American rhythm
sections. ( Rough Guide and backsleeve )
Congolese composer Grand Kalle was called the father of rumba,
he became inspired by Cuban artists like Arsenio Rodríguez, so now
we can see the circle close, afro-cuban getting round and round.
tracks like Independence cha cha and Africa Boogaloo are typical
examples, from Congo to Cuba and back,
music works miracles don’t you think..
listen to Arsenio Rodríguez,
( do we hear Monguito
there ? )


1 La pasion
2 Me engañastes juana
3 Lo que dice justi
4 Rumba guajira
5 Coplas de españa
6 Que mala suerte
7 Fiesta en el solar
8 Me equivoque contigo
9 A gozar mujeres
10 No lo niegues
11 El lema del guaguancó
12 Guaguancó de puerta tierra


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  1. jazzy 7 August 2014 at 22:47 - Reply

    Seminal figure in the development Cuban rhythms. I became acquainted with him a couple of decades ago after hearing Dundunbanza, a homage to Arsenio, by Sierra Maestra who used to tour UK and Europe incessantly around that time.
    The marvellous Coplas de Espana, as the title would suggest, confronts us with the Spanish roots of Cuban music which are often overlooked in the context of the cross-fertilisation which took place with its tribal percussive roots in West Africa. Pure flamenco riffs drift in and out throughout this song.
    Arsenio never ceases to impress rather like Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday do in their own particular genres. A genuine maestro.
    Moos you have got such good taste in music – you seem to like everything I do!
    Thanks for the offering.
    Best wishes

    • Moos 8 August 2014 at 08:25 - Reply

      Around that time, when Sierra Maestra was touring the UK and Europe, I saw them in Utrecht. I remember their leader, Juan de Marcos González, it must have been around 1994. Some years later when the Buena Vista Social Club came to Carré, Amsterdam, I was there too, I remember it surprised me to see him perform with them as well. Listening to Sierra Maestra’s tribute cd to Arsenio Rodríguez, which is called ‘Dundunbanza’ I go back in time..wonderful stuff..
      ..glad to see somone awake out there ‘J’, cheers..

      • jazzy 8 August 2014 at 22:55 - Reply

        You shouldn’t have been surprised to see Juan de Marcos with BSC as I believe he was the true facilitator of the project with Nick Gold of World Circuit records and not “Ry Cooder [who] gathered together some of the greatest names from the history of Cuban music” (allegedly) which the PR people would have you believe (call me a cynical anti-capitalist if you like (- go on, massage my ego!)) to sell more units. In my humble opinion, Mr Cooder’s contribution to the inaugural CD offends the ear. Luckily I never had the misfortune to hear him play live with BSC.
        It is interesting that World Circuit in 1998 also released a double CD by Estrellos de Areito gleaned from EGREM recordings from 1979. They were a ‘super-group’ of old Cuban musicians including some who went on to participate in the BSC project like Ruben Gonzales and as such was a proto-type. I am sure that you will know it. It contains wonderful long rambling rootsy decargas which can only be enhanced by a bottle of Cuban rum and a pipe or two of your favourite herbal mixture. It should be on every school’s curriculum (the music of course not necessarily the pipes).
        As a footnote I recall reading somewhere that the father of Juan de Marcos sang with Arsenio Rodríguez’s conjunto for a period. And so the circle turns…


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