Benny Moré, in his epoch, embodied
the Cuban capital Havana, through his restless and
bohemian life; his bars; dance halls; theatres;
shows; records and musical life.
the Bárbaro del Ritmo, was without a doubt and
outstanding figure of Cuban son, called the Great
He arrived in the big city in 1936,
establishing himself permanently in 1940. Moré told
his cousin Enrique Benítez Mora (El Conde Negro), "I
am staying in Havana, whether I die or I survive."
He wandered through bars and cafes,
was thrown out of many exclusive places, lived in
rundown lodgings, and sang with the groups Cuarteto
Cordero Septeto Fígaro, Cauto de Mozo Borgellá and
In 1945 he traveled to Mexico,
returning in 1951. In his first interview with
Bohemia journalist Don Galaor he stated, "I had
come to conquer Havana and I didn’t give up. You had
to see me. I had faith in my voice, in my songs. I
put a guitar under my arm and set out to the street
to sing for tourists, and I am not ashamed, Carlos
Gardel did the same. That tragedy lasted some three
years, more than I had wanted. I wanted to sing in
Havana. Triumph in the capital. I starved, had a
rough time, it’s true, but nothing surpassed the
emotion of being in the big city, for a country boy,
thinking about Havana was the greatest thing in life."
In 1952 he recoded with Ernesto
Duarte’s band, he also expertly performed on W1010,
Radio Habana Cuba-Cadena Azul, where he premiered
the song "Batanga" with Bebo Valdés’ band Ritmos de
Benny lived in many places in Havana:
Paula 111, Reparto Hornos, in Marianao; Oquendo
1056, between Clavel and Santa Marta, and finally in
1957, he moved to 43rd Avenue, between 84 and 86, (now
243 street, between 86 and 88), La Cumbre, El
Caballo Blanco, San Miguel del Padrón, near the Ali
Bar. The two story house, with a plot of land and
patio to raise birds and animals, was commissioned
to be built by Benny himself.
Ali Bar cabaret is one of the Benny Moré’s most
emblematic joints in Havana.
We now about the small plot of land
he had due to television footage of Benny cutting a
banana tree and feeding his pigs and chickens, one
of his pastimes to keep up his country traditions
and relax after performances and recordings.
The house is in good condition,
caringly maintained, with excellent photos donated
by Jorge Luis Sánchez, director of the film El
Benny. In the entrance there is a plaque which
reads, "Here lived the sonero Benny Moré blood and
refelction of our mixed-race Cuban heritage. Afro-Latin
American Culture Foundation, Sevilla, Havana, 1998."
One of his wives, dancer Norayda
Rodríguez, told journalist Félix Contreras that "Benny
was a special guy….I remember what he liked to eat:
duck - which he raised in the patio - in sauce; he
cooked potato and chili stew and drank tamarind
juice…this is what he liked best…oh, and oxtail with
tomato and pepper sauce. He also liked his lobsters."
According to his brothers, other
Creole dishes Benny enjoyed were roast pork jerky,
cod, okra, rice with shrimp, potato and chili stew,
banana with cracklings, grilled bush rat, (seasoned
with sugarcane to temper the strong flavor). He
cooked a unique African dish: cassava with flour,
lard and peanut balls. He was crazy about the
Cubanized Chinese food served at El Pacífico
According to actress Odalys Fuentes,
Benny got used to eating poached eggs to which he
added garlic and oil in order to resist his favorite
beverage, Peralta rum.
LA BANDA GIGANTE PREIMERS
Moré y su Banda Gigante delighted audiences with
son, guajira, afro, rumba, montuno and bolero
La Banda Gigante was formed with the
collaboration of various outstanding musicians.
Rehearsals began in a space on Infanta and Pedroso
and the band debuted on the CMQ Radio show
Cascabeles Candado. The members alternated between
15 and 20 musicians, and at times, had scores by
Eduardo Cabrera "Cabrerita", Pedro Justiz "Peruchín"
and Generoso Jiménez. The harmonic concepts were
son-like, in the style of Bebo Valdés.
Clemente Piquero "Chicho" revealed
to film-maker Puri Faget that the premier "was
sensational, spectacular, the musicians’ elegance
was astonishing, with four button double-breasted
suits, silk ties, swing style pants and charcoal
black shoes. Benny wore a jacket of white Irish
linen, red tie, a carnation in his jacket button-hole
and two-tone shoes.
The band put on a phenomenal show
which no one wanted to miss. Some stood there
hypnotized, mesmerized, enjoying the show.
Benny sang in the cabaret at La
Campana, El Sierra, El Palete and Ali Bar. He also
performed in the super production of El Solar, under
the direction of choreographer Alberto Alonso. In
1958 he was the third act at the Tropicana, where it
was clear that the Bárbaro could fill the whole
space, at any time.
His performances in March 1961, at
the Avenida del Puerto carnival were memorable, and
that year he won the Silver Record for the his LP
Se te cayó el tabaco.
In 1962 he performed in the Hotel
Habana Libre’s cabaret Caribe; in the gardens of La
Tropical and La Polar; Cabaret Sierra; Night and
Day; and in the Amadeo Roldán during the first
Popular Cuban Music Festival, organized by
Odilio Urfé. He also performed at the opening night
of Salón Mambí, in the Ali Bar, on September 12.
The Ali Bar cabaret is one of Benny
Moré’s emblematic joints. It was his "headquarters,"
where he left an indelible legacy. In his shows, he
shared the stage with all the most popular musicians
of the time.
Benny Moré began singing at the Ali
Bar in 1953, performing with a small cabaret group,
sometimes supported by Generoso Jiménez´s trombone.
Only on one occasion, as something
special, did Benny perform with the Banda Gigante.
Benny had many commitments throughout Cuba, but he
always ended up back at the Ali Bar.
The great composer and guitarist Leo
Brouwer said that Benny Moré "did what he felt and
not what was good for him."
The Bárbaro del Ritmo will be
honored on the 95th anniversary of his birth with
memories of his life in the city of Havana, which
has its 495th birthday this year.