The world’s longest son
IN May, an array of instruments will
play son across the entire country to break
the Guinness record for the world’s longest son, as
part of the 2011 International Cubadisco Festival.
The tour de force begins May 1 and
concludes on the 14th, starting in the western city
of Pinar del Río and ending in Santiago de Cuba at
the eastern end of the island, to open the
International Cubadisco Festival in that mecca of
son. The Festival will run through May 22.
A bronze sculpture of the King of
Son in eastern Cuba, Miguel Matamoros, by artist
José Montero and sponsored by the Caguayo company,
will be unveiled in Serrano Park.
We could say that the longest son
in the world was begun in the 1920’s by Miguel
Matamoros, during his golden age. On May 1, 1928, he
made his first trip to New York, followed by 28
tours to countries in Latin America and Europe,
through 1960. His saga continued for more than 30
years, taking son to half of the world.
The Matamoros were the highest
expression of son in its early days and
theirs remains the most recorded and played Cuban
music around the world.
The longest son in the world
is a tradition now, launched precisely in Cuba
during the first International Cubadisco Festival in
1997, with five consecutive days of music, 100
groups with thousands of singers and musicians. It
was celebrated in Havana’s Benny Moré Salón Rojo at
La Tropical, during the Cuban salsa boom of the
1990’s, with NG La Banda directed by José Luis
The marathon was begun by Los Van
Van, then by the present day greats Adalberto y su
Son, Revé, La Charanga Habanera, NG La Banda, Yumurí,
and a long list of groups from throughout Cuba.
Over five days, figures from the
international world of salsa filled the Tropical:
journalists, researchers, writers, photographers,
musicologists, artists of all kinds, Olympic
athletes, reporters from innumerable news agencies
and newspapers. The event turned out to be a
veritable festival of world music.
All eyes were on the phenomenal
music boom in Cuba. Later the Buena Vista Social
Club project would emerge.
Son, which began among the
people of eastern Cuba’s mountains, made its way to
the world’s best music halls and was enriched by the
diverse formats, instruments, rhythms and musicians
it came across – an evolution which continues more
than a century after its birth.
The 2011 International Cubadisco
Festival will pay tribute to son, the most
authentic musical expression of Cuba’s diverse
identity, according to musicologist Odilio Urfé.
International gathering of Casino
Among Cubadisco 2011 festivities is
the International Meeting of casino dancers to be
held at Havana’s Hotel Sol Melía Cuba.
Casino is Cuba’s national dance,
developed in 1957 as a response to the arrival of
acrobatic, rock and roll partner dancing for young
people. Casino on the other hand was more elegant,
The dance was born in the Casino
Deportivo club, west of Havana. During the
1960’s, this club, and others in the area, were
taken over by their workers and they began to hold
popular dances. This is when Casino fever emerged –
choreographers, competing dance partners, groups or
Different choreographers in the
neighborhood competed with their own groups of up to
200 members. In this era, the most popular bands
were Los Van Van, Ritmo Oriental, Rumbavana,
Chapottín y sus Estrellas, Estrellas Cubanas,
Conjunto de Roberto Faz and Los Latinos.
In the first decade of the 21st
century, Adalberto Alvarez, along with television
producer Victor Torres, proposed a TV program taped
live at the Tropical, with partner dancing and
Casino circles. Next came the 1st International
Meeting of Casino and Salsa Dancers in the city of
Matanzas and at Cuba’s beach resort
par excellence, Varadero, with renewed excitement
about Casino circle and partner dancing.
"Outside of the country," Adalberto
Alvarez told journalist Mireya Castañeda, "a great
number of salsa festivals were taking place and then
I started checking and saw that they were pretexts
for holding Casino competitions. I was really afraid
that, as has been the case with other things, they
would steal our idea.
"There was no way this could happen
with Casino dancing – impossible that an event of
this kind could fail to take place in Cuba… where
son, guaracha, mambo, danzón, cha cha cha
and rumba were invented, where real salsa with
genuine flavor was born, with Cuban montuno
The 2011 International Cubadisco
Festival will be a memorable event, letting the
world know that son is alive and well in