By Félix Contreras Poeta , Cuban journalist and musician
The obsessive melomanía habanera illuminates the first you decades of the century just past with hyperkinetic radio stations ( RHC Cadena Azul , CMQ , Radio Lavin , Mil Diez , Radio Salas , Radio Progreso , Radio Cadena Suaritos ), 10 or 12 orchestras of first category ( Arcaño and their Wonders , BrothersCastro, Joint Casino, Riverside, Casino de la Playa, Hermanos Castro, Chapottín and his Stars , set of Arsenio Rodriguez , America , Ideal, Anacaona , Casino Beach, Cosmopolitan , Gray, Orchestra of Belisario Lopez , Melodies of 40, Orchestra of Cheo Belén Puig , Orquesta Antonio Maria Romeu ), rooms ofdancing , cabarets, centers nightclubs , theaters ( Tokyo , Summer Casino, Havana Sport, Shanghai , Mars and Bellona , Eden Concert, Alhambra) 40 0 50 admirable vocalists ( Panchito Riset , Vicentico Valdes , Abelardo Barroso , René Cabel , Lino Borges, Esther Borja , Elena Burke, Celia Cruz, Orlando Contreras, Welcome Granda, Orlando Vallejo, Rolando La Serie , Nelo Sosa, Roberto Espí , Miguelito Cuní , Benny Moré , Barbarito Diez , Carlos Embale , Joseíto Fernández , Tito Gómez , Olga Guillot , Celio González , Orlando Guerra Cascarita , Blanca Rosa Gil, La Lupe, Laíto Sureda , Gina León , Orestes Macías , Kino Morán , Celeste Mendoza, Raúl Planas ,Pepe Reyes), visit of international stars( Agustín Lara, Ramón Armengod , Toña la Negra , Libertad Lamarque , Hugo del Carril , Daniel Santos, Pedro Infante , Mario Moreno Cantinflas , Jorge Negrete , Josephine Baker, María Félix, Myrta Silva, Leo Marini , Bobby Capó , Nelson Pinedo , Los Panchos , Carlos Argentino , AlbertoBeltran , Nat King Cole).
The still young capital, his optimism , his crazy, anarchic progress edilicio with a time budget that showed face healthy –thanks to the misfortune of the Second World – a movement , one class social, working , which defines its interests and net profiles.
And there in Matanzas ( say the danzonete ) son is wafted in the aristocratic piano yumurino where , with guitar or tiple is improvises easily one soirée in any of their neighborhoods (La Marina, Matanzas , Simpson) and as La Habana is so , so close , music is learned there but , itHe plays in the capital that bustles with new , flourishing tourism, and hotels (Plaza, Vedado , England , Telegraph , President , Saratoga, National ), which incorporate live orchestras , dancing to their offers . From the province arrive , almost in caravan , musicians attracted by that boom thatOpen sources of work . The pioneer in this exodus is the pianist matancero Antonio Papaito Torroella , famous for the skill , imagination in the fingering , the agility and, in addition , by having brought the danzón to habaneros in years 20 of the century twenty .
In the same City of Bridges , in 1903, Severino Ramos would be born , another pianist of the many who saw the light in the Catalan , Galician , French Matanzas, will plow, conga, and lucumí, and other ethnic groups that braid his strong musical movement of the century XIX . Of the dense melomania of its inhabitants and subjugatesAfrican airs had left testimony , in 1837, the Colombian Felix Maria Tanco : The boys and boys when they dance contradanzas (…) make a mimic imitation of the blacks¨.
It is the Matanzas where flourishes one art musical strongly linked to numerous academies and conservatories , ateneos , philharmonic , high schools , and teachers of music theory , piano (Paul Reynold , Roberto Estrada Auchet ), cello and violin , and do not forget , names like Miguel Failde , Aniceto Díaz , FelixBurés , Angel Reyes Camejo , Modesto Fraga , Natalia Brochs , José Comellas , Juan Torroella , Julia Viñals , Rogelio Dihigo Vazquez with his typical and his band , and also , over here in time , the Joint Gloria Matancera , Ernestina Lecuona , José Chicho Ibáñez , Nilo Menéndez, Justo Betancourt , Dámaso Pérez Prado, José Somavilla father and son , Francisco Aguabella , Senén Suárez , Frank Domínguez , Ernestina Lecuona , Los Muñequitos , Ildefonso Acosta, Froilán Amézaga …
It is La Yucayo that also dances Catalan sardana on the hill of Monserrate and in its neighborhoods (Matanzas, Simpson, La Marina). And son of that musical magma, sound of all Matanzas rag is the mulatic Severino Ramos, who escapes Dona every afternoon to see the musicians of the Spanish Casino, or those of the Velasco Hotel terrace where, tirelessly, bathed in a seas of sweat, Antonio Papaíto Torroella and his mother’s cousin, Aniceto Díaz, who already broke the danzón routine with the danzonete.
¨That’s the only thing – says his sister Barbara – that takes Nino away from the madness of the sport of gloves and blows, music, pianos … Ah, well, at home we said Nino to Severino .. .¨
Beginning in 1927, they had landed in Havana “the seven Matanzas Guajiros” members of the Sonora Matancera group, taking advantage of a severe Dry Law in the United States (which prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages) fanning waves and waves of tourists to Havana because, as notes the musicologist Theodore Beardsley, “they loved Cuban rum, but also the new son and the danzon that accompanied their daiquiris in Havana’s restaurants and dance halls.”
The new and wealthy crazy tourism for ¨mojar¨ in the Cuban capital * not only attracts numerous Yankee orchestras, but also, groups of provinces such as the Matancera Sonora, claimed in the orgiastic Havana nights. A short time later, the Ramos family take the road to Jauja following the order of the predecessor families: one arrives first, another later, and then, consolidated the outpost core, the rest.
Havana, offers the widest advantages to a young musician who seeks to start in the trade but, first, you have to go through the thousand tasks that stand between desire and reality. In Havana, Severino is, successively, a tailor’s assistant, insurance collector, a doorman in a cabaret, a business traveler, a substitute for musicians in theaters, radio stations, and another thousand occupations that appear on the road before the final goal. … ¨
Look, – adds Barbara — the world of Nino, as a child, was music, musicians, instruments. Our family, our grandparents, uncles, had to do with the bugs of Matanzas … Well, yes, a bunga was a small group that included piano, violin, clarinet and flute. Uuuuh, tremendous musicians he knew Nino from a very young age … Cheo Jiménez, Eduardo Betancourt, trombone of the Miguelito Faílde orchestra, a relative Betancourt of ours as well¨.
In La Habana , Nino felt good because , he knew, this was the madness of his life : to dedicate for whole the music . Besides, mom was always; Child, boy , see pa’ Labana , blast your way there … But look what it is the life , it called on all parties , all the orchestrasI called but , always to fill locum a momentary void a dance , one audition at one station radio, but , never , never , Nino could be the pianist who was delivered completely to one orchestra . That is, being the pianist of a group. Let by case Lilí MartinezArsenio ( Rodríguez ), Jesús López with Arcaño , Robertico Álvarez with Saratoga, Puruchín with Riverside, with Benny’s band ( Moré ) and, like this … ¨
Ñico Membiela, Blanca Rosa Gil and Severino Ramos
¨ With so much beauty that he knew how to play the piano, with so much technique, so much experience because , hey , there in Matanzas Nino apart from studying with good teachers , thatmy dad paid , tailor with very good clientele , he practiced with old teachers because , will youknow that Matanzasaccount with one great tradition of great musicians , great pianists who were formed in the quadrille first and danzón later, from the time that he had to play a lot and well , here, there , in the very many institutions that swarmed in all the province Matanzas ¨. The sister
concludes : ¨CanBelieve me all this … By telling him that Nino studied with the old Felix Covarrubias , who was Rafael Somavilla Pedroso’s teacher and many other Matanzas pianists who transcended , and, who , in addition , was director of the José White Music Academy … Look, even a Belgian teacher had Matanzas , Oscar Verweire , who directed theband city of Matanzas , and teach notables as Jose Claro Fumero … I remember that some of the illusions of Nino was playing in the orchestra typical of Narciso Velazco , where he played Fumero , or that of his relative Aniceto Diaz , cousin of our mother , what do you think ?
It is said, and repeated with insistence that the consolidation of this mythological Sonora Matancera (so ignored outside the borders of Latin America but, loved until delirium by us, vast public from the Rio Grande to Patagonia with the teacher Héctor Ramírez Bedoya in the front row). Well, the head where that bell is brewing, that sound cathedral, that pattern at times simple, rustic, exotic, reminiscent of bungas and rumbitas and guarachitas habanero-matanceras, is that of Don Severino Ramos who makes his entrance to the famous ensemble in 1942, after failed attempts to occupy places in the Sexito Mikito (later Conjunto Casino) of Key West, replacing another friend, Diablo Rojo (Enríque Rodríguez), and other Havana groups.
The character of Severino does not go with the intense and nocturnal work style of the group (the same in Mars and Belona, as in Havana Sport, Sans Souci,), radio stations presentations, dances (Rogelio’s preference), contracts in La tropical, Tropicana, Regional Centers: Centro Asturiano, Centro Gallego (here they had the door open for Rogelio’s paternal ancestry linked to that ethnic group) and trips to the provinces and “don’t go —” says Rogelio Martínez, the director — look for me or recommend me to a good pianist, and you stay with us in the thing of the arrangements, rehearsals, preparation of repertoire, and those things¨.
Accepted and established that agreement, as wise as everything Rogelio decides for the Sonora, and on the recommendation of Severino, Lino Frías, son of a double bass player charanguero and as appropriate to the severe style. It must be said that this Solomonic solution was another genius of the director because, from there, the star of the Matancera Sonora begins to shine in the difficult firmament of popular acceptance.
Indeed, he became, very avenged to his calm, meek character, in an orchestra man performing all those tasks pointed out and the occasional one that Rogelio was in charge of him or that he himself undertook, such as visiting stations, theaters and other sites procuring contracts to the group . The first thing was to finish and further polish that sound jewel that was the doorbell of the Matanzas ensemble, the unquestionable fruit of Severino’s work, which, curiously, was always inspired more by the typical, as close to the sound of the Arsenio ensemble, the blue set of Chano Pozo, that the ämericano jazz band ¨ so in vogue at that time. It is the time when many sextets and septets are extended to that joint format.
It is not idle to remember that Carlos Patato Valdés (who came from the Casino Set), who was already from the house, enters the same decade, because the Matanzas called him to substitute every time Valentin had his health aches, so do Lino Frías, Calixto Leicea, Pedro Knight … there are changes in the country and the mutations impact that sound. Strident trumpets, but adjusted to a concept that delimited their functions within the sound fan, simple piano, hammering, always attentive to tinting, coloring with supports; chorus and choruses that are repeated ad infinitum, sticky that, although gaunt, festive, always have a scented, romantic and gallant touch. And the attention placed on that, not virtuosity, but perfectionism of a picky Rogelio who sniffed what people wanted in those ballrooms named sanctos in which the Sonora arrival in Havana debuts. A Rogelio who inherited from Valentín Cané the founder the obsession of interpretative clarity, discipline, seriousness but, has no training, the technical domain of Severino, his alter ego, the arranger, repertorist, essayist, trainer and composer who knows where place the authentic accent of the set.
The singers do not, the singers are chosen by Rogelio, he knows that to sing with the Sonora you have to have Caribbean sensuality. That would always be the task of the Wolf Rogelio … The “other”, the identifying face of the group and its maintenance, the soul, the metier, the style (which is man), in short, the saint and sign of the Yumurine group it fell to Severino. The fruits contributed by Severino Ramos between 1940 and 1957 are of extraordinary value.
Perhaps what makes his work more visible are his arrangements and the preparation of the fixed and invited singers who accompanied the Sonora and, successively, are Welcome Granda, Daniel Santos, Myrta Silva, Celia Cruz, Leo Marini, Bobby Capó, Nelson Pinedo , Estanislao Laíto Sureda, Carlos Argentino, Celio González. Obviously, the most representative names of that time are related. The style, the spirit of that repertoire with which Celia Cruz (replacing Myrta Silva) debuts on Radio Progreso, the Matanzas newly hired there, measured, precise, balanced, La Guarachera del Mundo would respect him all his life as a line, as a style.
But, it was Daniel Santos who always appreciated Severino Ramos Betancourt’s work. It was even Daniel (who else?) Who gave him the nickname of Refresquito in response to the orthodox alcohol withdrawal of the Yumurino and, even, also spent jokes with the same second last name of both. The orchestrations and advice of the Cuban to the Anacobero Restless marks the great start of Severino with the sonoromatanceros.
Until his death Daniel was highlighting with praise that technical-artistic support of Severino … It is something that can not believe that mixture of Daniel with Refresquito in those orchestrations, those interpretations of Mustache ‘e gato, El ajiaco, Dos gardenias.
And it should be clarified that, and within the framework of Severino with the Sonora, he did not make all the arrangements of the singers because, as is well known, Rogelio had, sometimes with Silvio Contreras, José Claro Fumero, Javier Vázquez, among others.
Another gold page of Severino Ramos with the Sonora we have in the arrangements made for Welcome Granda, Miguel de Gonzalo, Manuel Licea Puntillita, Hermanas Lago, Bobby Capó, Nelson Pinedo, Vicentico Valdés, Olga and Tony, Laíto Sureda, Celio González , Alberto Beltrán, Carlos Argentino, Leo Marini. The latter, when he arrived in 1951, as a guest singer, came from a very different sound air, from groups such as Don Américo and his Caribes and, by the hand of the Cuban, is brought to fruition, and, so much, that he immediately incorporates his Repertoire of several themes by Severino, including the beautiful Yumurine Moon.
I have a girlfriend that I love her very much, she meets me at the seashore, and through my very pretty window she looks out giving me comfort For my sorrow
The last days of Severino Ramos in favor of Cuban popular music are as musical director at Radio Progreso since 1957, when he leaves Sonora, which combines with the prolific and important work of
in front of the many record labels he created, and, when the true story of the bolero is made, the name of Severino will be inevitable. Since the beginning of the affirmation of the record industry as a big business in the decades of the 30s and 40s of the last century, a boom that is associated with the bolero and son, begins in Severino his fondness for recordings of discs, the ventus, the Preparation of singers and repertoires. Recall the financial success of the Sonora with the stamps Panart, Seeco, Stinson, RCA Victor, in which the arranger intervened and whose name, at that time is inextricably associated with Welcome Granda, Miguel D’Gonzalo, Alfredito Valdés, Miguelito Valdés, Manuel Licea Puntillita, Gloria Díaz, Martha Jean Claude, Alfredito Valdés, Mguelito Valdés, Gloria Díaz, Raúl del Castillo, Martha Jean Claude, Vicentico Valdés,
From his professional activity after 1959, we know a little thanks to testimonies such as this one by Benitico Llanes: ¨When Severino leaves the Sonora he dedicates himself to his work in Radio Progreso and a thousand other things at once, wherever they called him. The Revolution is coming, unemployment ends, and in that first decade, 1960, many record labels emerged in Havana, plus those that came before and he, who had a family, multiplies making arrangements, forming momentary groups, and there you go which forms groups to accompany Orlando Contreras, Blanca Rosa Gil, Orlando Vallejo, Ñico Membiela, uhh, many more. As I told you, he had no fixed, hired musicians. For example, he hired a recording with Maype, Panart, Velvet, Tropical, and was looking for musicians for that specific album. Oh yes, he founded a lot of the same sounds and,
Okay, Severino Ramos, lavished too much on the same stylistic resources, which repeated ad infitum that killing sound, the standardization of the scheme, which did not have the category of his colleagues René Hernández, Juanito Márquez, Bebo Valdés, Félix Guerrero, Adolfo Guzmán Okay, but that prodigious sound that Sonora Matancera called us is enough to keep him always in mind. Severino Ramos dies in Havana in 1965.
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