Performance Saturday, April 16, 2011 | 10 PM

Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro de Cuba

Zankel Hall
Pioneers of Cuban son, the music commonly associated with the Buena Vista Social Club, Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro de Cuba has toured the world performing its infectious and classic repertoire of rumbas, boleros, and mambos.


  • Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro de Cuba


  • Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro de Cuba

    For more than 80 years, Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro de Cuba has reigned supreme as the world's foremost champion and protector of Cuban son, the musical heartbeat of Cuba. The band was founded in 1927 by the wildly prolific Cuban bassist Ignacio Piñeiro Martínez (1888-1969), who was known as "El Poeta del Son" ("The Poet of Son"). Since then, the group has seen an array of Cuban musical superstars pass through its ranks, including Abelardo Barroso, Miguelito Valdés, Bienvenido Granda, and Carlos Embale. Today, Eugenio "Raspa" Rodríguez and Francisco "El Matador" Oropesa carry Piñero's musical torch as leaders of the group, keeping the original acoustic rumba sound, while also incorporating elements of contemporary harmonization, wider rhythmic concepts, and an exceptional repertoire that includes the most important Cuban hits-many written by Piñeiro himself.

    Cuban son combines elements of Spanish canción and guitar music with African rhythms and percussion. It gained immense popularity around the turn of the 20th century, continuing through the 1940s. The history of the genre is closely tied to Piñeiro, who founded Septeto Nacional-originally called Sexteto Nacional-under contract with Columbia Records in Havana. Piñero wrote hundreds of sones for the sextet, which soon became a septet with the addition of cornet player Lazaro Herrera. Piñero's innovation was to add trumpet to the guitars, percussion, and voices of previous son groups, prefiguring salsa's horn sections and featuring songs with an ever-changing countermelody.

    Septeto Nacional went on to perform throughout Havana, appearing on all of the city's radio stations and in its theaters and public squares. It made its first recording in 1928 and simultaneously embarked on its international career. In 1929, the group traveled to the Ibero-American Fair in Seville, Spain, where it was awarded a gold medal and named Ambassador of Cuban Folklore in Europe. In 1932, George Gershwin traveled to Cuba and heard the music of Septeto Nacional. He and Piñeiro became friends and the influence of the latter's "Échale Salsita" ("Spice It Up a Little") can even be heard in Gershwin's own Cuban Overture.

    The new sound of Cuba also made headlines at the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago in 1933. As bandleader, Piñero wrote many songs that became Latin classics and earned fans all over the Americas. As the genre gained popularity, songs like "Esas no Son Cubanas" and "Suavecito" filled the dance and music halls on both sides of the Atlantic, laying a foundation for what is known today as salsa. The songs were and still are considered flagships of Cuban music with their unique poetic and musical style.

    In subsequent years, the group's membership went through various changes. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the group was reinvigorated. Some of its original members returned and Septeto Nacional recorded several LPs. Today, the group is recognized as having some of Cuba's finest instrumentalists and soneros, and is hailed as Patrimonio Nacional de la Cultura Cubana (National Treasure of Cuban Culture) for the quality of its dedication to the roots of Cuban son.

    In 2004, Septeto Nacional's Poetas del Son received a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Tropical Music category. Since then, the group has appeared in over 35 countries on five continents, including the US, Mexico, Algeria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Venezuela, England, Norway, Switzerland, France, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2009, Septeto Nacional made history with its highly acclaimed return to the US-its first American tour in 76 years-with performances in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The group also traveled to Puerto Rico for the first time, performing at the Conservatory of Music. The group's latest recording, ¡Sin Rumba no hay Son! (Without Rumba There Is No Son!), was recently released on the World Village / Harmonia Mundi label.
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Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with World Music Institute.
This performance is part of World Views.

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