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Ignacio Piñeiro: the revolutionary of Cuban Son

Date: 2018-05-16 07:20:32

Cuban musician Ignacio Piñeiro

Cuban musician Ignacio Piñeiro is considered one of the precursors of Cuban Son, but he also made forays into other genres. His work stands as a symbol of our identity. His catalog includes about 300 pieces and many of them are still sung. They remain young, because good music is ageless. Nowadays, there are plenty of old and contemporary versions. 

The number of his creations shows how prolific he was and the multiplicity of genres he played. The author approached a great diversity and many modalities of Cuban musical clusters. Nevertheless, the bulk of Ignacio Piñeiro's creation lies in the ways of doing things related to his musical activity. Clave, guaguanco and especially Son stand out. 

Based on Son, Piñeiro developed a wide range of combinations with the rest of the genres he worked upon. The work of this author lasts and grows. Let us remember that Ibrahim Ferrer chose "Guaguanco callejero", written by Ignacio Piñeiro, for his record “Buenos Hermanos”, winner of 2003 Latin Grammy. 

Piñeiro was born inside music. His rich sound universe began on May 21 1888, when he came to this world in the Havanan neighborhood of Jesus Maria.  Local choral groups of Clave and Guaguanco showed great strength in the area. Then all these influences grew in a new neighborhood, Pueblo Nuevo, where he grew up as a musician. 

He joined “El Timbre de Oro” Clave choir. With this group, he conceived a considerable number of very popular claves in the neighborhoods of Havana, which spread to the neighboring Matanzas. Later on, he conducted the Ronco choir of Pueblo Nuevo, also known as Los Roncos. For this vocal combination, he created a wide range of variations within the guaguanco genre. Some of the most popular were “El eden de los roncos”, “El desengaño”, “¿Donde estabas anoche?” and “Mañana te espero, niña.”

Ignacio Piñeiro composed with great ease and captured the motifs of lasting works from day-to-day life. Ignacio Piñeiro’s inspirations reached the artistic pinnacle in his time as sonero.  He distinctly broke schemes and went beyond the limits established by the kind of Son that had preceded him. Son was something altogether different after him and it reached its best moment in music since 1926. 

In those days, he founded “Sexteto Nacional” after his experiences as double bassist in Maria Teresa Vera’s “Sexteto Occidental.” One year later, he added the trumpet to the instrumental format and Septeto Nacional was thus founded. Ignacio Piñeiro led this ensemble until his death, on March 12 1962.

He devoted all his creative potential to “Septeto Nacional” and laid the foundations for many pieces created by this ensemble, of which the most outstanding are “Cuatro palomas”, “No juegues con los santos”, “Alma guajira”, “Mi son genuino”, “Bardo”, “El castigador” and “El guanajo relleno.”

Ignacio Piñeiro's works have defeated time. The record “La rumba soy yo”, winner of 2001 Latin Grammy, included one of his classics, in Haila Maria Mompie’s privileged voice: "Sobre una tumba, una rumba." 

Many pieces of Ignacio Piñeiro have achieved the category of classics. However, one has special charm. “Echale Salsita” was inspired by the famous sausages of El Congo. This song lifted the small town of Catalina de Güines to a lasting place in Cuban music. "In Catalina, I found the unexpected" says the song that grows in its chorus: "Echale Salsita." Beyond the anecdote, Ignacio Piñeiro´s theme has transcended for its grace and novelty and it is one of the Sones that revolutionized our music. 

For his works, Ignacio Piñeiro summoned minstrels of the size of tenor Juan de la Cruz, baritone Bienvenido Leon and guitarist Alberto Villalon. With these and other figures he organized his “Septeto Nacional.” 

Ignacio Piñeiro, the great revolutionary of Son, has a permanent place in Cuban music. No wonder people still sing “El son es lo más sublime para el alma divertir” (Son is the best to amuse one’s soul). Spirits are still amused by the works of that man, born in 1888, that multiplied in time until he became indispensable. 

Translated by Pedro A. Fanego 


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