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Articles Drawing by Larry Martinez.

Mayito Aracil, the sound of success... and more

In my house there was a rigorous family tradition to celebrate each year-end: to form with an obsessive sense a chameleonic playlist The program included the most popular songs of the moment and other classical pieces, capable of satisfying the not always compatible musical tastes of family and childhood friends. It should be taken into account that that night our hall became, among other things, a competitive dance floor and the party could extend until the early hours of the morning and even the morning of the first day, to the invariable sound of the 31 varied fromas we used to call him. 

Then, with this matrix in the hands of the DJ on duty, we would reconfigure our playlist to liven up birthdays, graduations or any other moment that deserved a good soundtrack in the background. Marc Anthony, Gente de Zona, Los Van Van, Olga Tañón, Carlos Vives, Havana D'Primera, Luis Enrique, Leoni Torres, among so many illustrious guests, paraded assiduously along Blanquizar Street. 

Arancil with Marc Anthony. Image taken from Miniondas.

What we could not imagine, as almost no one in Cuba could, was that a good number of the mega hits of these artists, periodically ratified in our fetecunes, had passed through the hands (or rather ears) of the same and close person: the extraordinary and multi-awarded Cuban sound engineer, mixer and producer Juan Mario Aracil, Mayito.

We were a long way from associating the quiet (but sonorous) engineering work behind such enjoyable tracks as La Gozadera, I don't know tomorrowor the more recent and vibrant On my wayI was with that little blond fucker who used to kill (long before we started fucking) in the vicinity of the Asuncion Park, in the neighborhood of Lawton. The same one with whom I used to run up and down the Calzada, after randomly ringing some doorbells, in the hours before karate classes at the old Luyanó Cinema; with whom I shared laughs, games and the occasional gazillion in the form of zuki.

But unlike his idol Bruce Lee - who curiously began his career in the media exploiting his skills in Cuban music, specifically with the steps of the chachacha - karate was not Mayito's thing, here among us. For him the days of katas and kumites were counted, instead, it was the key that was waiting for him.

He was about 11 years old when he moved with his parents to Miami. And of course, in those 90s goodbyes were not accompanied by emails, WhatsApp and other communicative threads that we Cubans have been able to weave later when, unfortunately, the sea comes between our hugs. In the neighborhood some child inherited his chivichana, but many of us lost track of him; and ultimately we learned to grow up coping with the decline, first sporadic and then massive, of the founding members of that army of climbers we had in La Loma del Burro, the closest place to heaven. 

We could not have predicted -and neither could he- that years later his name would ascend to the Latin Music Hall of Fame (2022), where legends such as Celia Cruz, Juan Gabriel, or Juan Luis Guerra, who at that time was raising our bilirubin with La 440, and with whom Mayito recently collaborated in the recording of the song "La 440", would be waiting for him. If you love metogether with the Colombian Fonseca.

It was not magic, no, nor from one day to the next, but rather the result of many years of "sacrifice, work and dedication", as he himself assures us, and, of course, of the tremendous ashé he also has. Music in this new context did not allow him to abandon his roots and, at the same time, began to open new doors for him.

He took piano lessons and undoubtedly his knowledge of the instrument was a very useful tool for what was to come. Nightlife was no stranger to him either, nor was direct contact with dancers, and at the age of 16 he was already heating up the dancefloor as a DJ at the famous Mango's Club in South Beach. On the other hand, he set up a small recording studio in his home, where he mixed and experimented for hours with whatever he could find on the dance floor. loop and finished his studies as a sound engineer at the University of Miami. 

Image taken from Miniondas

With a well-earned reputation in the sound environment of that city, Sergio George - the renowned pianist, arranger and producer whom Marc Anthony usually harangues with the characteristic "¡ataca, Sergio!" in many of his songs - summoned him so that Mayito could do his thing on the Top Stop Music label.

But it's not yet time to applaud, because the movie doesn't end here, it's just beginning. Already inserted in the big leagues, Mayito did not stop connecting. hits and participated as an engineer in the recording of the album cycles (2009) by Nicaraguan salsa singer Luis Enrique, which marked his comeback album and was awarded Best Latin Tropical Album at the Grammy Awards; and Best Salsa Album and Best Tropical Song at the Latin Grammy Awards, with the song "El Salsa". I don't know about tomorrow.

It would be followed by other anthological and equally multi-awarded albums, such as the Sergio George presents Salsa Giants (2013), which features live performances by icons of the genre: Oscar de León, Cheo Feliciano, José Alberto The CanaryTito Nieves, Willy Chirino, or Marc Anthony. With the latter, for example, the following productions stand out 3.0 (2013), Opus (2019) o On my way (2022), which have counted with the intervention of Mayito as engineer, mixing engineer and recording and mixing engineer, respectively..

Other sounding sectors were also grateful for their contribution, such as More + deep heart (2015), by Carlos Vives; Around the world (2015), by Havana D' Primera ; Visualize yourself (2016), with Gente de Zona, which included renowned collaborations such as Marc Anthony, Pitbull, Chino y Nacho among others; Latina (2016), by Mexican Thalia; Sing (2022), by Leoni Torres; or En tiempo de Son. Tribute to the songs of Jorge Luis Piloto (2023), by Septeto Acarey, just to mention a few works from a truly luxurious list.

The mixing of the album deserves a special mention The Fantasy (2014), by Los Van Van, of which he is proudly pleased and which was the last album with the participation of Juan Formell, no longer directly in the recording sessions, but from the conceptual and direction point of view, and which was released months after the death of the master. For this reason, he continued to ride the Tren de la Música Cubana, in charge of the mixing of the album Legacy (2017) a heartfelt tribute to the man who was the engineer of this train for almost half a century, and which marked the restart of the road for Los Van Van.

Image taken from Miniondas.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks from Pasaje de Rosa Enriquez and Calzada de Luyanó -the place where he had his last residence in the area- a group of friends, or rather, brothers, unknowingly invited him to party with us, sometimes succumbing to the casinos of my grandmother and Oscar de León, with his You will cry live; or sometimes out of tune and excitedly attending Marc Anthony in his version of Pale Floweror simply snatched away with What a Surpriseby Los Van Van, revisited by Alexander Abreu and Havana D'Primera.

From there we also said goodbye to some members of that family group, who with some ticket in hand, scholarship or other variant, announced their last dance at the headquarters, so it was necessary to tighten with the 31 varied from (it didn't matter if it was in December or August); in any case, it meant more pincha pa' Mayito during the day.

It was many years later, while receiving the umpteenth award of his successful career, when I discovered with surprise and pride that the experienced sound and mixing engineer of Cuban origin Juan Mario Aracil (so he was identified in the newspaper article) and our restless karate apprentice, were the same person.

For my part, I would have been able to forgive him any symptom of slight amnesia or fading, with a meteorically expanding resume that to date boasts, among other distinctions, four Grammy Awards and eleven Latin Grammys, as a result of multiple nominations and the respect of many of the most prestigious musicians in the world. 

Just as an example, in the 14th Latin Grammy Awards in 2013, Mayito had to compete (as it happens all the time) against himself on multiple occasions, when he was nominated for his contributions to the albums "Els Altos" and "Els Altos". Salsa Giants (Sergio George), 3.0 (Marc Anthony), I will call myself yours (Víctor Manuelle), Total Love (Toby Love) and Leslie GraceThe young Latin pop star's album, or at the 62nd edition of the Grammy Awards in 2020, where he drove the jury crazy and where for the first time two albums shared the award: A Journey Through Cuban Musicby Aymée Nuviola and OpusBoth were awarded in the category of Best Latin Tropical Album, in which Mayito participated as musical producer and recording and mixing engineer in the case of the former, and as recording and mixing engineer in the latter.

"Fuck a little bit pa' eso"., after so many red or green carpets, It would have been more than understandable, when I then decided to congratulate him digitally, just like thousands of fans who piled up in those days on social networks to send him a greeting. And there again the bastard surprised me, when immediately and boasting only of his good memory, he answered my message gratefully, with the same simplicity and naturalness of that kid from the neighborhood that he still is.

Mayito has never been disconnected from his island, nor has he been unaware of the new sounds that roam its streets. To his extensive catalog, marked by the presence of styles ranging from salsa, merengue, bachata, pop, traditional son, timba, or songo, he adds numerous collaborations with various exponents of the overwhelming urban genre, with which he feels especially identified. Proof of this are his works with Gente de Zona, El Chacal, Jacob Forever, El Micha, Diván or Lenier, among many other figures who have also put their creations and projects under his care. In Jacob's case, both joined their creative interests just a few months ago to support new artists directly from Forever Music.

Arancil with Aymée Nuviola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Image taken from Miniondas.

In a recent telephone exchange I told him (and now I transcribe) that it seemed absurd to me that despite the fact that his name is a reference for the high quality musicians of our island and for many people who are dedicated to the difficult art of production and sound engineering, in the street of the ordinary Cuban, in the La Asunción neighborhood of his native Diez de Octubre, not many know of his direct intervention in the soundtrack of their lives. 

It only remained then to wish him new successes and renewed projects, in a career where it could be thought that he has already achieved everything, but in his case we already know that you never know. Also thank him on behalf of all Cubans and a hug from those unorthodox breakers of the track, false karateka that, scattered today around the world, we went to bed the night of the 31st, like so many, with many memories dancing under the skin; because the sound of Mayito is not only the sound of success, and is also mixed when the lights are not on. Dale play, brotheror if you prefer: ¡Shobu Sanbon... Hajime!

Larry Martinez Diaz More posts

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