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Playlist: old records with storms and cyclones

Now that the hurricane season is in full swing and that the Atlantic — let's look at the forecast center maps for a moment — seems to be abuzz, let's dust off this playlist that Sigfredo Ariel made us a while ago, with that peculiar skill of his bringing to the present songs of yesteryear. This is a sound tour through music that once had storms and cyclones as protagonists, a list to listen to as we ask for a truce to the Caribbean in this dire 2020. 

The Cyclon (Alberto Villalon)

Performed by Regino López, Adolfo Colombo and Pilar Jiménez in March 1907 for the firm Victor (Vi68532), it is probably the first printed Cuban phonography with sung words that bears witness to the passage through the Island of a “meteor”, as they say. lately. It is a rushed “bolero” that belongs to the zarzuela of the same title with music by Manuel Mauri and lyrics by the Robreño brothers, premiered in 1906 at the Alhambra Theater, apparently quite successfully. Also under the title The Cyclon Another record appears in the old Victor catalogs, dated October 1915, of a “dialogue-song” signed by Alberto Villalón and performed by Colombo and the actress Consuelo Novoa, accompanied by the author on guitar (Vi69090). 

Storm (Oscar Hernandez)

Villalón himself frequently appears as a guitarist on plates engraved by artists linked to vernacular theater, among them the modest tiple Blanca Vázquez who, in duet with Ofelia Rivas, recorded in March 1913 the key titled Storm (Vi65738) by the then very young troubadour Oscar Hernández. 

Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

My Cuba was lost (Manuel Crown)

Recorded at the beginning of 1911 (Vi63342) by Floro Zorrilla and the author himself, this rumba by Manuel Corona alludes to the disaster left in its wake by a powerful cyclone popularly known as “that of the five days”, which devastated the city of Havana and the tobacco regions of Pinar del Río as of October 14, 1910.

the loose goat (Antonio Morejon)

This Guajiro point alludes to the same hurricane in the previous song by the singer of peasant tunes Antonio Morejón, recorded with his bandurria in January 1911 (Vi 63255). 


What fate so fatal

My country persecutes you.

Here crying night and day

the more my sorrow increases.

peerless misadventures,

they haven't seen each other right

because after the cyclone.

the goats in the savannah

have turned Havana

in classic chilindrón.

The hurricane and the palm (Sindo Garay)     

Although some have ventured the idea that the song was inspired to Sindo Garay by the "cyclone of 26", the first recording of the work dates from the year 1915 and was made for the firm Columbia (Co62979) by Sindo and his Guarionex son. This "rhapsody" - as its author named it - has a curiously worded handwriting from which the courageous resistance of a royal palm, one of the national symbols, can be deduced from the onslaught of violent gusts of acycloned wind. 

Among the most widespread interpretations of The hurricane and the palm there is that of the duo of María Teresa Vera and Lorenzo Hierrezuelo, made at the request of María Teresa Linares around 1961 and published years later in the third volume of the series of discs The Cuban Traditional Song (Areito 3388). I have heard another version of María Teresa y Lorenzo, extracted from old archives of the Havana radio, with greater complexity in the work of the guitar and even in the coupling of the voices. 

Around 1964 Guarionex Garay (tenor) and Adriano Rodríguez (baritone) also recorded it with the careful supervision of the author and backed by the guitar of Octavio Sánchez “Cotán” (Areito 3109). From this phonogram, we transcribe his lyrics:


The pines whistled sinister help.
Calm cedars await pain.
The trembling leafy ceiba smiles.
The grass in the submissive plain to die.


But there is a palm that God alone
he told the Cuban: cultivate your love
that upright and brave with a soft cocoon
that serves as a sword, bent towards the ground,
kissing the earth beat the hurricane
beat the hurricane

beat the hurricane

A more recent version of The hurricane and the palm it appears in 20 Songs by Sindo Garay by the duo Voces del Caney with the guitar of Sarvelio Montero, CD recorded in 2015 and produced by Lázaro García for the Colibrí label.

Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

Memories of the Valbanera (Miguel Puertas Salgado)

Miguel Puertas Salgado, known as “El minstrel from Villareño del lute peregrino”, printed two sides of a disc in 1920 for the Columbia firm with the title memories of Valbanera (C3943), with six tenths lamenting the loss of the Spanish transatlantic named in honor of the Virgin of Valvanera in the Straits of Florida. Considered the greatest naval catastrophe suffered by Spain in peacetime, with 488 fatalities, the Valbanera shipwreck was caused by a violent hurricane on September 9, 1919. 

The following is the penultimate of the tenths of Memories of the Valbanera:


The cyclone passed out to sea,

not even a rumor is heard

from the passage of that vapor

nor was there one who saw it.

The people are desperate

the sadness is unparalleled.

The silence is sepulchral

Well, there is no news.

friends stop

seeing the cyclone go by.


Ciclón (Jorge Anckerman)

One of the great box office successes of the Alhambra Theater was the Cuban zarzuela The Island of the Parrots, with a libretto by Federico Villoch and music by Jorge Anckermann, premiered on February 23, 1923. Called a "sainete-revue in one act", the work begins with the representation of a large hurricane which pushes the black Tango and the Galician Muñeira to an unknown island where the protagonists meet other characters who have also been swept away by the winds. As was usual in this coliseum, the overture was arranged in the form of a danzón by the laborious maestro Anckermann, who directed the Alhambra orchestra for more than two decades, a score that bears the title Ciclón, currently in the archives of the National Music Museum. 

The Hurricane Scene The Island of the Parrots was briefly recreated in a sequence of The beauty of the Alhambra, by Enrique Pineda Barnet in 1989, and included in the long-playing disc that Egrem published with the film's soundtrack, which featured orchestral arrangements by Mario Romeu on the original scores. 

The Trio and the Cyclone (Miguel Matamoras)

The second trip of the Matamoros Trio in 1930 to the Dominican Republic coincided with the inauguration of the ill-fated Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, and with the onslaught of one of the most devastating hurricanes recorded in that part of the world. Called "The cyclone of September 3" or "San Zenón", it claimed thousands of fatalities and substantial material damage.

The first recording of The Trio and the Cyclone, composed by Matamoros based on what they experienced during the meteor in Santo Domingo, and identified as bolero son, was performed by the Trio in Havana on February 23, 1931, although its most widespread version is the one that originally appeared in the long play “The last LP of the Trio Matamoros” (LPV 1061), recorded by the Cuban company Velvet in the Radio Progreso studios and published in 1960. Ramón “Mongo” Huerta was in charge of lead guitar.

this was the tastiest
that the Trio in an airplane
return to Cuban soil
to stay successful.

Every time I remember the cyclone
my heart is sick.

The story ends here
of such a tremendous cyclone,
the dead go to glory
and the living to dance the son.


take you a cyclone (Walfrido Guevara)

The least known of the Grenet brothers, Ernesto, lived between 1908 and 1981, with more or less extensive stays in New York, Paris and several Spanish cities. At the end of the 40s he appeared in Tropicana, leading his group, with which he recorded for the Panart firm at the beginning of the fifth decade of the last century, this guaracha with inconsiderate lyrics that, apparently, belongs to Walfrido Guevara (P 1261). Ernesto Grenet's ensemble alternated with the orchestra led by Armando Romeu Jr. and then by Bebo Valdés in the famous cabaret, where he stayed for a long time. 

the three johns (Welcome Julian Gutierrez)

In at least two of his compositions, Bienvenido Julián Gutiérrez refers, although not to a cyclone, to a dreaded “bad weather”. A the three johns, a prayer in bolero time to the Patron Saint of Cuba, this line belongs: “Virgin that you appeared to the three Juanes / appeasing the fury of the element”, recorded for the first time in 1948 by the group of Arsenio Rodríguez (Vi 23-1072) and integrated a decade later in the LD sounds of yesterday (Gema 1108) by Miguelito Cuní with a group directed by Niño Rivera. 

"The fury of the element" from Gutiérrez's pious bolero, imagine the hurricane that according to religious tradition was about to wreck the boat in which three slaves were sailing, a storm instantly mitigated when before his eyes, in the turbulent waters of the Bay of Nipe, an image emerged on a wooden tablet with the inscription "I am the Virgin of Charity."

the dark sky (Welcome Julian Gutierrez)

on the same plate sounds of yesterday from 1958 is this bolero son, which he shares with the three johns argument of inclement weather and celestial intervention, although it concludes with an enigmatic montuno:

the dark sky

threatened to explode

the horrible storm 

of my sad end 

but an angel was watching

the fatal moment

and then the clouds

sad they fled

before my loyalty.


Praise be to God, 

my friend loves me 

take the woman

Ciclón (Jose Barros) 

The Joven del Cayo ensemble played this guaracha in 1955 with the singing of its director-founder Domingo Vargas and the choir of Chelino y Ferrán (Panart 1695).  

aimless gale (Jose Dolores Quinones)

Celio González achieved one of the greatest successes of his career with this typical “victrola bolero” or “bolerón”, as Leonardo Acosta liked to describe these specimens of the genre with tremendous lyrics: “An aimless gale that you take away so many things from this world … ”. Then from Mexico he sang it in the 60's Javier Solís with ranchero clean and jerk and a few years later Héctor Téllez remembered him on a 45-revolution record that played the latest coin-operated automatic victrolas.

The hurricane (Manuel Saumel)

This is the title of one of his brief contradanzas that Frank Emilio included in 1962 in his first solo record production, Cuban dances (Egrem 3138). 

Cataclysm (Manuel Saumel)

Pura Ortiz dedicated to Saumell in 1975 her only album (Areito 3694) that does not include The hurricane; Also absent from the ten-inch long-play by Paquito Godino, released in 1956 with the first recordings of works by Saumell and Cervantes (Panart 4000). Both phonograms, on the other hand, contain the contradanza Cataclysm (either the cataclysm), who knows if dedicated to some forgotten meteorological phenomenon of the time of Don Manuel.

What the cyclone took me (Isidron Chanito) 

In 1985, a few days after Hurricane Kate passed, when the Line lights were still down, there were many fallen trees in El Vedado and the seawater had not completely receded from the streets near the boardwalk, I heard on the radio some joyful tenths of Chanito Isidrón in the voice of I do not remember which peasant interpreter, who related the inexorable decrease in the sexual potency of a veteran stallion with the march of the "meteor": What the cyclone took me. It is known that humor accompanies Cubans in the good and the worst. 


A playlist of Cuban music assorted with plots of cyclones, hurricanes and storms in general could stretch to reach, for example, Adalberto Álvarez and his Agua que cae del cielo, from the times of Son 14 with Tiburón Morales, revisited by Omara Portuondo in 1987 on her album with Adalberto y su Son (Areito 4071), and to Chachao López on his Rain, wind and cane, contained in Master Sessions Vol. I (Crescent Moon EK 64320) from 1994, already hurricanes, of Matanzas troubadour Tony Ávila, belonging to his phonogram Credentials, from 2012.

To conclude, as a nice television meteorologist, Mr. Lima, used to say goodbye to his daily report, I would like to share this wish, very appropriate for the season: "May the good weather be with you." 

Sigfredo Ariel (1962-2020). Author of twenty books of poems, guilty of intrusiveness in several other disciplines: plastic arts, scripts, journalism. Obsession: the fragile memory of Cuban music. More posts

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