Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.
Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

Playlist: old records with storms and cyclones

12 minutes / Sigfredo Ariel

18.09.2020 / Playlists

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. 

El ciclón (Alberto Villalón)

Performed by Regino López, Adolfo Colombo and Pilar Jiménez in March 1907 for the Victor firm (Vi68532), it is probably the first print of Cuban phonography with sung words that testifies to the passing through the Island of a “meteor”, as they say lately. It is a hasty “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 with considerable success. Also under the title El Ciclon, another record, dated October 1915, appears in the old Victor catalogs of a "dialogue-song" signed by Alberto Villalón and performed by Colombo and the actress Consuelo Novoa, accompanied by the author at the guitar (Vi69090).

La tormenta (Oscar Hernández)

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

Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

Illustration: Roman Alsina / Magazine AM: PM.

Se perdió mi Cuba (Manuel Corona)

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.

El chivo suelto (Antonio Morejón)

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). 


Cuan destino tan fatal

te persigue patria mía.

Aquí llorando noche y día

más aumenta mi pesar.

Desventuras sin igual,

no se han visto con razón

porque después del ciclón.

los chivos en la sabana

han convertido a La Habana

en clásico chilindrón.

El huracán y la palma (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 El huracán y la palma is that of the duo of María Teresa Vera and Lorenzo Hierrezuelo, performed at the request of María Teresa Linares around 1961 and published years later in the third volume of the album series La Traditional Cuban Song (Areito 3388). I have listened to another version of María Teresa y Lorenzo, taken from old archives of 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:


Silbaron los pinos auxilio siniestro.
Los cedros tranquilos esperan dolor.
La ceiba frondosa temblando sonríe.
La yerba en el llano sumisa a morir.


Pero hay una palma que Dios solamente
le dijo al cubano: cultiva su amor
que erguida y valiente con blando capullo
que sirve de espada, doblada hacia el suelo,
besando la tierra batió al huracán
batió al huracán

batió al huracán.

A more recent version of El huracán y la palma appears in 20 Songs by Sindo Garay of the duo Voces del Caney with Sarvelio Montero's guitar, a 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.

Recuerdos del Valbanera (Miguel Puertas Salgado)

Miguel Puertas Salgado, called "The Villareño minstrel of the pilgrim lute", left two sides of the record printed for Columbia in 1920 with the title Recuerdos del Valbanera (C3943), with six tenths lamenting the loss in the Florida Strait of Spanish ocean liner named in honor of the Virgin of Valvanera. 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 Valbanera:


Pasó el ciclón mar afuera,

no se siente ni un rumor

del pasar de ese vapor

ni hubo uno que lo viera.

El pueblo se desespera,

la tristeza es sin igual.

El silencio es sepulcral

pues noticias no se tienen.

Los amigos se detienen

al ver el ciclón pasar.


Ciclón (Jorge Anckermann)

One of the great box office successes of the Alhambra Theater was the Cuban zarzuela La Isla de las Cotorras, with a libretto by Federico Villoch and music by Jorge Anckermann, premiered on February 23, 1923. Called "sainete-magazine in one act", the The play 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 industrious maestro Anckermann, who for more than two decades directed the Alhambra orchestra, a score that is entitled Cyclone, currently in the archives of the National Museum of Music .

The scene of the hurricane of La Isla de las Cotorras was recreated briefly in a sequence of La bella del Alhambra, by Enrique Pineda Barnet in 1989, and included in the long-playing album that Egrem published with the soundtrack of the film, which featured with orchestral arrangements by Mario Romeu on the original scores.

El Trío y el ciclón (Miguel Matamoros)

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.

La primera grabación de El Trío y el ciclón, compuesta por Matamoros a partir de lo vivido por ellos durante el meteoro en Santo Domingo, e identificada como bolero son, fue realizada por el Trío en La Habana del 23 de febrero de 1931 aunque su versión más difundida es la que apareció originalmente en el disco de larga duración “El último LP del Trío Matamoros” (LPV 1061), grabado por la firma cubana Velvet en los estudios de Radio Progreso y publicado en 1960. Ramón “Mongo” Huerta tuvo a su cargo la guitarra prima.

Esto fue lo más sabroso
que el Trío en un aeroplano
volviera a suelo cubano
para seguir venturoso.

Cada vez que me acuerdo del ciclón
se me enferma el corazón.

Aquí termina la historia
de tan tremendo ciclón,
los muertos van a la Gloria
y los vivos a bailar el son.


Que te lleve un ciclón (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. 

Los tres Juanes (Bienvenido Julián Gutiérrez)

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

El cielo tenebroso (Bienvenido Julián Gutiérrez)

On the same plate Sones de yesterday from 1958 is this bolero son, which shares with Los tres Juanes an argument of inclement weather and celestial intervention, although it concludes with an enigmatic montuno:

El cielo tenebroso

amenazaba estallar

la horrible tormenta 

de mi triste final 

pero un ángel velaba

el momento fatal

y entonces las nubes

tristes huyeron

ante mi lealtad.


Alabao sea Dios, 

mi compadre me quiere 

llevar la mujer.

Ciclón (José 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).  

Vendaval sin rumbo (José Dolores Quiñones)

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.

El huracán (Manuel Saumell)

Así se titula una de sus breves contradanzas que Frank Emilio incluyó en 1962 en su primera producción discográfica en solitario, Danzas cubanas (Egrem 3138). 

Cataclismo (Manuel Saumell)

Pura Ortiz dedicated to Saumell in 1975 his only album (Areito 3694) that does not include El huracán; also absent from the long ten-inch length 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 Cataclismo (or The cataclysm), who knows if it is dedicated to some forgotten meteorological phenomenon from the time of Don Manuel.

Lo que me llevó el ciclón (Chanito Isidrón) 

In 1985, a few days after Hurricane Kate, when Línea's lights were still down, there were many fallen trees in El Vedado and the seawater had not completely withdrawn from the streets near the boardwalk, I heard some on the radio. exhilarated tenths of Chanito Isidrón in the voice of I don't remember which guajiro interpreter, who related the inexorable decrease in the sexual power of a veteran stallion with the march of the "meteor": What the cyclone took me. Humor is known to accompany Cubans through thick and thin.


A playlist of Cuban music assorted with plots of cyclones, hurricanes and storms in general could be stretched to reach, for example, Adalberto Álvarez and his Agua que falls del cielo, from the times of Son 14 with Tiburon Morales, revisited by Omara Portuondo in 1987 in his album with Adalberto y su Son (Areito 4071), and Chachao López in his Lluvia, viento y caña, contained in Master Sessions Vol. I (Crescent Moon EK 64320) of 1994, and Huracanes, by the Matancero troubadour Tony Ávila, belonging to his phonogram Credenciales, 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). Autor de veinte libros de poemas, culpable de intrusismo en varias otras disciplinas: artes plásticas, guiones, periodismo. Obsesión: la frágil memoria de la música cubana.

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