Tiraderas: popular dance music in the 90s
With its timba boom, the 90s of the 20th century witnessed a strong bid for popular favor through various confrontations between orchestras, and even on a personal level, between some musicians, with the singers being the most frequent protagonists of these episodes. .
At the beginning of that decade Los Van Van was the number one group, indisputably recognized by the public. But, as on occasions before and after that period, he would have to dispute his reign on the field with other emerging orchestras that, at times, surpassed Juan Formell's troupe in popularity.
If in the 1970s La Ritmo Oriental tightened the screws on the “train”, and at the end of the 1980s La Revé and NG La Banda threatened to steal the show, in the 1990s it emerged —with unusual strength and a great package of compositions— The Dan Den of Juan Carlos Alfonso. The three-year period 1990-1992 witnessed an uninterrupted chain of hits which would be reflected, shortly after this group was founded, in a close and controversial struggle for the 1990 Girasol de Opina Award between Los Van Van and El Dan Den.
It is difficult for a composer or conductor to openly admit that a specific theme is intended to criticize, minimize or dump to another group. Nevertheless, This is good, vanvanera composition of Cesar puppy Pedroso, at the time was considered by part of the public as a song aimed at the Dan Den boys; "...it's not bad, that's good / but it's not new, nor original", Said a fragment of the lyrics sung by Pedrito Calvo, as if to establish the difference between popularity and originality, marked by the authority of whoever came first. And, as if that were not enough, adding the morbidity of other arguments: “sweetheart, you have a lot to learn / in this way it can't be / for so long and you didn't learn / you repeated yourself, what a situation / if you want I'll teach you / Well, I'm still the one who taught you."
The montuno of this theme would come to point out the Formellian philosophy and strategy in its long distance race, reminding us that the matter is not to arrive but to stay. "That's fine, that's good, but now how do you support yourself?"
In line with the responses that became fashionable in previous times, the 90s also witnessed compositions that, on some occasions, would be interpreted as a riposte, although they resorted, as much as the first ones, to the figure of the woman as the supposed recipient of a message that the experienced perceived addressed to other subjects. At least that's how it was understood by some. Don't get angry, by Juan Carlos Alfonso, as a sort of response to This is good.
“If it's about not treating me, what am I going to do, you're going to lose, I don't want to mistreat you… If you imagine that without looking at me, I think of you, I die for you, I think you failed; if you walk away from my side, that's where you stayed, living your past. If over the years everything seems to favor Los Van Van, in the heat of that moment the conflict of visions between an established group and an emerging one was a logical event, a typical contradiction of vital dialectics. Nor would it be the only one to star in Los Van Van. At the moment, the leader of Dan Den was trying to solve it with a simple montuno in the usual way and a short chorus that said: "Don't get mad, compay", to later slip a guide by way of clarification: "I'm not of lineage , I am not of lineage, but I support myself with what I have”.
Dan Den would star in another case of rivalry in don't miss me —in which a choir accompanying a timpani solo would add more spice to the matter— which was supposed to be aimed at the Orquesta Revé, a group that had also been a starting point for Juan Carlos Alfonso and the new sonority that the pianist was trying to formulate.
Already in the middle of the decade, the dizzying rise of Manolín El Médico de la Salsa brought with it a succession of chucks triggered by several orchestras due to the undisputed success of that one, but, above all, for having conferred on himself the title of “King”, as the chorus of his composition said The ball: “And now I am the king, if you like it fine, and if not too”. Although the rivalry between Paulo FG and Manolín was developing little by little, the best known confrontation is one that was recorded as part of a live recording at El Palacio de la Salsa and that both resolved in a humorous tone for mutual benefit.
Claiming on his own initiative "the reign" of Cuban music in those years could not, however, leave indifferent two other heavyweights like NG La Banda and, once again, Los Van Van. Mario Rivera mayito, the sonero par excellence of the Formell train, in I'm everything, sentenced in one of his inspirations: “look, the time has come for you to analyze your law well / you say you are the king, show me the crown”. Meanwhile, Jose Luis Cortes the coarse, who was already considered one of the fathers of what was happening in the Timbo environment, was motivated by so much dump and, in keeping with the overuse of “los coritos”, it occurred to him to add to one of his songs: “I don't want a mess, I'm not in anything, I'm the judge”, as someone who perceives himself above events.
In order not to get stuck and add more firewood to the matter, Manolín, in tune with the pulse he established with Paulo FG, but extending it to everyone who wanted to be alluded to, decided to add a choir in the body of The ball that would not be recorded on records: “I'm leaving but I'll be back soon / I'm leaving and I don't want an invention / and when I come back I don't want intrigue / guajacones, pa' la costa”, last verse that is a loan from one of the songs by Arsenio Rodriguez, who had also poured into his songs more than one expression of rivalry. At another point, Manolín decided to accuse his opponents of losing their creative faculties, where he himself seemed to feel strong, saying in a chorus: “and they forgot to compose / and they started telling me things / they fell into the trap!” .
La Charanga Habanera de David Calzado did not remain indifferent to these events either, and sought in the same way a kind of self-reaffirmation by questioning an anonymous subject, which a part of the public came to interpret as Manolín, reminding him that his enjoyment, fun and "zorreo" were given because he remained in Cuba while "the blacks" of La Charanga had taken over the airport, according to a Mayito parliament The international Parasol: "You're taking advantage because you don't screw up / it's not easy what's proposed: / that La Charanga is on top of the plane / that La Charanga is on top of Cubana", was the main chorus of The plane, a composition that David Calzado decided not to include in the phonograms of those years, but which was played live.
Precisely, the breakup of the band's musicians (except Michel Maza) with David Calzado in 1998, which gave rise to La Charanga Forever, caused a song like The Charanga is me. The dispute over the originality and authenticity of each project maintained the confrontation for some years. A few months after the split, in the chorus of this song, the guys from Forever said: “Havana knows that, or you already forgot / the people keep shouting, that La Charanga is me”.
Pedro Leonel Polledo, a trumpeter who became a kind of entertainer/agitator since the previous stage with Calzado, would begin to slip the usual "pullas", which are nothing more than another of the faces of the rivalry and the dump among the musicians. “I met you in keeled pants, and now you have thirty jeans,” Polledo said, in a conversational tone while the choir sang: “You forget, you don't remember, that when you were little, I wound you up”.
In short, the popular dance music of the time recorded multiple cases of direct and frontal rivalry between singers from different groups. Possibly Paulo FG has been during this decade one of the most challenged and persecuted. Everything seems to indicate that his way of facing the song, with a very particular phrasing, together with his gestures and appearance of dandy, newcomer to an environment dominated by several consecrated in another type of school, it earned him sustained rebuke for several years.
The episode that has transcended the most in this regard is that of the download of improvisers in the program my sauce along with several established soneros, in which he was practically the victim of a trap. However, coinciding with live performances of other groups as a spectator, and even before forming La Elite, Paulito used to be required live before the public, as happened during a presentation of Adalberto Álvarez y su Son in El Salón Rosado of the Tropical. Héctor Valentín, sonero with a powerful voice and one of the best singers of his generation, at that time a member of the front line of that group, saw fit to extend one of those challenges from the stage to Paulo, who had been identified in the audience , as stated by Félix Santiago, former singer of Dan Den, an eyewitness to the event and a source consulted for this work.
In any case, Paulo FG, whose career shows one of the happiest, most persevering and successful growths experienced among the singers of those years, also evidenced the differences that at that time were settled around the established sonorities and those of a new type that they were brewing.
Many of these rivalries between singers, as we have mentioned, were not recorded on recordings and, over time, they faded. Some have fallen into oblivion and others have been disappearing, giving rise to true ties of personal friendship and professional ties. The Team Cuba project was the appropriate space for these approaches. However, beyond the personalisms, all of them, in one way or another, reflect the pulse that fashionable, exultant Cuban music came to have in the decade, and that even with the passage of time, seems to come to grips with his own stagnation.
*This text is the result of an alliance between Magazine AM:PM and the touch.