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Cuban Music Lesson: La Sonora Matancera

Get ready to be schooled, asere. It’s time for a Cuban music lesson! Learn to tell your cha cha cha from your mambo without leaving your couch. Put on your dancing shoes, guayaberas, park your 57 Chevy, light up that Habano, and pay attention.

We feel sorry for groups that have a breakout star. What started as a small band of musicians, becomes a vehicle for one person’s stardom. Where would Michael Jackson have been without Tito? Gloria Estefan started out as the singer of The Miami Sound Machine, before they became Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine, and finally just Gloria Estefan. A similar thing happened to La Sonora Matancera, the Guinness Book of World Record’s holder for the group with the longest duration.

La Sonora Matancera was formed in Havana in the 1920’s by Valentin Cané, who was a respected bandleader. He formed a killer band that featured a harmonic arrangement of trumpets. Many music nerds and writers think that any group, regardless of country, with the word “sonora” in their name must preserve a similar trumpet sound. Not that anyone listens much to music nerds. They are too picky and their breath smells like Cheetos and virginity. La Sonora Matancera became one of the premier bands in Cuba and began touring all over Latin America and the States. They had a rotating lineup of singers including Daniel Pinedo, Rita Montaner, and Manuel Diaz Alonso. Then, in the 1940’s they discovered a young singer named Celia Cruz, and well…she became CELIA CRUZ. Azucar!

Celia was a living legend by the time she was in her late twenties in the fifties. When Castro came to power in 1959, Celia Cruz y La Sonora Matancera were on tour in the U.S. They quickly saw which way the beard was blowing and decided to stay in the United States. The members of La Sonora moved to New York where they participated in the creation of what would become Salsa. Recent Cuban immigrants and Puerto Rican musicians got together and fused American music with their own to make a tasty mix. Celia became “La Reina De La Salsa”, and La Sonora became her back-up band. She always gave props to La Sonora for the great band they are and for having discovered her, but her fame was just too big and eclipsed theirs. After Celia died in 2003, the band continued. Though none of the original members are left, there are members in the group that have been around since the fifties and sixties. We fully believe that in the year 2742 La Sonora Matancera will be playing at a salsa club on the planet Umacron-5 along with a hologram of Celia Cruz.

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