Fifteen fiftieth anniversary records of the Egrem. Image: María José Sardiñas.

Fifteen fiftieth anniversary records of the Egrem

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By Jorge Rodríguez y Rafael Valdivia

In this decade that is almost over, a group of memorable albums recorded at Areito Studios of Egrem have turned 50. Unfortunately, these anniversaries have gone unnoticed and little has been remembered of all these albums meant in a decade as interesting and unique as the 60s of the last century. We speak specifically of phonograms recorded between 1961 and 1969.

From the first recordings of artists such as Chucho Valdés or Los Zafiros, to the entrance of the Mozambique rhythm with Pello El Afrokán, through the imprint left by artists such as Elena Burke, Celeste Mendoza or the Meme Solís Quartet —to name just three of them—, the number of important recordings, for various reasons, is significant.

We do not intend to make a finished or exclusive list of what we consider to be the best albums of that time. We only want to expose and remember part of them, let's not lose sight of the fact that the album itself is more than a musical medium, it is also a document and memory, which must always be returned at some point in our lives.

Below, we present a selection of 15 representative phonograms of various genres and artists that made significant contributions to our culture.

Cover of the album Gina canta en el Capri.
Cover of the album Gina canta en el Capri.

Gina canta en el Capri, by Gina León (INC-1011) 

Recorded in 1962 for the National Printing press and with a photograph by Alberto Korda, it reflects what this artist's show meant at the Capri hotel in Havana's Vedado, where she came to fully take over that stage. Aléjate you can say that it was the hit par excellence that marked this artist and this album.

Cover of the album Grupo Cubano de Música Música Moderna.
Cover of the album Grupo Cubano de Música Música Moderna.

Grupo Cubano de Música Moderna, by Frank Emilio, Tata Güines, Papito Hernández, Gustavo Tamayo, Guillermo Barreto  y Roberto Valdés (LD-3103)

Una suerte de todos estrellas: Frank Emilio (piano), Tata Güines (tumbadoras), Papito Hernández (bajo), Gustavo Tamayo (güiro), Guillermo Barreto (drums) y Roberto Valdés (bongó). Contiene éxitos como Scherezada cha cha cha. Grabado en 1962, el disco es una suerte de “descarga” en la misma órbita de Cachao y sus descargas cubanas, más allá de los músicos en común entre ambos proyectos.

Cover of the album Otro amanecer.
Cover of the album Otro amanecer.

Otro amanecer, by Cuarteto de Meme Solís (LD-3188) 

If something is remembered of the 60s in Cuba, it is the golden age of vocal quartets. Once again it does not matter that the format or certain fashion comes to us by foreign influence; musicians like Meme Solís are able to appropriate multiple codes, regardless of their origin, and bring us back an expression as Cuban as it is beautifully complex. Los Meme Quartet: a new way to harmonize four voices led to a higher rung.

Cover of the album Música de Cuba.
Cover of the album Música de Cuba.

Música de Cuba, by Los Van Van (LD-3320) 

The beginning of a legend that reaches today. This first album of Los Van Van can be seen as one of the doors of entry to the musical revolution of the 70s on the Island. Despite having spent five decades, in this album inhabit the conceptual approaches deployed by Juan Formell with his musicians , which would unfold throughout all these years, while maintaining an amazing coherence and a permanent capacity for renewal.

Cover of the album La Guarapachanga.
Cover of the album La Guarapachanga.

La Guarapachanga, by Conjunto Chappottín y sus Estrellas (LD-3126) 

Although the splendor of the conjuntos took place during the 40s and 50s, El Conjunto Chappottín still enjoyed great popularity and demand in the popular dance of the 60s. La Guarapachanga, Camina y prende el fogón and Quítate el chaquetón would be safely as some of the the most danced pieces in these years. Miguelito Cuní, Conrado Cepero and Udaberto Fresneda participated in the voices.

Cover of the album José A. Méndez.
Cover of the album José A. Méndez.

José A. Méndez, by José Antonio Méndez y Frank Emilio's combo (LD-3136) 

A deluxe combination. If the decade of the 60 is the full consummation of the filin, now nothing would prevent the "King", already back to Havana, combine with two monsters like Frank Emilio and Rafael Somavilla, the first with his combo and the second directing, as on many other occasions, an orchestra of strings and jazz.

Cover of the album Elena.
Cover of the album Elena.

Elena, by Elena Burke (LD-3297) 

Grabado en 1968 con el acompañamiento de la Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna y bajo la dirección de Rafael Somavilla, este es uno de los discos más emblemáticos de Elena Burke. No obstante ser una intérprete ya establecida para ese entonces, la Señora Sentimiento decidió grabar seis temas (de los 12 que posee el álbum) de la autoría de Juan Formell, a quien ya reconocería, con toda su juventud, como un gran compositor. De mis recuerdos and Lo material no solo conforman el cancionero cubano sino que forman parte del repertorio de numerosos intérpretes actuales.

Cover of the album Aquí, el guaguancó.
Cover of the album Aquí, el guaguancó.

Aquí, el guaguancó, by Celeste Mendoza (LD-3174)  

With the accompaniment of the Orquesta de Jazz - directed by Rafael Somavilla and Roberto Puentes - and the Coro Cubano Folclórico de Guaguancó, this album, recorded in 1965, reaffirmed Celeste Mendoza in her empire of the guaguancó. Two compositions by Ignacio Piñeiro would stand out in this phonogram: Papá Oggún and Sobre una tumba una rumba.

Cover of the album Los Zafiros.
Cover of the album Los Zafiros.

Los Zafiros, by Los Zafiros (LD- 3118) 

Recorded in 1963 under the direction of Néstor Milí, it is the first LD of the quartet. Only La caminadora and Hermosa Habana would have been enough to leave a mark, but what happened with Los Zafiros was an explosion of popularity. Together with the Meme Solís quartet, they were the most popular in this format during that time.

Cover of the album Pianoforte I.
Cover of the album Pianoforte I.

Pianoforte I, by Adolfo Guzmán, Frank Emilio and Pedro Justiz (LD-3142); and II, by Chucho Valdés, Felo Bergaza and Rafael Somavilla (LD-3186)

The piano's heavy weights are found here. In the first, Adolfo Guzmán, Frank Emilio and Pedro Justiz (Peruchín) agree, while in the second, Chucho Valdés, Felo Bergaza and Rafael Somavilla do. Different styles, different personalities that are expressed here in different ways through interpretation, composition and arrangements.

Cover of the album Descarga.
Cover of the album Descarga.

Descarga, by Jesús Valdés and his Combo I y II (LD-3146 y LD-3163)

The first LDs of Chucho Valdés, already considered at that time a musical phenomenon with only 23 years. The second contains the first recording of Mambo influenciado. Both would open the doors to the subsequent explosion that would be the Irakere phenomenon.

Cover of the album Arrímate pa’ cá.
Cover of the album Arrímate pa’ cá.

Arrímate pa’ cá, by Juanito Márquez and his combo (LD-3154)  

Great musician and orchestrator, Juanito Márquez bequeathed us a beautiful album with very subtlety arrangements, conceived from the guitar and for it. It is said that the name of the rhythm pa' cá is due to the theme that gives title to this same album and that, next to the pylon, dengue and Mozambique, colored the tracks and feet of the dancers of the decade. It contains a beautiful version of La comparsa, in addition to Llavimaso, which is nothing more than Somavilla, the last name of another great but with the syllables in reverse order.

Cover of the album Orquesta Aragón.
Cover of the album Orquesta Aragón.

Orquesta Aragón, by Orquesta Aragón (LD-3183)

The first album made by the Egrem to the "Eternal Charanga". Beyond the indisputable excellence of Aragon, we can say that LDs like this one showed artistic cover designs that raised the concept of it to unprecedented levels, given that before and even after this decade of the 60s, they would be limited to a photograph, simple denotation of the interpreter or some simple context. The design of this LD was carried out by Roberto Quintana, who also made those of Jesús Valdés and his Combo. Popular songs on this album were: Calle 22, Arrímate pa' cá and Caserita villareña.

Cover of the album Guapachá, el mejor.
Cover of the album Guapachá, el mejor.

Guapachá, el mejor, by Amado Borcelá (LD-3171) 

One of the great myths of Cuban music: Amado Borcelá (Guapachá). Overflowing musicality, shouting, scat, onomatopoeia. The universe of bop installed in a Cuban with a very native voice. There has not been an equal scatter on the Island. This was his only LD recorded. He was accompanied by the combo of Chucho Valdés.

Cover of the album Mozambique.
Cover of the album Mozambique.

Mozambique, by Pello El Afrokán (LD-3187) 

Controversial the 60s, controversial Mozambique. It is the album of María Caracoles, the theme par excellence of the genre. It was inevitable that this rhythm won the popular favor: the attractiveness of a set of drums without skimping on performers, the ecstasy of leather, stylized model-dancers; during the 60s everything could be mixed, beyond music. Everything became Mozambique.

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