By Jorge Navarro Torres.
Musician and author, Adalberto Álvarez Zayas (Havana-1948), is one the more faithful defenders of the most authentic Cuban rhythms: ‘el son’.
Although he was born in the capital of the Island, his life has been closely linked to the province of Camagüey, for he is considered a legitimate son of this land. His music is brimming with the most authentic Cubanhood, in a territory where the names Álvarez and Zayas are a patrimony of the arts.
Under the wing and warmth of his family, where he drank from a good and rich spring, he forged himself as a ‘sonero’ (1), seasoning his music with the legacy of the greatest such as Benny Moré, Arsenio Rodríguez, Félix Chapottín and Miguelito Cuní , and the contemporary ones: Frank Fernández and Francisco “Pancho” Amat with whom Álvarez has collaborated in several occasions.
At the beginning of 1970’s, he studied in the National School of Arts, and his classmates were important musicians that some years later would also reach the uppermost heights in Cuba’s musical panorama like José Luis Cortés, current conductor of the famous orchestra NG La Banda.
When the young Adalberto returned to Camagüey, apart from teaching at the Music Academy "José White", he began to work with the group “Avance Juvenil”, conducted by his father. In that group, he put into practice the knowledge and ideas he had learned in the capital.
During those days, he collaborated with one of the most popular bands of the moment, El Conjunto Rumbavana. Thanks to that collaboration, his scores “Con un besito” and “El Son de Adalberto”, also recorded by Venezuelan Oscar D' León, gained national and international recognition.
At the end of that decade, together with a group of friends he decided to found in Santiago de Cuba the ensemble ‘Son 14’, which invigorated the Cuban popular music.
Circa 1983 a new evolution occurred in the work of this musician when founded its own group, with which he was able to consolidate his position
as an exponent of the ‘son’ genre following the traditions of Arsenio Rodríguez and Félix Chappotín.
During those years, Adalberto composed rhythms which are considered patrimony of the Cuban music of all times, for instance: “A Bayamo en coche”, “El son de la madrugada”, and “Qué tu quieres que te den”, where the best of the international melodies fuses together with the Island’s autochthonous musical spectrum.
His songs are a kind of urban chronicles which are a reflex of the people’s lives in the cities, likely under the influence of his fellow countryman Nicolas Guillén (2), the poet who combined the letters with the sonorities of the ‘son’ music.
The influence of the Cuban trova and troubadours such as Sindo Garay, Manuel Corona, Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés play a paramount role in Adalberto’s creation, one example of that is the song “El fiel trovador”.
Aside from being a great musician, composer and singer, Adalberto Álvarez is a producer and tireless cultural promoter, basically he had made an amazing job in recovering and promoting the casino dance by the carrying out of a national contest.
Together with Juan Formell and "Chucho" Valdés, Adalberto makes a trilogy which is crucial in the Cuban music, for what he has contributed to the national art over the last 30 years, to unquestionably become a classic of the 20th century.
Note of the translator
(1) sonero: the one who performs the son music
(2) Nicolás Guillén: Cuba's National Poet (Camagüey July 10, 1902 - Havana July 17, 1989)