Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro Cuban Son Havana, Cuba Formed in 1927 in Havana by the pioneering sonero Ignacio Piñeiro Martinez (1888-1969), the current iteration of the legendary Septeto Nacional represents the fourth generation of the band. Piñeiro’s musical innovations helped to transform a homegrown musical style, the Cuban son, and to bring it worldwide […]
- Cuban Son
- Havana, Cuba
Formed in 1927 in Havana by the pioneering sonero Ignacio Piñeiro Martinez (1888-1969), the current iteration of the legendary Septeto Nacional represents the fourth generation of the band. Piñeiro’s musical innovations helped to transform a homegrown musical style, the Cuban son, and to bring it worldwide popularity. The son is at the heart of Cuban musical tradition, the musical pulse of the island, and the predecessor to styles like salsa; in fact, many attribute the name “salsa” to one of Piñeiro’s songs, “Échale Salsita” (“Spice It Up”). Today, the band continues to delight audiences with classic sounds from the golden age of Cuban son, perpetuating the tradition that Piñeiro helped to shape.
Cuban son was born in the 1900s, when working class Afro-Cuban began to combine elements of the colonial Spanish canción guitar music with the African Bantu and Arará rhythms and percussion. The style matured in the 1920s as Havana became a cosmopolitan center, teeming with Americans looking to avoid Prohibition. These visitors included musicians who brought the hot, new American jazz, and then carried the music they heard in Cuba back to the States. The rise both the recording industry and radio broadcasting helped spread the sounds of son throughout Cuba, and establish its popularity and status as a preeminent national music. The continuing exchange of music between Cuba and the United States, especially with the big bands of the 1940s and 1950s, led to the development of the mambo, chachacha, and salsa.
While Ignacio Piñeiro made important contributions as a songwriter, it was his pioneering addition of the cornet (trumpet) to the Spanish guitars, African percussion, and multiple vocal harmonies that transformed the son and set the stage for its commercial success. He gained international acclaim when he signed with Columbia Records in 1927, just one year after he had played the Apollo Theater in New York. The music of Septeto Nacional took America by storm. The group appeared in various films and enjoyed constant radio play, building America’s fascination with Cuba’s music and dance. Despite its growing stateside successes, troubled U.S./Cuban relations led to Septeto Nacional being barred from returning to the country. Back home in Cuba, however, Piñeiro’s group continued to perform in its original style, taking on new members over the years, but remaining dedicated to preserving and continuing the classic sound.
Septeto Nacional’s celebrated return to the United States in 2009 marked a unique occurance: that of a musical group performing for U.S. audiences both before and after the Cuban travel embargo. In an interview with the New York Times in 2009, the band’s first trip to the United States in 76 years, Eugenio Rodríguez, Septeto Nacional’s lead singer and the oldest member of the current group relayed the band’s goals: “Our mission is to preserve the songs and the legacy of Ignacio Piñeiro…the contribution of the fourth generation has been to bring some new vigor and energy to that sound, which increases our enjoyment and that of our audience.”
Bio provided by the Richmond Folk Festival