For music lovers across the planet Cuban rhythms are like love at first sight, to the point where it is difficult for some to find words to express exactly what they experience with the sound of the instruments.
Numerous groups and soloists on the Island are responsible for this, putting their Cuban stamp on all their creations. This is certainly the case for celebrated band Elito Revé y su Charangón, who will celebrate sixty years of performance in 2016.
The band was founded in 1956 by maestro Elio Revé Matos in Cuba’s easternmost province of Guantanamo, and specializes in changüi, considered the mother of the son genre.
“My father brought changüi to Havana. He wanted to record an album with the American record company RCA Victor, and with the help of Benny Moré (1919-1963) he was able to achieve that,” group director Elio Revé Jr (Elito) told Cubaplus.
“Upon his arrival in Havana, he was also able to collaborate with Celia Cruz, Barbarito Diez, Peyo el Afrokan, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines, Rafael Lay and the Sonora Matancera group, among others.”
According to Elito, his father welcomed prestigious musicians to his band (popularly known as La Revé,) among them Juan Formell (1942- 1914) the creator of Los Van Van, who was the group’s bassist from 1967 to 1969.
With regards to the group’s well-deserved reputation for innovation, he added that other members of the group eventually included David Calzado, Moisés Valle (Yumurí), César “Pupy” Pedroso, and Juan Carlos Alfonso, among others.
“The band had such an impact that it would later give birth to groups such as Ritmo Oriental, Los Van Van, Dan Den, La 440, Pupy y Los que son son and Yumury y sus hermanos, among others,” he highlighted.
“Most of the musicians who have been part of La Revé describe it as magnificent, as it is essentially a school of Cuban dance music thanks to its founder, who unfortunately left us unexpectedly,” he said.
A New Phase Follows a Tragedy
1997 was a year that marked a new phase for the group when, following the tragic death of Revé Matos, his son Elito took over.
“I was very young when I joined the band,” says Revé. “I started playing the keyboard, became the group’s keyboardist, and after some time the pianist.”
“After Dad’s accident I decided that his legacy should live on and therefore during this period, in addition to the changüi, we worked with other artists, without foresaking the band’s musical concept,” he said.
“One example of this is the last record we made, with Sony Music Mexico as our producer, which Puerto Rican Gilberto Santa Rosa and Dominican Jose Alberto El Canario worked on. Other Cuban artists involved were Pablo Milanés, Israel Rojas, Haila María Mompié, Paulito FG, Mayito Rivera, Isaac Delgado, Juan Miguel Diaz Zayas (el Indio), Mandy Cantero, Sixto Llorente, Gente D’Zona and los Muñequitos de Matanzas.”
“The record, titled Mi salsa tiene mi son, is a collection of the main successes of 1990s and a tribute to the creator of the group. With this album we did a European tour from the 4th to the 23rd of November, performing in France, Spain, Italy, and other countries. It is thanks to the people of Cuba that we can do the yearly tour through the old continent, and thanks to the institutions and media on the island that have worked hard to keep up with changüi.”
“Our band, with great reception from the European market, also celebrates the stages it has shared with performers the likes of India Arie, Michael McDonald, Nancy Wilson, Beres Hammond, Cassandra Wilson and Bobby Womack, among others.”
According to Elito, this group has remained healthy throughout its 60 years. “There are not many groups that can stay young for that long.”
“Through Cubaplus, I’d like to express that Cuba represents a lot for me. Thanks to my people, this music has spread across the world,” points out the leader of Elito Revé y su Charangón.
“My father left me the band, which has a great story that is known throughout the world, and I decided to incorporate new elements to it without compromising its original musical concept; and,” he concludes, “here it is... rich and vibrant.”