Each show has an impact - it wins you over. With a career that has lasted more than three quarters of a century, the Orquesta Aragón (Aragón Orchestra) still fills arenas and nightclubs with fans of all ages who come to enjoy the concert, singing along and dancing to the band’s most popular hits.
It is amazing to see how younger fans insist on songs such as Pare, cochero (Stop, Coachman) and Cero codazos y cabezazos (Zero nudging and headbutting), which made the national hit parade in 1954. Without going any further, their latest album, which has just begun being marketed, has songs such as Noche azul (Blue Night) and Suavecito (Smoothly). The album is titled Aragoneando and has the novelty of guest artists; singers like Bárbara Llanes, Leo Vera and Yumurí, as well as Roberto García’s trumpet and René Llanes’ flute; all of them stars.
Rafael Lay Bravo, Aragón’s director, doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells CubaPlus that the reason for the band’s success and key to its entrenchment is the fact that the orchestra keeps on top of what is happening in the music scene and knows how to select its repertoire. Meanwhile the band does not neglect the form in which it plays its music, a hit with dancers. It is “la charanga eternal” (the eternal charanga), as one of their albums is titled and nominated at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2002.
In 1980, at just 21 years old, Lay Bravo joined the band as violinist, then led by his father, violinist and composer Rafael Lay Apesteguía. In 1982 his father died in a road accident, along with another no less legendary musician, flutist Richard Egües, author of El bodeguero (The Grocer), which, sung by Nat King Cole, became the first chachacha to travel the world.
In 1984 Egües left the band, saying he wanted to retire. He then founded his own group and it was collectively decided that Lay Bravo would be its director.
It was like taking in new blood and at the same time, Lay Bravo managed to keep experienced musicians working with him. He seemed to follow in his father’s footsteps, who joined the group when he was only 13, and it did not take him long before being appointed as the band’s first violinist; he would later become its director at 21 years old, when he had to retire from playing due to illness.
Lay Bravo, composer? He is, indeed. Songs like Agradecido soy (I am Grateful), Mi son en clave (My ‘son’ in key) and Tú eres un caso (You are a “case”), and fifteen others, have brought him much satisfaction. More than composing, he is interested in working with the song arrangements that will become part of his orchestra’s repertoire, with the sonority that characterizes Aragón, a band that has not only survived the test of time but has managed to keep moving in the right direction to win over an audience that is constantly changing. “That is why we live on,” emphasizes Rafael Lay Bravo, director of the Aragón Orchestra.