CubaPLUS Magazine

Omara Portuondo, A Much Deserved Grammy

By: Pedro Quiroga Jimenez / Photos by Ismael Francisco and Royal Ballet Archives
Omara Portuondo, A Much Deserved Grammy

Sixty years of artistic life have been crowned with a Latin Grammy and her CD Gracias has been nominated for a 2010 Grammy.

Omara Portuondo, A Much Deserved GrammyFamous as Novia del Filin (the Bride of Feeling), Cuban singer Omara Portuondo received a Latin Grammy award in the Best Album/Tropical Music category for Gracias, which, for her, had the added pleasure of acknowledging the music of her country.

"I am honored to receive this award on behalf of Cuba, for all Cuban musicians and all those involved in the culture of this country," Omara stated in an exclusive interview with CubaPlus.

"These awards reflect the importance music has in culture, which is a symbol of the Latin-American culture, and particularly ours."

For over an hour, on the magnificent terrace of the Hotel Nacionalin Havana, the famous singer talked about her beginnings, her plans and her performances in numerous countries on all continents.

"I started very early, when I was barely 8 years old my father taught me songs and I would dance to them; I loved listening to radio music programs, and I sang in the school choir" she reminisced.

"But let me clarify something: I started when I was very young, because I was born with the "gift" to become an artist; apparently my parents' vision has come true."

"I began singing as an amateur on musical programs, but I later I sang filin (feeling, a Cuban version of Bossa Nova with American jazz influences) with important Cuban musicians like César Portillo de la Luz and Frank Emilio Flynn."

"I became a member of Orlando de la Rosa's vocal quartet, recommended by the prestigious Cuban singer Elena Bourke. Elena, Moraima Secada, my sister Haydee and I began the Las D'Aida Quartet on August 16, 1952."

Omara Portuondo, A Much Deserved Grammy"This quartet made history. Quartets were all the rage in the 1950s and 60s, and ours became famous. Can you imagine? Four young black girls with good voices, a good repertoire, and the magnificent musical arrangement of our director Aida Diestro, became the perfect formula."

"After 15 years with the group" she adds, "I began my solo career and represented Cuba at numerous European festivals and participated in international shows with well known Cuban singers and bands".

The Buenavista Social Club project, produced by World Circuit, an album with incredible audience reception, became very important in Omarás artistic life. She shared the stage with the "four jewels of the Buenavista Social Club": Cuban musicians Rubén González, Orlando "Cachaíto" López, Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal and Jesús Ramos.

"This project" says Omara "brought us incredible success and the possibility of putting our music and the quality of our musicians before the world. Special for me was the privilege of sharing the stage with Compay Segundo, a legend in Cuban music".

She mentioned that her performance at the 2007 Luminato Fest ivalin Toronto was a wonderful experience; the Canadian audiences were respectful and charming, and she would love to sing for them again.

On her plans for 2010: "to continue working for my public."

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