Septeto Santiaguero, a quarter century of good music
BY MARTA CABRALES, PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE GROUP
The first national tour last June of the Septeto Santiaguero confirmed that with them geographical fatalism is irrelevant, that which suggests Cuban artists who stay in their home area are excluded from popularity among Cubans.
This was expressed by director Fernando Dewar referring to the performances made to packed theaters and music houses in an initial phase in the provinces of Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, to continue in the east of the island from September.
This success has not been limited to the national borders, but has transcended borders and reached about 35 countries, in Latin America and Europe, where its contagious chords have got people of very diverse idiosyncrasies to dance.
The career has been dizzying; they were nominated for the Grammy Awards in 2011 and 2013, with their albums Oye mi son santiaguero and Vamos pa ‘la fiesta, while in 2015 they scooped the Latin award with No quiero llanto -Tribute to the Compadres and they were included for the Anglo-Saxon award.
After five consecutive nominations, the Septet rose again with the Latin Grammy in 2018, with its A mi que -Tribute to the Cuban classics, in which they collaborated again with the Dominican José Alberto El Canario and other prominent figures of music in Latin America. Among those foreign and Cuban personalities have been Gilberto Santa Rosa, Rubén Blades, Pancho Céspedes, Edwin Colón and Krency García “El Prodigio”, along with Cuba’s Alexander Abreu, Orlando Valle “Maraca”, Eliades Ochoa and several artists and groups from Santiago.
In the still brief trajectory of the Septet, what stands out is its inclusion for the first time, as a result of winning the second despite the Grammy in the cast of the awards gala in the city Las Vegas, among numerous artists.
As they journey through numerous cities in the United States, Santiago’s musicians have demonstrated their lineage, just as they have done in renowned venues such as the Lehman Center and Lincoln Center, in New York, as well as in the Global Fest event, in that city, and that of jazz of New Orleans.
In the same way, they have received commendable reviews in newspapers such as The New York Times and on American radio and television, as well as topping digital music sites around the world.
Also significant have been the awards from Cubadisco, the main record fair in the country, where the work presented stands up to defend the sound heritage of the nation.
Essential musicians of the Cuban scene parade through the sound productions of the Septeto, from Miguel Matamoros, Arsenio Rodríguez, Ignacio Piñeiro, Ñico Saquito and Sindo Garay to Adalberto Álvarez, Juan Formell and Pablo Milanés, among other greats.
For now, until February 2020, the group is inspired by the celebration of its 25 years, for which it is preparing its record number 11, which will feature mainly son and other traditional genres, but with more modern arrangements that allow them to connect with a young audience.
Other new features will be a web page, a documentary and a book that will track these five years, together with the opening of its headquarters in a central location in the eastern city.
From the virtuosity of their interpretations, which convince demanding juries and the public, one concludes that there is a rigorous academic background behind them, but in reality an extraordinary passion for music prevails among them that has led their talents to constant success.
Therein lies one of the keys to their successes, combined with the “santiagueridad”, that loyal allegiance to the city that saw them emerge and from whose cultural wealth they constantly feed.