Manuel Saumell: father of Cuban style music

Manuel Saumell: father of Cuban style music


By Alejandro Rodríguez Ruiz

Considered one of the greats in the history of Cuban music who has transcended borders and has distinguished it, Manuel Saumell Robredo is remembered as the father of Cuban musical nationalism.

Born on April 19, 1818 and died on August 14, 1870, in Havana, Saumell stood out in the composition of fifty counter dances, a European genre that arrived at the then Cuban colony, later enriched with the pecularities from Haiti through the immigrants who arrived here after the slave revolution in that territory.

From them, the Cuban creator put unmistakable accents of this island and gave them a new dimension. Due to his humble origins, he was self-taught, although in the course of his life -he began to compose at the age of 15- he managed to study with the outstanding teachers Juan Federico Edelmann, on the piano, and Mauricio Pyke, in harmony, counterpoint, fugue and instrumentation.

Creator, interpreter, teacher of the new generations, arranger ..., among the positions he held were that of president of the Music Section of the Santa Cecilia Philharmonic Society, of which he was founder of the Artistic and Literary Lyceum of Havana, an important promoter of the arts in Cuba.

He was also president of its Music Section, as well as member of the Santa Cristina Philharmonic Academy, whose founder was the relevant musician Antonio Raffelin. Musicologists point out among the elements that "made more creole" Saumell's contradanzas, the use of rhythmic figures of the Cuban triplet and cinquillo, in the genre of the habanera.

Even, a North American scholar of his work, points out that it is relevant in the specific indications of his scores, "with sandunga", shows his interest in Cubanizing the pieces.

Institutions linked to the teaching of music in Cuba today bear his name, among other tributes from national society to one of its cultural heroes.