22.12.17 : Happy birthday Reve & La Ruñidera

Good day dear friends, blog followers, readers and listeners.

2017 draws to a close, so it is the time for some nice educational content 🙂
For today I originally wanted to focus one one thing, but after digging into it I stumbled remembered a request for a specific subject from a friend, and decided that this would be a good opportunity to combine the two.

So, first thing first – tomorrow, Decembre 23rd, is the birthday of one of the most important and influential personas in contemporary Cuban music – Elio Reve Matos!
(By the way, a common mistake is to date his birthday to July 23rd of the same year; this is wrong – the confusion comes from the fact that soon after Elio’s birth, his family moved to a different city in Guantanamo, and thus his father registered his birth at the town hall of their new place of residence after the move, which happened to be later that year) .

So, I was planning an article about the Orchestra… but considering the fact that I have already written one before, and that I received a request to write about a specific song, which most people today recognize by it’s Orquesta Reve version, I will now be addressing this “issue” – La Ruñidera.

Are you familiar with this classic of Cuban music?
You should be, as cover versions exist in abundance, by many different artist from Santiago de Cuba to Nueva York and beyond…

So, first, what does “Ruñidera” mean?
As with many such words we often come across in Cuban music, this is a term from Cuban street slang, dating back to as far as the early XX century or even the late XIX century, a time when dancing was becoming a popular pass time for more and more people in Cuba, as opposed to only the higher and higher-middle classes, as it was before.
Also, this was a time when Afro Cuban culture was slowly beginning to sip into the mainstream, especially through the fields of music and dance, and many new genres were being born, such as Son and the various genres of Rumba.

Ruñidera comes from those times, and means “the time on the dance floor when a very popular song comes on, and everybody comes to dance” and can also mean “a dance-out, an informal dance (or musical) competition held at a dance venue or on the street”.
Which ever came first (the 1st one is more common, though), both terms reflect the phenomenon of an emergence of a popular dance culture at that time.

So, was this song written in new york, at the times of the inception of “salsa” music during the 1970’s? or maybe written and composed by the great Elio Reve during the 1980’s?
No and no yet again!

This song, like many other well known and much beloved composition, comes from much earlier, and started it’s life as an early Son Montuno, with some artists at the time performing it as a traditional son, as well.

Written and composed by Alejandro Rodriguez in late 1931 for Cuarteto Machin, it was performed in 1932 by Machin and also by Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro, with the later contributing a lot to the compositions’ popularization, as it was one of the more prominent ensembles of its time.

Machins’ version is a classical Son in the urban, Habana, style

And the one by the Septeto is an early Son Montuno, from the times before the genre was even formalized or defined!

Both are quite beautiful, aren’t they?
But these are not the well known ones…
The most famous interpretation comes from Orquesta Reve, from the groundbreaking 1985 album Rumberos Latinoamericanos, one of several albums from that time which brought Reve to the top of the hit charts back in the day.
Timba was not yet born, but this is a part of its vast roots and ancestors, in the style of “Changui del Reve”, which is a modernized take on Son Montuno, bringing back an amplified version of the classic Tres guitar, but also innovating with the semi-improvised bridges and solos that would later on become the “guias” of Timba.

Now, there is also the most recent version of this song, recorded by Elito Reve and the latest generation of Orquesta Reve, together with Cuban music legend Pablo Milanes, as a part of the anniversary album “la salsa tiene mi Son” which came out a few years ago, in 2016, dedicated to the Orchestras’ 60th (!!!) anniversary

So we had classical Son, Son Montuno and Changui del Reve so far… but speaking of Reve and his birthday, one cannot wrap things up without sharing this wonderful concert I came across the other day, featuring many of the Orchestras’ finest musicians from over the years, and also some special guests, all of whom share a deep connection with La Aplanadora de Cuba…

So thank you, Señor Reve!

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