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Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro are paragon interpreters of son, Cuba's national music genre par excellence. Decades before the Buena Vista Social Club, the septet performed the compositions of its namesake, transforming them into international standards of the son tradition.
Septeto Nacional was formed in 1927 by the first superstar of Cuban son, Ignacio Piñeiro. Born and raised in the working class Havana neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo, Piñeiro epitomized the urban sonero. He started out as a brilliant rumbero, and he was a well-known akpón or lead vocalist of the santería chant tradition.
A bassist, vocalist and composer, he composed "Échale salsita," perhaps the best-known son of all time, and the source, according to some, of the term salsa by which son's successor was to be known. The tune tells the story about a night out on the town and the savoring of the finest sausage in the world; George Gershwin, who worked its theme into his famous "Cuban Overture," appropriated it.
Another of Piñeiro’s tunes, "Suavecito," relates how delightful it is to dance son tenderly embracing one's partner and confining one's movements within the perimeter of a single floor tile. Its enchanting lyric, el son es lo más sublime para el alma divertir (son is the most sublime thing to entertain the soul), has become a mantra for son aficionados throughout the world. Among Piñeiro's most popular opuses are "Esas no son cubanas," "Bardo," "No juegues con los santos" and "Coco mai mai."
After Piñeiro's death in 1968, the septet had a succession of leaders of renown, including guitarist/composer Rafael Ortiz, legendary rumbero Carlos Embale, and guitarist Richard Aymee Castro. In its current configuration, bongo virtuoso Francisco Oropeza directs the Septeto Nacional. Now more than eight decades after its founding, Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro is a national treasure interpreting a timeless repertoire to the delight of audiences and dancers throughout the world.
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