Cuban Musicians and Bands

Overview Musicians
  • Celia Cruz
  • Rubén Blades
  • Buena Vista Social Club
  • Ibrahim Ferrer
  • Benny Moré
  • Los Van Van
  • Compay Segundo
  • Sierra Maestra
  • Tito Puente
  • Juan Luis Guerra

Benny Moré

Benny Moré is one of the greatest singers of popular music ever produced by Cuba. In order to convey an idea of how Moré is conceived in Cuba, we would have to think along the lines of Frank Sinatra or Nat "King" Cole.

Moré’s genius lies in two of the most important aspects of Cuban song: the Afro-Cuban son and the guajiro music. Moré’s affinity with both African and European elements allowed him to feel comfortable with all styles.

Although he couldn’t read sheet music, Moré composed two of his hits: "Bonito y sabroso" and "Que bueno baila usted". He also doubled as band leader and got together a big band with talented musicians such as trumpeters Alejandro "El Negro" Vivar and Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, and trombonist and arranger Generoso "El Tojo" Jiménez. His was the typical sound of the fifties: proud, of multiple textures and dynamic. But unlike other New York bands such as Machito and his Afro-Cubans, Moré was pushing the Latin jazz limits. His music tended to be more of the pop style than Machito’s, it was less tied to fixed structures and patterns.

Bartolomé Maximiliano Moré was born in 1919 in the town of Santa Isabel de Las Lajas in the Province of Las Villas, Cuba. When he was a teenager he traveled to Havana and worked for various years in a range of different jobs while singing on the streets near the city’s harbor.

His big break took place in 1945, when he joined Miguel Matamoros’ conjunto on a tour around Mexico. After the tour, Matamoros returned to Cuba, but Moré decided to stay behind. Before leaving, Matamoros advised Moré to change his name as "Bartola" meant donkey in Mexican slang.

Rechristened, Benny Moré was discovered by Mario Rivera Conde, director of RCA/Victor México, who connected him to a series of high caliber orchestras, including Pérez Prado’s band, and Mexican composer Raphael De Paz’s orchestra. Moré sang with five different orchestras during these sessions, without there being much difference between them. Pérez Prado’s orchestra was the exception to this rule – due to Prado’s aggressive piano style – and it would be one of the orchestras that produced some of the most energetic recordings in Moré’s career.

Moré returned to Cuba in 1953 and got together is own big band, with which he played until he died.

Moré was intensely loyal to his musicians, referring to them as his tribe. Given that he always insisted on having a big band, he was known for having emptied his pockets of his earnings for the RCA recordings to pay his musicians. They answered by decorating his songs with subtle orchestral arrangements.

While Moré continued recording his lively hits such as "Francisco Guayabal" and "Que bueno baila usted", he began focusing on boleros, a natural display window for his vocal and singing talents. Moré had a characteristic vocal technique, a sort of glissando, which he used in all his songs in various different ways.

Moré decided to stay in Cuba after the revolution, but did not live long. He died a victim of his love affair with rum. Despite all the rumors, Beny Moré finally succumbed to a cirrhosis on February 19, 1963 in Havana.

Moré’s recorded material is relatively little, as if he had died prematurely. In 1992, BMG Music released most of Moré’s recordings between 1948 and 1958 for RCA/Victor in five CDs for their tropical series.