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

Juan Luis Guerra

Juan Luis Guerra and his band, the 440, are part of the new wave of artists responsible for revitalizing tropical music which had been languishing in the late 80’s due to overplay and lack of innovation.

Guerra is the son of a professional basket ball player and grew up near the National Music Gallery. As a teenager he was influenced by the Beatles and by U.S hippie music. Initially he only learnt the basics of guitar playing, but after winning a contest, he began attending the National Conservatory on a scholarship. One of his teachers at the time helped him get into prestigious Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts and take up an interest for the various sub-genres of jazz.

In time, he realized that he missed his native Dominican Republic and returned to experiment by blending local music with African influence, folk songs and jazz with his band, 440. The band got its name from the universal tuning pattern of the A note, 440 Hertz.

His album debut, "Soplando", did not have much impact. In their next efforts, "Mudanza y Acarreo" and "Mientras más lo pienso tú", Guerra and 440 began adding merengue and lightning quick riffs of "perico ripiao," and suddenly, they found success with a young crowd tired of hearing the same old things. This new music,called bachata-merengue soon won over considerable acclaim in the Dominican Republic. The group was chosen by the government to represent the country at the International Music Festival of OTI, the Ibero-American Organization of Television.

In 1988, Guerra and 440 released one of their greatest hits, "Ojalá que llueva café", which became the third best-selling record in Latin America. That year, he lost his lead singer, Maridalia Hernández, who left them to carry on his solo career in Europe, leaving Guerra to be lead singer.

In 1991 he released Bachata Rosa, which became a smash hit throughout all of the Americas and earned Guerra his first Grammy Award in the U.S. The album was particularly popular in Los Angeles and soon Guerra and his band were touring.

The next record, "Areito", caused considerable controversy in the Dominican Republic as it spoke out against the social injustice borne by the desperately poor that Guerra had never personally experienced.

Musically, Guerra changed directions again for his 1995 record "Fogoraté". This album incorporates more of the increasingly popular African music. His 1998 release "Ni es lo mismo ni es igual" won Guerra three Grammy Awards for Best Merengue Performance, Best Tropical Song for "El Niágara en bicicleta" and for Best Engineered Album at the first annual Latin Grammy Awards in 2000.