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CUBA - music

Benny More the king of rhythm

By Gabriel Molina
Granma International

Permission requested to use informaton from

Cubanow.- Benny More had an overwhelmingly striking and charismatic personality. Though he never received musical training, he was a wonderful singer and composer, perhaps the most well rounded artist in a country known for producing outstanding musicians.

Forty years after his death, he is loved Today like yesterday (one of his many songs). He had a unique style of singing rumba, boleros, guaracha, mambo and guaguanco, which is why he told Rolando Laserie: "You name it, I sing it," an original musical challenge.

Jose Artemio Castañeda Echeverria, better known as Maracaibo, as Benny himself nicknamed him in 1958-59, tells how that phrase came up on a television program. At the time Rolando Laserie was very popular with the Rio Manzanares guaracha, but when Maracaibo´s Oriental was aired, "Lasserie´s ratings dropped and that was the end of the story."

Mauro Gomez Suarez, a saxophone player who performed with Benny More for many years in the famous Banda Gigante, said: "You name it, I sing it" emerged from a competition between him and Laserie, but it was not a rivalry, because they were friends. Laserie played the drums when the band was first formed, but they both k that Benny was the star."

Researching this 100%-Cuban phenomenon was an emotional and professional pleasure. I took advantage of this anniversary to supplement the first-hand information I still needed by speaking to those who k him personally, people from the Ali Bar.

This is the case of Gomez Suarez, who has now returned to the band, reinstated at the historic Dolores Avenue venue in Arroyo Naranjo (Havana), in an attempt to relive a mixture of nostalgia and joy, from Thursday through Saturday, the unforgettable nights when Benny was among us.

Nobody but Benny More could step off the stage dancing without losing rhythm or beat, move through the entire room singing "Guantanamo, here goes my son" and improvise messages for audience members sitting at their tables.

"Improvising was one of Benny's most notable qualities," Mauro noted when I referred to this incredible skill. "I believe it comes from the tradition of campesino music worshippers, son montuno, guaguanco and improvisers. The Radio Progresso recording of a fabled controversy between him and Joseito Fernandez -author of the classic Guajira Guantanamera- still goes on."

He was also an artist at mimicry; he transmitted sensations recreated by the band with his eyes, mouth, hands, legs and entire body. It was his style of acting and of directing the band. It is said that people liked to dance with him, but I don't remember his admirers dancing, they preferred to see, hear and enjoy him. He alone was the show.

Visit the Ali bar learn about the man and his friends

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