Sixty-five Years With Cuba’s Hermanos Bravo

Helson Hernández

HAVANA TIMES – Today, we approach the new generation keeping the music legacy of a legendary Cuban band alive – a band currently directed by Esteban Bravo. With those instruments alone, they made the entire world dance.

HT: When was Los Hermanos Bravo created as a band?

Esteban Bravo: I don’t have an exact date. The trio Los Hermanos Bravo went on the radio for the first time in October of 1949. At the time, what they sang the most were boleros, guarachas, ballads and things of that nature. That’s where the story of the band begins.

HT: Who were the original members of the Hermanos Bravo?

EB: Tony, Juan and Felix Brave were the founders of the band. Their second album included a single that was a hit: A Santiago a pie (“Walking to Santiago”). Felix played the drums, my father, Juan, a cowbell and Tony a guitar. With those instruments alone, they made the entire world dance. In the 60s, Marcos Hernandez Valdes, whom people called “Marquitos”, joined the band. He played a bass drum and was an exceptional dancer – the band became quite popular because of this.

HT: ¿Qué circunstancias propician la interrupción de la carrera del grupo?

EB: At the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s, the founding members of the band began to grow ill because of old age and they had no one to pass the torch to. They left the stage for almost 8 years, until they managed to get the band together again with their own children, us, I mean. The Hermanos Bravo returned to the stage in Cuba and abroad in 1997, with the band’s new members: Juan Felipe Bravo, Alfredo Bravo, Jorge Felix Bravo, Enrique Delgado and your’s truly, Esteban Bravo.

HT: How did you learn music?

HB: When we, the new generation of brothers, came up with the idea of putting the band back together, our parents told us we didn’t have the training for it. It’s true that, when we picked up the instruments for the first time, we didn’t have the slightest idea of how to face up to the challenge. We did, however, have perseverance and the confidence we had the love for music in our blood, and we decided to continue trying.

One day, after we’d already prepared some numbers, we had the idea of recording two parts of two of our songs. My uncle Tony came over to pay my dad a visit and we played the tape without saying anything. They looked at each other and asked themselves when they had recorded that. We then told them we were the ones singing in the recording. That’s when they started to take us seriously and decided to become our teachers. We were even lucky enough to do a tour in France along with my uncle Tony. We sang and he played the guitar.

HT: Tell us about Esto esta bueno.

EB: It’s one of our most important numbers. We treasure it because we recorded it with the great music luminary Tata Guines. We recorded it in one go, even though he hadn’t heard the piece, only a bit of it. He told me he was ready to do it, and that’s the recording of that historical number.

HT: How do you view the change in the band’s music, from the time of the founders to that of the current members of Los Hermanos Bravo?

EB: The essence is in the way we do conga, as a small band. This genre is usually performed by a large number of musicians, from 20 to 40, usually. Los Hermanos Bravo were able to perform the same conga music, something more powerfully, in smaller spaces – in theaters and cabarets. We are duty-bound to preserve that legacy. We have been very careful whenever we’ve incorporated new elements and trends into the band, so that, when people listen to us, there is no doubt it’s still us, that the music that characterizes the group is still there. Not many recall that, near the end of the band’s first generation, a saxophone and Chinese cornet were incorporated into the band. To sum up, I believe that is the great contribution the band has made to Cuban music.