Cuba’s Ignacio Piñero Septet Turns 85

Photo Feature by Elio Delgado Valdes

piñero2HAVANA TIMES — The Ignacio Piñeiro National Septet is one of the mainstays of Cuban music. Founded in Havana as a sextet, in December 1927 and directed by Ignacio Piñeiro, the band traveled to New York to record an album and on its return added a new member, to become since then a septet.

The first seven members were: Ignacio Piñeiro, director and bass; Alberto Villalon, guitar, Francisco González, tres guitar and lead voice, Juan de la Cruz, claves and tenor; Bienvenido Leon, maracas and baritone; José Incharte, bongos, and Lazaro Herrera trumpet.

piñero1After recording in New York, the group made an extensive tour of Spain in 1929, where they had a resounding success. Beginning in 1930 they performed in Cuba, on the radio and in the Sans-Souci cabaret. In 1933 they returned to the United States to perform at the Chicago World’s Fair marking the centennial of that US city.

The septet has performed continuously ever since, with changing musicians due to retirement or death of its members. In 1969, Ignacio Piñeiro died and Rafael Ortiz  became the director of the septet. It is currently led by Eugene Rodriguez.

piñero3Many top musicians have passed through the Ignacio Piñeiro Septet in these 85 years, but now, with several new artists, they are constantly meeting commitments abroad and when they return to Cuba, they still perform for Cuban lovers of son in all its variants.

The septet recently gave a concert in the Morro-Cabaña fortress complex in the capital, during February’s XXII International Book Fair, Cuba 2013. These images are from that performance.

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