Son is a musical style that predates salsa. Some even claim that salsa derived from it. Either way, son is well known throughout Latin America. But what is not known is that it emanates from the Dominican Republic.
Son as a style of music, with its instruments and lyrics was brought to Cuba by the Dominican sisters Teodora and Micaela Gines. They played instruments and sang. Teodora Gines particularly played Bandola, an instrument that looks like a guitar but is smaller.
Trujillo, the Dominican dictator, favored the merengue. This explains why so many merengues were played at his festivities. It also explains why Dominicans are credited with inventing the merengue. What is interesting is that at one point, the three islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic thought of themselves as the same people. Today they speak of who invented what style first, as if it matters. They are the same people, right?
I am writing this today to point out that Dominicans are not the creators of only one style of music. That is erroneous thinking. Lately, they have gotten credit for the Bachata. But many people err. There are a few music composers who admit to the story I am telling about the two Dominican sisters bringing son to Cuba. is that surprising though? Dominicans have been traveling to Cuba since the first Europeans landed in Quisqueya. Hatuey swam to Cuba to warn them. For that reason, Cubans erected a statue to him, a Dominican.
Today, I think of Cuco Valoy, a Dominican who dominates the son, particularly in the song, El Caiman. Not surprisingly, he is a great salcero. Juliana is a perfect example of great salsa music by a Dominican. It is not surprising that Cuco Valoy sings salsa as well as son because as I stated earlier one is a derivative of the other.
So the question is, if Dominicans invented the son and salsa, why did Cuba excell at son and Puerto Rico at salsa. A lot of people like to abel and assign musical genres to particular areas. Oscar De Leon creates great salsa and he is from Venezuela. Some Colombians create great salsa although they are known for cumbia. People like to label. But I digress. Back to your question, I believe I already answered it. Trujillo, the dictator favored and put in place by Americans, disliked what he called country music. That would be anything with a guitar in it. He took to liking merengues. Thus merengue became the national dance and music style.
For this reason, many artists suffered in the sense that they did not become prominent. They did not get to travel overseas. Repression was the rule. Thus you did not get to hear the great compositions played throughout the countryside. Sadly, too, they did not participate in payola and however else music gets out. It is also sad that they had to escape to Cuba and play with other Cuban musicians at the slight chance. For this reason, many of their styles were attributed to Cubans who ran with it. Music also became easier to discover in Cuba during the touristic bombardment. The clubs, casino and other avenues paved the way to discovery. In contrast, Dominicans were deprived from discovery due to Trujillo’s ban on tourism. You must remember, that his dictatorship was long lasting. It went from 1930 to 1961.
Today, many of the great musicians have already passed, and their traditions have died with them. The youth today, whether in Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or America, has failed to continue the culture and traditions of their predecessors. In The Dominican Republic we see a man who has maintained the tradition of all styles of musical genres. But he is 84 years old, and is just now getting an opportunity to get his music out. But what will happen when he passes? Who will learn the secret to his techniques to all those musical genres. Few people can play that many different styles. I believe he is a walking history book – a living legend. Grab him and ask him questions. His name is known as Puerto Plata, but his real name is Jose Cobles. He was born in 1923 in Puerto Plata. This concerns me because my Mom was born in 1926 and my Dad in 1921; and they have both transitioned. History died with them. The youth and the elders just aren’t communicating as much as before. My Mom was like a walking history book. I think people should communicate more. This man plays and sings every possible genre, The streets of Puerto Plata Dominican Republic know about him. Too bad the rest of the world does not.
I have included links to other resources throughout this writing for more information. It is better that way, so that this wouldn’t turn into a book. But at least one has references for more details. Once one does the research fully, one will realize the many truths unknown to many. There are some people that are so stuck in claiming a certain genre, that they refuse to do the research for themselves. Hopefully, the majority will be open minded, like the musician and director of a Cuban Orquestra, Laureano Fuentes Matons, who openly documents this truth.
copyright Mercedes Beato-Hawkins Aug 31, 2014