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Chepín Chovén orchestra still active

By Pedro de la Hoz
Source Granma Internacional 24.08.2016

Orquesta Chepin-Choven
Orchestra Chepin-Choven these days.

The album Llegó el Chepinson is testimony of the Chepín-Chovén orchestra present traditional form of creation in the popular dance music context after eighty-five years. The orchestra not only keeps itself active but it renews its patrimony as proves the album Llegó el Chepinson, recorded at EGREM’s Estudios Siboney of Santiago de Cuba.

The record produced by experienced Jorge Luis Pujals and with a care mix by Máximo Espinosa, is testimony of the orchestra traditional way of doing in the popular dance music. José Ramón Hernández Garbey, passionately and with leading capacity, has managed to maintain among the orchestra’s members the spirit of respect for the historic legacy they represent.

Classic themes of the orchestra’s repertoire are included in the album: Monte adentro, Diamante negro (dedicated to ineffable trumpet player Pepín Vaillant), El Cacahual and mostly the son, El platanal de Bartolo and the danzon Bodas de oro, all composed by Electo Rosell (Chepín).

It is evident Hernández Garbey intention to continue the Chepin tradition, with themes like Llegó el chepinson and others although the greatest merit goes to the orchestra’s sound quality, not necessarily that of the old times though it reminds us of it.   

The Chepín-Chovén orchestra’s key is found today in a concept Hernández Garbey expresses: “To offer a modern image from a veteran formation”. An impeccable rhythmical base and specially, the trumpets and the saxes phrasing, hold the vitality of the group and defend its singularity.

Santiago de Cuba’s critic Manuel Gómez Morales is right when he remembers that “in his jazz band, Electo Rosell moved the tres guitar sound to the saxes”.

A curious fact is the origin of the orchestra as it was created in Santiago de Cuba, more identified with trova and son music traditional formats than with the so-called big bands. Chepín and his friend, pianist Bernardo Chovén starting point was a septet they called Oriente; however in 1932 they increase the number of musicians to make it similar to the swing era’s jazz bands and created the Chepín Chovén & His Boys that competed in the Santiago youth’s preference of that decade with Mariano Mercerón & the Peeper Boys.

It was obviously influence of the North American culture. But from the beginning both orchestras extolled the Cuban music. Later, Mercerón marked an epoch in Mexico with the great Benny Moré among them while Chepín would established his style in Cuba.

Translation: Liana Fleitas (Cubarte)

Pedro de la Hoz

By Pedro de la Hoz

Cienfuegos, Cuba, 1953. Periodista y crítico de arte. Periodista del diario Granma, orgáno oficial del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Miembro del capítulo cubano de la red de redes En Defensa de la Humanidad y del Consejo Nacional de la UNEAC. En el 2005 publicó la monografía África en la Revolución Cubana. Forma parte del colectivo de redacción de la enciclopedia on line Terrorismo en las Américas made in USA. Ensayos y artículos suyos han aparecido en publicaciones de Estados Unidos, México, Bolivia, Puestro Rico, España, Alemania y Eslovenia.


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