A man in a white guayabera approaches a woman and extends his hand, palms up, inviting her to dance. She stands up and waves her fan. On the dance floor, they get closer.
Such a scene in Cuba at the end of the 19th century was condemnable in some circles. It was also a new musical genre, Danzone.
Now some danzón scores from that time that were lost in the archives in the Cuban city of Matanzas have been rediscovered. Four of them were recently recorded by the Feld Orchestra, which became the national dance of Cuba and later spread to other countries in the region.
Musician Maria Victoria Oliver said, “It is important to record the score so that society today and generations to come can have a reference for their identity.”
He and his colleagues found the score after checking the archives of several Matanzas institutions, including the provincial library, concert band and local museum. Even though Danzon began in the city in 1879, there were few written records of it until the early 20th century.
The 16 fragments discovered included both danzones and danzonets, the latter being a variation that included vocal interpretations and other changes. Many are part of the album “Joyce Ineditas” or “Unreleased Jewels”. It is produced by the Egreme label, with arrangements and performances by the Felde Orchestra, led by flutist Ethiel Felde, the producer’s great-great-grandfather. danzon
“It’s a great pleasure to be able to find unpublished issues that allow us to showcase the evolution of the genre,” Oliver said. The work was cumbersome and involved “translations” of numerals, as the 19th-century writing method was different than today and arrangements had to be made to update it without losing the essence of the music.
Located 100 kilometers (60 mi) east of Havana, Matanzas had electricity even before the capital, thanks to its vast bay, a transit point for Cuban sugar exports as well as sugar plantations in defiance of European sanctions. The arrival of enslaved people to work on on slavery.
The city retains remnants of the Chinese boom: stately mansions and other old houses with wooden walls and high ceilings, which hosted the emergence of danzon, a precursor to other musical styles such as mambo or chachacha.
Danzone spread to the Dominican Republic and Mexico, where it has ardent followers today.
The first danzón originated in the Old Spanish contradanzas, which danced in pairs but were physically distant, and included a Cuban musical heritage that had its roots in Africa. It was premiered by Miguel Felde and his orchestra from Matanzas in 1879 and was titled “The Heights of Simpson”.
The album “Joyce Ineditas”, recorded in February, includes the danzón “El Naranjaro”, “Cuba Libre”, “A la Habana Me Voy” and “Nivesita”, saved by Miguel Felde himself.
“I’m happy because it will be my tribute to Miguel Felde,” said descendant Ethiel Felde, who now conducts the orchestra, which is composed mostly of artists in their 20s.
Ethel Felde said that she “fell in love” with Danzon when her elementary school teacher taught her dance and then pursued it as a professional musician.
“Joyas Inéditas” was launched in two formats: a standard one with a standard acrylic case and the other inserted in a wooden box containing five Cuban cigars.
“It’s one of the longest-lasting Cuban styles,” Felde said. 150 years later, it is still alive.