Very few singers have been able to combine Puerto Rican and Cuban music to create one single style like Puerto Rican Daniel Santos did. His long connection with the best Cuban music of the 1940s and 50s provided his musical work with a markedly Cuban style, hence earning him true fame among the great performers of Cuban music in the 20th century.
It was at the end of 1946 when the singer met with the then powerful owner of RHC Cadena Azul radio station, Amado Trinidad, in Havana. The meeting resulted in the signing of a contract with the radio station. His debut was a lucky strike. The first song performed that day was Anacobero, by Puerto Rican Andrés Tallada. The broadcaster mistakenly announced Daniel as the «anacobero».Ever since then people referred to him using that nickname, with which he became widely known in Cuba as well. Cubans added the adjective ‘restless’ to his nickname, because it pretty much defined the singer’s personality and character. His peculiar way of singing had impressed the people of Havana, the same way in which the artist had been impressed by the city.
Which part of Havana had impressed Daniel Santos in the 1940s? The Havana of fabulous cabarets and exotic women; the Havana of demanding audiences for all its shows. It was precisely those demanding audiences who began ‘shaping’ Daniel Santos as one of the best Spanish-speaking singers of that time, featuring as a great performer of Cuban music, according to musicologist Olavo Alén.
After signing the contract with RHC Cadena Azul, the performer was faced with ups and downs. At the Radio Progreso station, he sang accompanied by the Sonora Matancera band, which is considered by many people as one of the greatest Cuban bands of all times.
The Anacobero himself once said “some people say that I created the Sonora Matancera orchestra; others say that Sonora Matancera made me who I am today. I think that we benefited from each other…” The truth is that Daniel Santos became very famous with the first disc he recorded with that band, producing timeless pieces such as: Noche de ronda by Agustín Lara, Cuidadito, compay gallo by Ñico Saquito, and Dos gardenias by Isolina Carrillo.
Some events that took place in Cuba, and particularly in Havana, inspired the singer to write his over 400 pieces, he said. The best of them is said to be the one called Amigotes, which is inspired by the city’s night life.
Daniel Santos wrote his song Sierra Maestra on a napkin in a bar in Maracaibo, Venezuela, in 1957. No one wanted to record it in Caracas and he had to record it in New York. He was paid for the first 1,000 copies of the album which he gradually sold and a few copies were sent to Cuba. The guerrilla was given access to one of those copies and began playing it on their radio station, Radio Rebelde. As a result, Daniel Santos was accused of being a communist and a close friend of Fidel Castro.
In the first days of January 1959, Daniel Santos witnessed the rebel army’s triumphal entry into Havana and he returned to Cuba some years later. He then realized that the social course the island was taking largely contrasted with his interests. He left again and never came back to the country that made him so famous.Share on FB Share on TT