HAVANA, 3 A. M.... Night in Havana...
In Havana you hear music everywhere at all times. And not
only over the radio
and television or in its sumptuous theaters, concert halls, hotels and night clubs -
but also in its quaint streets and squares... and in its beautiful gardens, parks and
malls... on its magnificent beaches by the side of its smiling blue sea.
You listen in the night to the rhythm of the typical
orchestras in the fashionable
cabarets, with their whispering maracas (a pair of gourds filled with dry seeds),
güiros (a serrated calabash rubbed with a stick), claves (a pair of
blocks struck one against the other) and bongós (the Cuban twin drums). Nearby
hear a song, always accompanied by the faithful guitarra, telling of joys or
or, far away in the distance, singing voices with the insistent beating of drums-strong
reminder of the African jungle. You see the classic comparsas (masqueraders) as
they go by in the mad nights of Carnaval (Mardi gras), with their bright
(whirling colored lanterns) leading the way, their mischievous diablitos (little
and their generous overflow of music, songs, dances, laughs and color spreading
over everything and filling the city with merriment.
There are two basic elements in Cuban music: the Spanish
and the African. The first
prevails strongly in the countryside; the second, origin of the type of music known as
Afro-Cuban, is predominant in the cities.
With the passing of time, a blend came of both elements,
and at the contact with the
rich earth, with the warmth of the jovial tropical sun, with the stimulus of the soft
Caribbean breeze, the aboriginal Cuban music - lively and nostalgic, so full of
reminiscences and at the same time so modern, so strong, so original - was born
in the soul of the Cuban people. This music was soon to travel by itself over the
whole world... to remain and live in all of it! As the great Cuban musicologist Emilio
Grenet said: Cuban music has "invaded all countries and all climates."
All this is to be found in the splendid arrangements that Perez Prado has made
especially for this album, HAVANA, 3 A.M.
The spirit of all that has been described above flows in
Prado's versions's of La
Comparsa, already a classic, by Ernesto Lecuona; the charming Bésame Mucho
by Consuelo Velázquez; the very popular Granada by Agustin Lara; the sparkling
Peanut Vendor by Moisés Simons... and in all the other numbers which are
included in this magnificent album. And, of course, this same Cuban spirit is in
evidence throughout Prado's own composition: La Faraona, so Spanish and so
Cuban at the same time; the Mosaico Cuhano, a true voyage into the plentiful land
of rhythm, melodic turns and styles, seen through an original temperament, and
The Freeway Mambo, a perfect example of the aptness of Prado's title, "The
King of the Mambo."
In 1942, the ideas that would give birth to the Mambo were
already dancing a swift
saraband of syncopations in the mind of Damaso Perez Prado, the Cuban orchestra
leader, who at that time was making musical arrangements for the bands of his
country. Years later, in Mexico, he formed his own band, and there the Mambo,
which soon would spread with the speed of gun powder over the earth, was born.
Its popularity, and that of its creator, is overwhelming everywhere.