Six decades of life for a musical group translate into hard and continuous work, the pride of knowing themselves as owners of a popular cultural legacy and bear witness to the passing of generations with the logical pass of time.
The Muñequitos of Matanzas, arguably the most important rumba group in Cuba, gets to that venerable age in a moment of total creative splendor, defending the most authentic of the genre within and outside the country and with the satisfaction of knowing they are heirs to a tradition of centuries that is renewed every day in the preference of the people.
Diosdado Ramos, director of this legendary group that has contributed so much to the internationalization of the rumba, confesses to OnCuba that their work has not been other than to honor the ancestors and respect the African roots that play such an important role in the Cuban nationality.
In the 50s of last century, a group of young people met at a local bar in La Marina neighborhood, on the banks of the Yumurí River, to create, to the rhythm of playing with bottles, dishes and boxes, the "Guanguancó Matancero" group to shortly afterwards change it to Muñequitos of Matanzas riding the success of a radio hit with a similar name.
This happened in the month of October 1952, and since then has had Cuban rumba in them a true monument to national folk traditions.
For Ramos, from the second generation of Los Muñequitos, the work of the group does not stop despite the time elapsed. Young blood has come to integrate this group and renew the repertoire from the current music trends, "but not get away from our essence," he says. From its founders Florencio Calle, Stephen Cantrí, (Saldiguera), Hortensio Alfonso (Virulilla), Esteban Bacallao (Chacha), Angel Pellado (Pelladito), Ernesto Torriente, Juan Mesa and Gregorio Díaz (Goyo) to today’s members, you can draw an unbroken line of tradition that travels through families and grandchildren.
Los Muñequitos work record constitutes sufficient endorsement to demonstrate the robustness of a lifetime devoted to music, tangible in the recordings El guaguancó de Matanzas (1988), Los Muñequitos de Matanzas (1990), Rumba caliente (1992), Óyelos de nuevo (1993), Vacunao (1995), Po Iban Eshu (1996), y Live in New York (1998), among others.
In 2001 they won the Latin Grammy for the recording of several titles on the album La Rumba Soy Yo alongside some of the best Cuban rumba players in an "all around" of the genre.
Last year the group recorded for the label BisMusic, De Palo pa Rumba, material that offers a journey from Bantu music to urban rumba from the combination of guaguancó, columbia and guarapachangueo in different songs.
But for Diosdado and Los Muñequitos the clock is ticking, they are planning the production of the album "Ñañiga Dance" with maestro Chucho Valdés and the conclusion of the DVD "Homage to the ancestors", which it will also be produced by Bismusic.
They are setting up also a tour that will allow them to be in all provinces of the country since the second half of January 2013.
Purebred rumberos, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas say their music is more alive than ever, and they see the proof in the emergence of new groups like Timbalaye, Rumba Timba and Solar de los 6.
Rumba greats are gone, but there will be Muñequitos for awhile so their legacy will live on in the memories of generations of Cubans who see them as a symbol of true national identity.