There he comes. The city would fit in his pants. He wears two color shoes. He spins his walking stick among his fingers. Everyone looks at him. Most people don’t even know his name, they don’t need to. He is known as El Benny, the reincarnation of the greatest interpreter of popular Cuban music, Bartolome Maximiliano More (1919-1963).
Since very young, his father used to take him to bars and parties. He wanted the boy to share his taste for music, if he went out of tune, his father’s hand would be drawn in his face. They boy made sure that didn’t happen.
He didn’t study in an academy. He attempted to become a boxer, but his grandmother rescued him from the ring and made him take music lessons. His natural gift, his privileged hearing won over the battle. So he made a living passing the hat around in every corner. He joined several bands, but his spirit led him to fight for his dream once again: to bring back Benny in the streets of Santiago de Cuba.
Juan Manuel Villy Carbonell, El Benny from that Cuban eastern province, was born on January 31, 1962. He is not a dandy but a bohemian artist. He has had lots of opportunities. A representative from Casino Sounds Records heard him and made him record an album with the fast rhythm of ska in 2005 and took it to London and half Europe.
Even so, his success came one year later with the film El Benny, stared by actor Renny Arozarena. The director of the film,Jorge Luis Sánchez, needed a voice similar to Benny’s and went looking for him through the whole city. A few shots sufficed.
When he arrived in Havana with his hat, some people laughed, but as soon as the recording sessions began, they were moved. The same tone, the same flavor. He recorded 13 tracks for the film, but the classic song Santa Isabel de las Lajas was reluctant…
It was repeated over and over, but after turning off the lights in the studio his wife told him the real Benny More was standing behind him. Villy drank half glass of rum to his idol, and what came next was tremendous.
There he comes. He spins his walking stick. I wait for him. I corner him. I provoke him… Doesn’t it bother you to be called El Benny everywhere? Don’t you feel lost?
His answer was a gunshot.
—Look, brother… I’m El Benny!