Juan de Marcos González

Juan de Marcos González

By the late 1970s Cuban music was in the depths of a serious recession. We even had a phrase for it. We called it 'the isolation syndrome.' But gradually the best of our young musicians began to break out of this prison by modelling themselves and their musical styles on the stars of American free jazz.

As they set about reshaping Cuban music,one man's voice stood out. Fèlix Baloy was a young sonero from the town of Mayarí who had moved to Havana, and who was also known as a ñangué in his neighbourhood of San Miguel del Padrón. He was steeped in the great traditions of Cuban son and had trained alongside the great stars of the golden age of the fifties - Chapottín, Raúl Planas, Cuní, Conrado Cepero and others.

With his characteristic rough, rounded voice and outgoing personality, he soon came to prominence among the small group of soneros who, while absorbing the legacies of the 'old school', managed to stamp a contemporary freshness on Cuba's great musical heritage.

So when I had the chance a few years ago to realise my dream of creating a band that spanned different generations to pay tribute to the golden age of Cuban music, I knew that the talent and energy of Baloy were vital to the project. That band was the Afro-Cuban All Stars and its success - to which Baloy has made an inestimable contribution - has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my career. When Mo Fini of Tumi Music suggested Baloy should make his first solo album (after he had sung on more than 20 albums under different musical directors) I didn't have to think twice before eagerly agreeing to participate.

During the time we have worked together, Baloy has shown me not only his unquestionable human qualities, collective spirit and friendship, but also his tremendous charisma and incredible talent, which never fail to stimulate every kind of audience. He is without question one of the great figures of modern Cuban music.

But what you won't find on this album is the explosive and nomadic sonero of old. Instead, this record shows a more mature and reflective Baloy, tempered by time and experience, but still with a voice that is excitingly fresh and sincere.

Joined by his friends and colleagues from the All Stars, Baloy traces a route along the diverse genres that he has cultivated - from the bolero 'cotorresco' of 'Después de esta noche' to the fiery rumba of 'Misericordia, no aguanto!' and from the son arseniesco of 'Mami te gusto' to the fifties cha cha chá of 'Ven a bailar Cha cha chá'. Our role was the happy one of directing the various band members to create a coherent style that is always contemporary without losing it's fundamental Cuban qualities. ‘Baila mi son’ is a diverse and at times daring album and† the first serious attempt to pay homage to one of our greatest soneros. I'm proud to have been involved. Bienvenidos a Cuba!

Juan de Marcos La Habana, June 2000