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Merceditas Valdés y Grupo Yoruba Andabó

Merceditas Valdés y Grupo Yoruba Andabó


Merceditas Valdés was born in the densely populated Neptuno street in Cayo Hueso neighborhood in Havana on October 14, 1928.

When she was 12 years old, and without her parents´consent, she applied to compete in "The Supreme Court of Art" (a program which launched many interpreters turning them into famous artists who then became great personalities in the Cuban musical world) and sang two pieces: "Babalú", a theme popularized by Miguelito Valdés and "La negra Mercé", by Ernesto Lecuona; on that occasion, as well as in the following ones, she was granted an award.

Her career began with the singing of yoruba religion prayers in amphitheaters and radio stations and her performances at Radio Cadena Suaritos´s musical programs are considered anthological. There, the participating orchestra was conducted by Obdulio Morales - composer, musical arranger and promoter of the Afro-Cuban liturgical music " together with a group of batá drums led by Trinidad Torr egrosa, with Merceditas as the main soloist. For the first time, the batá drums were broadcasted by the radio, outside the temples, and many people even went to the radio station with the only purpose of greeting Merceditas at the end of the program.

Merceditas, already an outstanding popular music singer, experienced a decisive moment in her artistic career when she met Cuban ethnologist Don Fernando Ortiz (Havana, 1881-1969). This great master asked her to work together with him, explained her the extent of his researches and chose her to illustrate his conferences about the influence of African music in Cuba. That is how she began her specialization process as main singer in the santería religious ceremonies. About her relationship with Ortiz, Merceditas said: "One of the most beautiful and enriching experiences in my life took place when I became the only singer performing for Don Fernando for his lectures. With the passing of time and the deepening of our friendship, he nicknamed me "his small Aché", because he used to say I brought him good luck."

It is worthwhile mentioning that in the very personal style of Merceditas Valdés merged, in a harmonious, rigorous and excellent way, two qualities like song and dance without distorting the essence of the song and the stage movement.

At the end of the 1940s she recorded ritual music for the Victor company and in the 1950s her voice was recorded by the Panart label.

This last decade was prodigious for her artistic life: she made intense tours as part of important productions of the renowned Tropicana cabaret, performing in Paris, Venezuela and in other South-American countries. At the Carnegie Hall, in New York, she gave the first concert of Afro-Cuban music, with an orchestra made up by 80 professors conducted by Gilberto Valdés. Their success was so resounding, that the they were hired, together with Tito Puente, to make a tour across the United States that extended to Canada. She also sang at the Apollo Theater in New York.

When the television was introduced in Cuba, Merceditas Valdés popularized the Afro-Cuban rhythms on TV screens and had the opportunity to work together with Ernesto Lecuona in the program entitled "Serenata Cubana". She inaugurated the show of the famous Riviera Hotel and performed for a long time at the Tropicana cabaret.

During the following years, she continued working in a tireless fashion, frequently performing on radio and television, offering concerts in both Cuba and abroad and enhancing her valuable phonographic production.

Together with the "Yoruba Andabo", "Oru" (directed by Sergio Vitier) and "Los amigos" groups (the latter directed by Guillermo Barreto, her partner in life), "Merceditas Valdés carried out an important rescuing and dissemination work of the African music.

Remembered in her country as a wonderful and humble woman, Merceditas Valdés is currently considered in catalogs and publications among the greatest artists of the world, and her name has a high meaning for the Cuban culture due to his successful efforts in rescuing, for the musical legacy, with her extraordinary voice street cries, prayers, cradle songs, boleros and countless anthological pieces. The fact she managed to let her people be in touch with the Cuban music of African roots stands as one of her main cultural contributions .