The ANACAONA Story
1932: Concepción ”Cuchito” Castro founds ”Anacaona”, the first all-girls septet of son music. Members of the septet are her friends Berta Cabrera, Isabel ”Beba” Alvarez and Elia O’Reilly as well as her sisters Caridad ”Cachita”, Ada and Ondina. They take the name of Anacaona from a famous queen of the Taino Indians, who resisted the Spanish conquerors in the era of Columbus. The septet makes its first official appearance in February, in the Theater ”Payret” in Havana. In September a special concert is organized for the septet at Havana’s ”Teatro Principal de la Comedia”. Anacaona performs in company of the celebrities of Cuban music: Vocalists María Cervantes, Carmen Burguete and Rita Montaner - singer of the international hit ”El Manisero”, ”The Peanut Vendor” -, the pianists Ernestina Lecuona and Armando Oréfiche and the Septeto Nacional - Havana’s most popular and innovative septet of son music. Cubas ”national poet” Nicolás Guillén is the master of ceremonies.
1934: Anacaona changes its format into a jazz-band in order to be able to compete in the open-air cafés on the Prado with the all-women’s orchestra Ensueño, which includes a large brass section. More sisters join the band - Emma, Flora, Olga ”Bola”, Alicia, Argimira ”Millo” and Xiomara. For a short period ten of the eleven sisters perform together. Anacaona impresses its audience with a wide variety of genres, among them North American fox-trots and swing tunes. All the sisters play various instruments, exhibiting their versatility in the course of a concert by changing instruments. Anacaona is invited to a wide range of venues, including popular beer gardens like ”La Tropical” and exclusive ”first-class” clubs like the ”Havana Yacht Club”. 1935: First tour abroad to Puerto Rico as a big band together with members of the all-women’s orchestra ”Orbe”. 1936: Anacaona tours during six months across Mexico, from Merida, Yucatán, to the capital.
1937: The year of Anacaona’s musical breakthrough. The septet signs with RCA-Victor and publishes three records. Winter 1937-1938: Alberto Socarrás, the renown jazz flautist, introduces Anacaona to New York by procuring a contract to the exclusive night club on Broadway, ”Havana Madrid”. Anacaona tops the bill of the musical show. Regular attendees of their performances are the great jazzmen of the period: Band leaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James; drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Anacaona gives concerts at the radio station NBC, and at the Commodore, Pierre, and Waldorf Astoria hotels. 1938: Anacaona performs as a septet and jazz-band in the luxurious restaurant-cabaret ”Les Ambassadeurs” at the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The band also is on stage every evening after midnight in the boîte ”Chez Florence” on Montmartre alternating with Django Reinhardt’s and Stéphane Grappelli’s legendary ”Quintett du Hot Club de France”.
1944-1945: One-year-tour to Mexiko. 1946-1947: Anacaona stars during two seasons in the musical show of the ”Casino Nacional” of Havana under the direction of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona.1951: Tour to Mexico and participation in Mexican movies. 1953: Tours to Columbia, Venezuela, Haiti and Tampa, Florida. 1955: Tours to Peru, Ecuador and Nicaragua. 1958-1959: Grand South America-tour, including Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. 1960-1989: Affiliation with the government enterprise for traditional music ”Ignacio Piñeiro”. Performances in cultural centers, theaters, museums, schools, homes for the aged, etc. Ada and Alicia form the duo ”Hermanas Castro” in 1964, that immediately impresses the audiences of traditional trova music. After Cuchito’s death in 1982 Alicia becomes the band leader of Anacaona. 1989: In the year of the 57th anniversary of Anacaona the last original members retire and cease to appear in public. Young musicians, who had accompanied them in the last years, continue under the name of Anacaona.