MUSIC Of all expressions of Art, music is undoubtedly the one that has influenced more the personality of Cuban people. It is said that the island's inhabitants speak singing, dance while walking and woo with a love song. Music has developed fast and strong. The Habanera, rhythm born from the danza criolla and the contradanza, received its influence from the tango in Argentina and other rhythms of South America. Recent researches prove that in the contradanzas by Manuel Saumell, the tempo of the habaneras could be heard, for instance, in "La Tedesco", the first part is like the danzon, which appeared later; in many of his music scores, song and guajira were also outlined. Son and bolero arrived in Havana from the eastern provinces, specifically Santiago de Cuba. The bolero emerged at the beginning of this century with great composers such as, Alberto Villalon and Sindo Garay, influenced by Pepe Sanchez (who wrote the first one "Tristezas", in 1883). Though the songs of the old trova were boleros, best composers were Orlando de la Rosa and Isolina Carrillo who left one of the most sublime gifts of all times, the bolero "Dos Gardenias".
News about the son montuno dates back to the second half of the 19th century. In 1920 "Havana's Sextet " showed up at the high society salons in the capital. The "Matamoros trio ", started their long-lasting and important career in 1925 in Santiago de Cuba. They created some of the classic Cuban songs: Son de la loma, Mariposita de primavera y Lagrimas negras. Soon after, the first golden era of the son arrived and dozens of septets and sextets came forth, some of them began to make records with big North American companies. Arsenio Rodriguez, Miguelito Cuni, Felix Chapotin and Roberto Faz succeeded the first performers of son. Meanwhile, orchestras like "Arcaño y sus maravillas" and "La Sensacion" spirited balls in Havana playing danzones and charangas during the '40s and '50s. Enrique Jorrin composed first cha cha cha "La Engañadora" on 1950. Perez Prado made his first mambo on 1952. The second splendour of son took place in the '50s decade when a self-taught man from Cienfuegos turned up: Benny More, who, years later would be acclaimed "El Barbaro del Ritmo". This composer and singer revived the traditional ways of Cuban music, leading the son montuno to a concept of jazz band. The Cuban musician who had more influence on the process of evolution of Cuban and Caribbean music was Benny More. The "Van Van" orchestra of popular dancing music, with a very typical and modern sonority, was created in 1970. Year's later son offered its arrangements to the Salsa, which also incorporated Caribbean rhythms and sounds from the music of Latin (Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican) communities in New York. Cuban salsa, very well known today almost everywhere, reached its boom at the end of the '80s and beginnings of the '90s when orchestras like "Van Van" and "NG la Banda" grew solid and new, young orchestras like "El Medico de la Salsa", "Paulo FG y su elite" and "Isaac Delgado" came forth.
In the Late 90's and early 2000, Latin Music, who's roots lie primarily in Cuban rhythms, has met a massive revival worldwide with groups such as Ricky Martin, Christian and the Buena Vista social Club. This rivival outlines today's desires to return to the catchy rhythms and agreeable melodies foundered in Cuba and now playing worldwide at your local music store.
PAINTING is the most genuine expression of fine arts on the island. It could not develop in a coherent manner because its first expressions, made by the aborigines in the caves, were discontinued when those communities disappeared. With the conquest and evangelisation process a religious kind of painting prevailed, associated to catholic liturgy. Only in the 19th century, when the San Alejandro academy was founded (1818), paintings by natives began to flourish, designed to satisfy the European taste of Cuban bourgeoisie. The Economic Association Friends of the Country created the Academy and its first principal was French painter Jean Bautiste Vermay. By 1880 a new tendency in Cuban painting was born, its main subject was landscapes. Outstanding in this period were Esteban Chartrand and Valentin Sanz Carta. The works of Basque Victor Patricio de Landaluze showed an interesting folkloric style. But classicism still ruled in fine arts. The avant-gardist awakening of the '20s (20th century) initiated a new period for Cuban painting. The modern movement had its first and most important exhibit in 1927, sponsored by the magazine Avance. Eduardo Abela, Victor Manuel, Antonio Gattorno, Carlos Enriquez and others were starters of the vanguardist movement in Cuba. Following years were of consolidation of the modern movement; this was evidenced at the celebration of the First Modern Arts Salon on 1937. Then, young artists already showed a new period in Cuban art that would build up to create, the so-called "School of Havana" in 1940.
Painters like Rene Portocarrero, Amelia Pelaez and Mariano Rodriguez are part of this movement. Wilfredo Lam returned to Cuba in 1942 after a long stay in Europe and a studio experience with Pablo Picasso. On 1943 Lam painted the work that immortalised him "The Jungle", which was acquired by New York's MOMA. With the triumph of the revolution, the artistic movement strengthened, since the foundation in 1962 of the National School of Fine Arts. Very important personalities such as Raul Martinez and Antonia Eiriz formed the body of professors. A few years later, in 1976, the Fine Arts College of the High Institute of Arts was founded. The important patrimony of the last decade gathers works of artists like Roberto Fabelo, Zaida del Rio, Tomas Sanchez, Manuel Mendive and Nelson Dominguez. Young artists such as, Jose Bedia, Kcho and Flavio Garciandia have occupied a privileged spot ahead of the new styles of painting. During the last 30 years Cuban painting has shown great capability to undertake the more important influences from the international arts, with a creative and unique appearance, assuming at the same time a critic attitude to continue defending the characteristic features of the Cuban identity.
Cuban artist today are abundant, they provide a mixture of past and future conceptions that are creating a worldwide attraction to the works. Art festivals and market sales of these paintings can be found all over the country. Who'll be the next Rembrandt? We will know in 100 years.
LITERATURE. Cuba is an island that has never ceased to yield poets. The first known poem, "Mirror of Patience", was written in 1608 by the Canarian Silvestre de Balboa at the Villa of Puerto Principe. By the first half of the 18th century, around 1733, the first theatre play El Principe Jardinero y Fingido Cloridano written by a Cuban author, Captain Don Santiago de Pita, was performed. Native bourgeoisie attained an important accolade in 1790 with the materialisation of Papel Periodico de La Habana, the first newspaper published on the island. Manuel de Zerqueiro (1760-1846) and Manuel Justo Ruvalcaba (1769-1805) are regarded as the most representative poets of the 18th century. In both poems the Cuban feelings rise slowly with the love and delight for the land's fruitfulness, dedicating their lines to glorify tropical fruits like pineapple and mamey. It was in the 19th century that the great poets were born and the tradition in Cuban poetry began to grow solidly. Deep and beautiful lines as those of Julian del Casal, Placido, El Cucalambe, Juan Clemente Zenea, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, Juana Borrero, Jose Jacinto Milanes, Luisa Perez de Zambrana, Jose Maria Heredia and Jose Marti, left a trail of such exquisite lyrical poetry that, despite romanticism, in some cases exceeded the limits of feelings to offer poems of complete commitment. Cirilo Villaverde wrote the first great novel Cecilia Valdez, in the 19th century, it is an essential gift. Other important novelists from this period are Ramon Meza and Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda. Poetry of the 20th century, restless in a diversity of styles as the century itself, comes up in the world with the names of Jose Zacarias Tallet, Regino Pedroso, Emilio Ballagas, Regino Botti, Nicolas Guillen, Carilda Oliver, Heberto Padilla, Virgilio Piñera, Jose Lezama Lima, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Gaston Baquero, Nancy Morejon, Anton Arrufat, Eliseo Diego (Juan Rulfo Prize for his life's work), Cintio Vitier, Fina Garcia Marruz, Mirta Aguirre, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera, Angel Augier and Dulce Maria Loynaz (Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). The XX century developed quickly with writers that soon began to achieve important international awards. The library of novels for this century gathers the works of Miguel del Carrion, Jose Soler Puig, Dulce Maria Loynaz, Severo Sarduy, Miguel Barnet, Senel Paz, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Luis Rogelio Nogueras, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Virgilio Piñera, Reinaldo Arenas, Jesus Diaz, Jose Lezama Lima, Abilio Estevez and Alejo Carpentier (Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). Currently, story writing is a style that has developed into a solid tendency among young writers; names like Alberto Garrido and Ronaldo Menendez (both winners of the Casa de las Americas prize), attest the eloquent performance of Cuban literature.
Cuban literature, both new and old, abounds in Havana. Street markets often provide some prized books many of which are over 100 years old.