Santiago Septet  from the root to the roots
Santiago Septet  from the root to the roots
Santiago Septet  from the root to the roots

The “Septeto Santiaguero”, a traditional music group founded in 1995 in the Santiago de Cuba province, today represents a milestone in Cuban musical history, for with only 22 years of artistic life it has accomplished four nominations to the Latin Grammys.

Such deed is mostly due to Fernando Dewar who has led the “Son” musical group to success, helping expand to the future, the present of traditional Cuban rhythms´ memory with anthological works of outstanding and unforgettable authors.

Alden Gonzalez, the group´s agent, kindly agreed to an interview for “Bienvenidos”, letting us know about present and future projects.

How does the Septeto Santiaguero come about?

“The group started in 1995 because of the need of Maestro Fernando Dewar to create a new musical project that, though working based on new concepts, could at the same time guarantee the continuity of Melodías del Ayer founded in 1962 and based on a group format.”

Which was the deciding factor influencing continuity of Melodias del Ayer work through the sound of traditional music?     

“At the time many young musicians influenced by traditional music felt the urge to create and interpret works linked to this genre.  Already there were groups that performed well in this type of music as: Septeto Turquino and Septeto Naborí, both a fundamental reference for our group; this is how the development of Septeto Santiaguero began”.

Does the group have someone in charge of the repertoire? Which is the selection criteria of its musical pieces?

“Of course there is always team work during the process of works selection, but we count on the knowledge and expertise of Maestro Fernando Dewar regarding the selection and approval of proposals presented by members of the group.”

How is traditional music and particularly the work of the group perceived by younger generations?

“I believe there is a positive answer by the younger generations.  At every performance we are surrounded by many young people who like our music and particularly in the Santiago de Cuba Province, the new generation of musicians favor the work we are doing.”

Does the group have the support and collaboration of other musicians?

“In the national arena we count on the support of musicians like Reinaldo Creag, guitar player Alejandro Almenares as well as cultural institutions that have backed up our work.”

“Internationally our group received the support of figures key to our consolidation process. We can mention: Rubén Blades, Medero Madera, Charlie Aponte, Maestro Arturo O´Farrill, Carlos Miyares, Ulises Benavides, violinist Alfredo de la Fe, the excellent jazz musician Nicholas Payton, as well as the Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, among others. But we have to mention specially our great friend Maestro José Alberto, “El Canario”.

What is your saying about the expression: “the more authentic more international”?

“Definitely that statement is exemplified by the work done by the Septeto Santiaguero. The international success of our groups owes to the manner in which we defend our native genres. We see ourselves as followers and heirs of the great performers of traditional music that came before us, who have guided and constantly shown the way to our group.  Thanks to the musical path we have selected we have achieved such international recognition.”

How many Latin Grammys nominations has the group received?

“The group received four nominations.  For example in 2015 the group won the prize with the “No quiero llanto: Tributo a los compadres” CD.  On this occasion (2017) the nomination went to the Raíz CD. This phonogram is the result of a more consolidated sound of the group, allowing us to faithfully recreate with our own signature genres as: bolero, guaracha and son among others.”

Which authors contributed to the Raíz CD as to selection of pieces?

“Outstanding authors in the Cuban musical portfolio, whose works are part of our cultural heritage as: Pepe Sánchez, Miguel Matamoros, Ignacio Piñeiro, Ñico Saquito, Arsenio Rodríguez, Sindo Garay, Silvio Rodríguez, Elio Revé, Adalberto Alvarez, Pablo Milanés and Juan Formell.”

At what time does the fourth nomination to the Latin Grammys Prize come for the group?

“It comes at a very good time because for us a nomination is a confirmation, it ratifies that the work we are doing is interesting and that, it is not only accepted by the specific market of Cuban traditional music. There are other spaces, inside and out of the Island that keep their interest in our music.  So this nomination is an endorsement to the fact that the road selected was not a mistake.”

Is the group working in any project at the time?

“These days the group is working in a new project with Maestro José Alberto “El Canario”, which presentation we expect will be ready in the coming summer months.”

What are your expectations for this project?

“That it will be as well accepted as the “Tributo a los Compadres” and Raíz CD´s.”

What is your future wish for the group?

“That our music is always accepted by the new generations. We wish that our repertoire of Cuban traditional music will never be lost and that young people acknowledge its many values, richness and flavor; for it is up to them to guarantee that our authentic music transcends to posterity.”

There is no doubt the members of the Cuban traditional music group “Septeto Santiaguero” are ambassadors of Cuban-ess and at the same time a channel of those voices that, coming from afar, bring about news that fill us with hope, youth and life.

By: Pedro Cuba Morales