It was astonishing to see Oscar D'León's orchestra come out complete, with everyone ready, instruments in hand before a crowd that had come from all over Cuba so as not to miss the first concert of the Venezuelan sonero in the birthplace of Son, and then some. It would be a privilege to be an eyewitness, although all of Cuba would see it, since there was practically a national radio and television network.
The "Dame Cable" was released by Oscar from the very first song, after being announced by none other than Consuelo Vidal in front of a stage movable from right to left, the famous Varadero stage.
That first song was "Melao de Caña", written by Mercedes Pedroso and it was electrifying to see Oscar and Vladimir Lozano in those white suits full of fringes making the Varadero amphitheater rumble in November 1983.
Unforgettable, but the story didn't start there. Being the only Venezuelan journalist officially accredited by Cuba to cover Varadero 83, it will be good to contextualize.
At the end of October 1983, Alberto Quintero, a Venezuelan, an event producer closely affiliated with Cuba, arrived at the editorial staff of El Diario de Caracas. He was sent by Pedro Orlando Rodríguez, from Cuba, from the Ministry of Culture and director of Cubartista, the island's events company.
"We are officially inviting her to the Varadero Festival"
"Me, on account of what?"
"You'll know, in due course."
"I don't have the money or anything like that to go to Cuba.
"Everything will be paid for by the Cuban cultural authorities."
Oscar's arrival with his musical blunderbuss at the "José Martí" airport
I couldn't believe it and then pointed out that the newspaper wouldn't give me permission. And that gentleman, Alberto Quintero, requested a meeting with Manuel Felipe Sierra, then director of El Diario. Sierra then called me: "We'll support everything, it's a luxury invitation and an exclusive, but, damn, don't stay in Cuba."
Let's run. Some colleagues and friends, curiously, already knew about this episode. And it would be the unforgettable Ángel Méndez who would tell me: "Oscar proposed a shortlist of more than ten journalists and they accepted only Collazo, his press chief. You will be the only one accredited by Cuba. Those people know."
And it was Ángel Méndez who offered to accompany me to the airport. "I have to say something to Oscar."
Méndez knew Oscar Emilio very well, since the founding of Swing Latino magazine. When he arrived at the airport and bumped into him, he said: "Look, Oscar, this bold is correct; Behave yourself, compadre." So, by the way, I met Oscar personally.
The next stop was in Panama. Remember that there were no direct flights from Venezuela to Cuba back then. Havana was reached from Panama or Mexico. We were transferred to the Holiday Inn to refresh and eat and then back to the Panamanian airport to board for Havana, and there was a crowd waiting for the flight on Cuban soil. A crowd. From Ali Ko, Uruguayan troubadour who was Oscar's manager and representative at the time, to Orlando Montiel, event producer and record label, they were surprised, because it was overflowing and almost out of control. I can safely tell you that the customs surveillance left their post to go and see the Venezuelan who was arriving. To stamp the passports that was an ordeal. There was no one to do it. Oscar got off the plane to kiss the Cuban soil and it was being broadcast on Cuban TV. Madness.
We didn't pass through Havana because we went straight to Varadero, and in the case of the orchestra and producers and guests we arrived at the Bellamar hotel. Oscar was taken to a mansion, to be cared for individually, given his fame, and for his safety.
The Varadero Festival began on November 24, 1983. Oscar, whose only rallying cry at the time was "How about?" premiered at that event on the 26th. That night he would inaugurate the "Dame cable" and over the years the "Sabrooosooo".
In that indescribable moment, of the highest frequency, Oscar unleashed himself, and as the king knew, he began to direct and demand. It wasn't just about the cables. Even the cameramen were asked to take positions and shots. At times he appealed to security and the public, asking for restraint.
Reception. Photo: Lil Rodriguez
The writer was in the line reserved for international journalists, but behind them were the nationals, the Cubans, and the team was immediate.
When he said for the first time "Dame cable" which was really a seguidilla because he would repeat the phrase about 6 times in a row, Oscar did not get into the audience, but he did get off the main stage. The wonderful Vladimir Lozano, Luisito Quintero and Daniel Silva on bass were at the helm of the orchestra while Oscar played and did his thing in Varadero. They really became bastions on which all eyes and attention rested. A spectacular trio on stage.
Some details were revealed. Certainly, the technicians had to run and cross each other on the stage (very visible on the television) because there were cables, but they were coiled. It wasn't just about that.
For example, Oscar only knew the full names of Barbarito Diez and Arturo Sandoval. He never knew how to call Pancho his last name, Amat, and he could never call Guajiro Mirabal. At that time, the commitment to the organizers of the Festival was noticeable, especially with Pedro Orlando, from Cubartista. So much so that Oscar learned in a jiffy the song by Juan Almeida (Third Commander of the Revolution, and the only musician of the bearded ones) "Esa mujer", and it turned out very well. "He keeps picking up a blond man, who in Venezuela is called a catire." Of course, he never gave the name of the author.
In a slightly compromising position, but a historic photo at last: launching himself into the audience at the Carlos Marx Theater in Havana
Give Me Cable Seriously
The corredera was really formed when Oscar D'León began to sing "Calculator" (Rosendo Rosell's song) because there, when Oscar was lit and the audience was turned on, the Venezuelan sonero decided to question everyone and himself. Another high point was when he began to perform "The Right to Be Born", a song that the audience was crying out for. When Oscar handed the bass to Daniel Silva, the technicians and cameramen sensed the commotion, and the security as well. The Venezuelan completely immersed himself in the audience. The wires answered as long as he wanted, for as the crowd gathered to embrace him (they would never steal a liter of sweat) he was afraid, and recoiled, but he went as far as audacity would allow.
It should be noted that the repertoire chosen by and for Oscar D'León based on his presentation in Varadero was exact, tailored to the circumstances. Songs from the forties and fifties, such as Melao de Caña, Calculator, El fiel enamorado (Pica, o Monta mi caballo), El Baile del Suavito together with Mi negra está cansá, Esa mujer, El Derecho de nacer and la diadema que es Mata Siguaraya revived a melodica that was forgotten by the Cuban media and even by many musicians and orchestras. that they considered that repertoire as something of the past, but that it worked perfectly in the memory of Cubans. Oscar brought back Benny Moré, the Aragón orchestra, Barbarito Diez and placed them in front of his people like an open Bible in Psalm 23. To all that he added his tremendous voice, his stage mastery and that love for sonero singing that makes him spend up to four hours in concert. In Varadero, as in many places, Oscar was not left with freshness, even if he lost three kilos in sweat.
With Vladimir Lozano at the Ciudad Deportiva (Havana). Video Frame
"Mata Siguaraya" (by Lino Frías), one of the most emblematic songs performed by the Barbarian of Rhythm, Benny Moré, was chosen by Oscar to close the night of his debut in Varadero and Cuba. The whole island sang along with him, if we go by the monumental chorus that was heard in the amphitheater of Playa Azul.
He didn't ask for any more cable because he took the bass that Daniel Silva gave him and made an unforgettable performance that culminated with him and Vladimir Lozano thrown to the floor, as if dead, trembling and with an orchestra in full suspense until they got up again and put the beginning of the legend that November 1983 means for Cuba instead of a full stop. for Venezuela and for popular music.
Technicians and security personnel in the hard task of accompanying the sonero in the sea of the village. And to give him cable, which was long but tangled
The next day, while nothing else was being talked about in Cuba, Oscar D'León gave a memorable press conference in which there were as many musicians as there were journalists. The Ritmo Oriental, the Original de Manzanillo, the Sierra Maestra, Gonzalito Rubalcaba, Adalberto Álvarez and Juan Pablo Torres are counted in my memory. Oscar spoke of the need to allow individualities to exercise in the orchestral collective, and to respect them. The musicians nodded and many of us thought it was a direct shot at Irakere. "When it's time for a solo, we must respect and support the soloist. Every musician has the right to express himself and those of us who manage have the duty to support him, which is also very gratifying: at the end of the day they are our colleagues."
Then we were able to be by his side when he suggested to Adalberto Álvarez the name of the new orchestra he was forming, after his departure from Son 14. "Don't abandon the word Son. I propose Adalberto and his Son" and that's how it was.
Then came another presentation in Varadero, one (memorable) in Santiago de Cuba, one in Cienfuegos, as a tribute to Benny and the closing ones in Havana, including the Carlos Marx, the Lenin Park and the Ciudad Deportiva. But, if you will allow me to point it out, it was the first night of Varadero, the night of the "Dame Cable", which has remained in the memory of an entire people and a continent.
There are those who believe that this concert should be taken to UNESCO to request that it be elevated to Cultural Heritage of Humanity. And, you know?
No one told me. I was there.
(Taken from La Inventadera)