Radio26.Cu – Matanzas, Cuba


Omara Portuondo, the Cuban voice to the world

Gloria Machado León 30 octubre, 2017

The culture of a country gathers the best of its traditions, the artistic heritage of its people and the elements that make up its idiosyncrasy. In Cuba there are various exponents of the various manifestations that, by themselves, embody the most representative of the development of cultural identity.

The visual and performing arts, literature, film, television and radio production, heritage in all its expressions and music have defenders throughout the island who have pondered the name of Cuba in the most diverse contexts and scenarios.

Thus, if we were to think about the musical voice of the country, despite the existence of innumerable talents rooted in the most traditional Cuban pentagram forms, many will think about the interpretations of the Feeling Bride, Omara Portuondo.

The diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, began her journey in art through dance, but very soon, thanks to the influence of her mother, whom she listened to sing in her childhood songs such as La Bayamesa, music became the better of your choices.


Along with friends such as César Portillo de la Luz and José Antonio Méndez he ventured into a cubanized version of bossa nova with jazz influences, known as feeling. Later he was member, with only 20 years, of the Anacaona Orchestra.

The result of the strong presence of Omara and her sister Haydée in the national music scene, they joined Moraima Secada and Elena Burke to integrate one of the most important vocal quartets of Cuban music, Las D’Aida, with which they worked in the cabarets La Campana, Tropicana, Sans-Souci, Montmartre, Club 21 and Parisien, of the National Hotel, and toured Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States.

With the percussion group Los Papines he traveled to Japan; participated in the festivals of Cannes, France; Orfeo de Oro, Bulgaria, where he won the first prize for the best performance; Lira de Oro, Czechoslovakia; Dresden and Schelager, Germany; and the newspapers L’Humanité and L’Unitá in France and Italy, respectively, and Aguas Dulces, Peru.

For more than a decade he shared the stage with prestigious international figures such as Edith Piaf, Ignacio Villa (Snowball), Benny Moré and Rita Montener. He also sang with the Orquesta Aragón, performing in France, Japan, Belgium, Finland and Sweden.

His solo career began with the recording of the album Magia negra, which includes fusions of Cuban music with jazz. When the then director of the Company of Recordings and Musical Editions, Giraldo Piloto, proposed him to participate as a representative of the record company Areíto in Poland, he took advantage of the opportunity and launched himself as a soloist on international stages.

Years later he added new productions, among which stand out his 1984 project with Adalberto Álvarez and the discs Palabras y Desafíos, in which he was accompanied by Chucho Valdés.


The fact that it would definitively catapult Omara Portuondo to the place to which, in its own right, it belonged, took place in 1996, at the hands of the cinema. After participating in the recording sessions of Buena Vista Social Club, where he sang Twenty years with Compay Segundo, Omara Portuondo thrilled the audience from the screen when performing with Ibrahim Ferrer a song as heartbreaking as Silence.

Omara Portuondo, from the hand of Disney, played the Spanish version of one of the characters of the hit The Princess and the frog. In the animated film, the Cuban singer played Mama Odie, a good and blind sorceress who lives in the swamps of Louisiana. The soundtrack of the film is an exquisite compendium that includes jazz, gospel, blues and zydeco.

A new approach to animation cinema was produced in January 2011 when he lent his voice to El Camino de las Gaviotas, an animated short co-produced between Cuba and Brazil. Omara assumed the role of storyteller and grandmother of the protagonist, a little girl named María Soledad. In this new work he interpreted the lullaby Duérmete mi niño, in Spanish and Portuguese.

Her steps in the Buena Vista Social Club

In the year 2000 World Circuit launched Buena Vista Social Club presents … Omara Portuondo, the third album of this group that included the participation of musicians such as Rubén González, Orlando “Cachaíto” López, Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal and Jesús Ramos, and the appearances of artists such as Eliades Ochoa, Compay Segundo and Ibrahím Ferrer. The album, received with great critical acclaim, led Omara to a world tour between 2000 and 2001.


In 2002 he made an extensive solo international tour, with numerous performances in North America and Europe and participated in the Jazz Festival in Japan.

He developed a tour of Canada and the United States in 2003 and in September recorded at the EGREM studios his second solo album, Flor de amor. Marked by a more subtle sound and rich in textures, with a mix of Cuban and Brazilian musicians, the album was nominated in the Grammy Awards in the Best Traditional Tropical Record category.

In 2004 the International Red Cross named her Ambassador, making her the first Cuban artist to achieve this distinction. Four years later he continued with Gracias, winner of the 2009 Latin Grammy, in the Best Contemporary Tropical Album category.

On the album Omara takes a tour of his 60-year career, with special appearances by Pablo Milanes, Uruguayan Jorge Drexler and the Brazilian Chico Buarque. The artist participated in the ceremony and made history as the first resident artist in Cuba to take the stage of the Latin Grammys to present one of the prizes.

In 2010 he launched Omara & Chucho, where he meets Chucho Valdés 14 years after their last album together. At the end of 2011 he releases the album Reír y Cantar where he interprets classics from the children’s repertoire, being nominated for the Latin Grammy Awards in the category of Best Album for children.

Omara has also deserved recognition at events such as the Varadero Song Festival, the Alejo Carpentier Medal, the Felix Varela Order and the Saint Bois City Council Award, France.

Anthological themes of the national pentagram such as Lágrimas negras, Veinte años, Dos gardenias and Quiéreme mucho are remembered many times in the melodious voice of Omara Portuondo. In their interpretations they discover the spirit of the Cuban and the essence of the cultural roots of the people.


Original text by on Oct 30th, 2017

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