The recordings made by Abelardo Barroso with Orquesta Sensación in Havana during the 1950s represent one of the pinnacles of the golden age of Cuban music. Now, on the album Cha Cha Cha, World Circuit, the label behind Buena Vista Social Club, releases a re-mastered selection of 14 of their most irresistible recordings. World Circuit releases the album in North America via Nonesuch Records on November 17; it is available to preorder now on iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store on CD, vinyl, MP3, and FLAC with an instant download of the album track “La Hija de Juan Simón.”
More than 40 years after his death in 1972, the singer remains an iconic and beloved figure in Latin music. The timeless hits of Barroso and Orquesta Sensación continue to enjoy widespread popularity and (unbeknown to the singer for most of his life) have earned him especially dedicated fans in West Africa, where Barroso’s voice is still heard and revered in cafés and on the radio across Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire.
One of Cuba’s all-time great singers, Barroso has a life story that encompasses three distinct careers over half a century of singing and a rags-to-riches finale reminiscent of Ibrahim Ferrer and other members of the Buena Vista Social Club. Born in Havana in 1905, he first burst onto the scene in the 1920s recording with all three of the era’s finest bands during the first great wave of Cuban son music. In the 1930s he was known as the “Cuban Caruso,” performing with the most popular danzón groups of the day and becoming one of Cuba’s first radio stars. By the early 1950s, he found himself in the wilderness, playing for tips outside a nightclub before staging a spectacular comeback after he was discovered by Rolando Valdés, the director of Orquesta
Sensación, one of the great charanga bands of the cha cha cha boom of the mid-1950s.
With a classic line-up of flute and violins, and invested with powerful groove and swing courtesy of a dream rhythm section, the recordings Barroso made with Orquesta Sensación for Puchito Records found the singer at the very peak of his powers. Puchito was one of Cuba’s first independent record labels, founded during the mambo and cha cha cha explosion of the ’50s and the recordings, sympathetically produced by label founder Jesús Goris were instant hits. Although known primarily as a cha cha cha band, Barroso and Sensación put their unique stamp on the gamut of other Cuban styles. Barroso toured and performed with Sensación in Venezuela, Miami, and New York and continued to record with the orchestra until 1965.
It is these classic recordings—now remastered for the first time in 60 years—that are the subject of Abelardo Barroso with Orquesta Sensación’s Cha Cha Cha. The project has been a personal passion for World Circuit’s Nick Gold, a long-time admirer of Barroso’s voice and his classic recordings with Sensación. This set joins World Circuit’s other classic re-issues of bands such as Orchestra Baobab, Los Zafiros, and classic cumbia recordings.