Primitivo Santos was born in Santiago de Los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, on April 28th, 1935. His father passed away when he was two years old. From an early age, he was recognized as being a musical prodigy. In the absence of his father, his surrogate guardian, don Federico Camejo, nurtured Primitivo’s musical talents, providing him with classical training in musical theory and performance. Through his rapid mastery of the oboe, his first instrument, Primitivo would join the municipal band at the age of seven. At the age of twelve, he had formed his own band, and by the age of seventeen, having since traded the oboe for the ubiquitous sounds of the accordion and piano, Primitivo enjoyed his first successes on Dominican radio. His prodigious skill at the interpretation of Dominican rhythms brought his talents to the attention of the Trujillo regime, who were using rural musical forms as expressions of nationalist propaganda to rally popular support around the benevolent dictator. It was in this vein that Primitivo was appointed to the position of agregado cultural de la república dominicana, which is the equivalent of a cultural attaché to theUnited States. This would prove a pivotal point in Primitivo’s role in the popularization of Dominican music, as it allowed him to relocate to WashingtonD.C.
He held the position for over five years, performing at diplomatic functions in the U.S. and abroad. It wasn’t until he relocated to New York City that he was able to insert himself into the flourishing and vibrant Latin music scene. Along with Eduardo Brito and Ángel Viloria, Primitivo Santos was one of the driving forces behind the popularization of merengue and Dominican rhythms in the latter half of the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, not only in the United States, but throughout Latin America. As well as playing Radio City Music Hall, he played Madison Square Garden in 1967 with fellow Dominicanos, Joseíto Mateo and Alberto Beltrán, further establishing himself as on of the top Latin performers of the era. Here’s a link to a bio and interview with Primitivo Santos:
These three singles are from Primitivo’s most successful period in the 1960’s. Interestingly, none of them actually feature Dominican rhythms. “Herimpoke” was recorded in 1961 and comes from an album by the same name. It features the vocals Camboy Estevez and is essentially a boogaloo. I have no idea what a herimpoke is. This version of “El Manisero” was recorded in 1967 and comes from the album, “Primitivo y su Combo en Washington”. The single would become his biggest hit, earning Primitivo a gold record. It also features the vocals of Camboy Estevez Babarquiti is a great version of the tune made famous by Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera. It features the vocals of Tito Contreras.
– Marcos Juarez
Thanks Marcos. WOW!!! – Sonido (better late than never) Franko