Known as the father of the modern Afro-Cuban sound, the blind musician and bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez would further develop and modernize the sound of Son, the predominate musical force in Cuba. Up until the 50’s, son centered around the tres (a triple set stringed guitar), bass and clave. By adding more melodic elements to his arrangements like a horn section, piano, and congas – Aresenio Rodríguez garnered instant fame in Cuba, earning him the nickname El Ciego Maravilloso (the marvellous blind man).
Born in Güira de Macurijes, as a young child, Rodríguez was blinded when a horse kicked him in the head. It is said that his musical roots come from the Congolese rituals of his family, instilled in him by his grandfather, who was apparently a slave. There probably hasn’t been a bigger influence in Cuban music than Arsenio Rodríguez. His sound can be heard in the rustic streets to the large Salsa brass arrangements to this day. Even listening to the first 5 seconds of Cambia El Paso (change that step), you instantly recognize the sound of son, something which has almost become a national symbol for Cuba.
On a side note, Andy Harlow does a really good version of Cambia El Paso and his brother Larry does a whole tribute album to Rodríguez. Also, I think it would be cool if someone knew what the word bochinche means. I think it’s Cuban slang for “gossip” – anyway peep the Cubans yelling at each other at 1:35 minutes into the song. The Tropical/Secco label was like the Putamayo world music label of it’s day. The actual album is probably from the 60’s, but this is a collection of Arsenio’s 78’s of the 50’s. Enjoy!