La Familia Valera Miranda

Does the street scene look familiar?

It should. Santiago de Cuba (and Havana) were the architectural models for New Orleans.

New Orleans is far more Cuban in look than French. (Havana administered New Orleans when the Spanish controlled it during the important formative years between 1763 until 1803.)

In 1793, 30,000 French growers, refugees from the slave rebellion in Haiti, arrived in Cuba, mostly in Santiago de Cuba.

After a period of over 15 years in which they absorbed Cuban culture, these same people were expelled from Cuba between 1809 and 1810 by the Spanish after a political dispute between Spain and France. Most went to New Orleans where they had a huge impact on that city’s culture and music.

(Interestingly enough one of Cuba’s most beautiful and music cities, Cienfuegos, was founded by settlers from Bordeaux and Louisiana in 1819, so the influence flowed both ways.)

About La Familia Valera Miranda

La Familia Valera Miranda has been playing traditional Cuban son – the style popularized by Buena Vista Social Club – for generations. Music is a family affair for these famous musicians. Félix Valera Miranda, founder of the group, sings & plays guitar while his wife Carmen plays maracas. Their sons – Enrique, Raúl & Ernesto – play cuatro (an 8-string guitar tuned in pairs), bass & bongo respectively.

Since the 19th century, La Familia Valera Miranda has played a significant role in Cuban culture by collecting & preserving the deep-rooted traditions of the legendary Sierra Maestra mountain region. Original members of the family were subsistence farmers in the rural areas of the Oriente (eastern Cuba), primarily the Cauto River valley near the villages of Bayamo & Las Tunas. Later, they migrated to the areas around Santiago de Cuba & Guantánamo where they reside today.

The Valera & Miranda ancestors brought with them religious elements of Bantu origin alongside secular customs from the Canary Islands & Andalucía. These influences are found in their songs & the musical instruments they play.

More info: La Familia Valera Miranda

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube

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