Sierra Maestra first performed in 1976 at the University of Havana, where all the group members studied. Their aim, then as now, was to revive and re-explore this popular Cuban music style of the 1920’s, which had been all but forgotten. The group slightly augmented the original instrument line-up with extra percussion (congas and maracas) and replaced the old marímbula with electric bass. Some of the guaracha rhythms were speeded up in a move away from the slow, close pair dancing of the 20’s. This revival of son with a modern stamp was a sensation for the new generation of Cubans, and Sierra Maestra quickly became popular, playing the annual festivals at the universities around the island of Cuba, capturing first place prizes in their first three years. They were also appearing regularly on national TV.
In 1978, they were asked to represent Cuba a the “Festival Mundial de la Juventud y los Estudiantes” in Havana. Their first record, “Sierra Maestra llegó con el guanajo relleno” recorded in 1981, received a silver disc award for outstanding sales, stunning popularity and critical reception. They also won individual prizes for best recording, most popular song and highest record sales. Also in 1981, they launched first foreign tour—to Nicaragua.
Sierra Maestra recorded their second LP, “Y Son Así” in 1982 and was awarded the Girasol prize for the year’s most popular group and rounded out the year with tours to Angola and Nicaragua. In 1983, they won the “Benny Moré” dance music prize at the Benny Moré festival and took part in the IV Song Festival held in Helsinki, Finland. They then traveled to Sweden and France and to the International Film Festival in Spain (where they’ve enjoyed playing over the years). Also in 1983, they recorded the soundtrack to the Cuban TV series “Las Impuras” and their song “A los rumberos de Belén” was used in Robert Redford’s film, “The Milagro Beanfield War”. Since then, Sierra Maestra has won over international audiences in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. They have recorded ten LPs and over ten singles and appeared on over seven compilations.
Sierra Maestra also have a French feature film called “Salsa” which was released in February of 2000 in France. It’s a feature film, written by Jean-Claude Carriére and directed by Joyce Buñuel, released by Universal Studios.
The group’s arrangements generally use the classic formula: introduction of trumpet phrases over the basic melody of the song (this usually following A-B or A-B-C-A scheme) and then the montuno, based on vocal or trumpet solo improvisations with chorus work. Sierra Maestra also play Cuban rumba, a different clave -2/3- which accompanies a totally different dance to that of son.
The group's leader for many years, Juan De Marcos González Cárdenas (Voz, tres, musical director) left the group to create the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Buena Vista Social Club. And Jesus alema?y, the band's trumpet player for 1y years, left to form his group Cubanismo.
- Emilio José Batista - tres and vocals
- Oslen Ceballo Brian - trumpet
- Eduardo Manuel Rico Menéndez - bongos and conga
- Carlos Puisseaux Mansfarroll - G?iro and vocals
- Alejandro Suarez Galarraga - claves, vocals, band leader
- Eduardo Himely Pino - bass and tumbadora
- Luis Barzaga Sosa - Vocals
- Jose Antonio "Maceo" Rodriguez Aguilera - vocals and acoustic guitar
- Alberto Virgilio Valdés Decalo - Vocals and maracas