Comments, In Focus

There is only one Omara Portuondo

At nine decades of life, Cuban Omara Portuondo moves people with her voice on the most diverse artistic stages in the world and is considered a banner of Cuban culture.  

 

Omara Portuondo. Photo: Ajuntament de Vilanova i la Geltrú. Flickr. Licencia Creative Commons

Liz Arianna Bobadilla León

 

Her performances are synonymous with memories, love, sadness, identity and passions. She has immortalised songs such as: “Drume negrita”, “Adiós felicidad”, “La última noche que pasé contigo”, “Dos gardenias”, “Lágrimas negras”, “Por eso yo soy cubana” and “Quizás, quizás, quizás”, among many others.

Although she tried her luck at dancing (including cabaret, theatre and teaching), music controlled her fate by giving a voice to an emerging genre in the 1940s in Cuba: the ‘feeling’, a mixture of bossa nova and American jazz.

This style captivated her when she learned about it while she was with the group Los Loquibamba, made up of Cesar Portillo de la Luz, Jose Antonio Mendez and the blind pianist, Frank Emilio Flynn.

She belonged to the group Anacaona, which constituted the preamble for 15 years dedicated to the female vocal quartet Las D’Aida, alongside Elena Burke, Moraima Secada and the pianist, Aida Diestro.

During this time she had the opportunity to share a stage with Edith Piaf, Pedro Vargas, Rita Montaner, Bola de Nieve, Benny Moré, Nat King Cole and many, many more internationally-relevant artists.

Portuondo was also in the Aragon orchestra and the Buena Vista Social Club band, where she earned the title of ‘diva’.

With 30 solo albums, Omara has toured and performed in Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, Japan, France, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Peru, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Panama, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Algeria, Romania, Poland, Russia, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, England and Switzerland.

In 2004, the International Red Cross named her International Ambassador, making her into the first Cuban artist to reach such a distinction, and with her record “Flor de amor”, she was nominated for a Grammy in Best Traditional Tropical Album, winning it in 2009.

Her work appeals to all ages, which is why, in 2011, she released the album,“Reír y cantar”, where she runs through the repertoire of children’s classics.

That same year she voiced the character of Mama Odie, a good, blind witch in the Disney film, “The Princess and the Frog”.

Awarded the Latin Grammy for Musical Excellence in 2019, and the gold medal for Merit in the Fine Arts granted by the Spanish Government, Portuondo is, undoubtedly, one of the most exceptional singers of the Caribbean nation. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison. Email: donna_davison@hotmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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