The legacy of Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz (Compay Segundo), an artist of world renown, is still present and radiating Cuban culture through the musical group he founded and that adopted his name after his irreplaceable passing.Compay Segundo is, after Miguel Matamoros (another great figure of the son), an artist who filled the lyrics and music of his songs with a universe of images, expressions and sayings of everyday life, which will always keep alive the memory of the Cuban farmer’s language, the richness of its sound, humor and imagination.
One of his many contributions to the cultural heritage of Cuba and humankind, is the invention of a musical instrument called the armónico, which combines the functions of a guitar and a tres, and which Compay Segundo also used to make the sound of a little bell in the chorus, by plucking the far end of the strings.
Thanks to Compay Segundo, Cuban music introduces the use of clarinets as an essential accompaniment in groups that play the son.
The legend of Compay Segundo y sus Muchachos fascinated audiences in all continents and generations because besides all the contributions just mentioned, he became the oldest active singer in the world. In addition, he also gave the greatest number of concerts after having reached the ripe old age of 90. He gave hundreds of concerts, to standing room only crowds, in more cities and countires, and sold the greatest number of records after he was ninety years old.
Another creative feat –not very frequent in a musician, especially at that age– is to write a play. And that’s what Francisco Repilado Muñoz was able to do with his play Se secó el arroyito, inspired by a song of his own making with the same title.
Presently appearing as the Compay Segundo Group, in heartfelt tribute to his memory, the musicians that accompanied him in his triumphant tour through Europe, Japan, the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Middle East and the Caribbean, today are fully dedicated to faithfully preserve and enrich the contributions of this Patriarch of the Son.
The group Compay Segundo y sus Muchachos was created in 1955 by Francisco Repilado Muñoz, after the Los Compadres duo, which he founded with Lorenzo Hierrezuelo in 1942, broke up.
In 1992 it becomes a quartet, with Compay (tenor and armónica), Benito Suárez (bass and guitar), Julio Fernández Colina (lead and maracas) and Salvador Repilado (chorus and double bass). In 1997 there’s a change and Hugo Garzón becomes the lead singer. In 1998, the group becomes a quintet when Rafael Fournier joins in with the bongo drums.
In 1999 Compay Segundo y sus Muchachos also includes former clarinet players from the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, namely Haskell Armenteros, Rafael Inciarte and Rosendo Nardo. And more recently, there have been more additions: Basilio Repilado, following in his father’s footsteps, as tenor and minor percussion, and Erenio Almonte with the guitar. Since then international critics have begun to refer to these musicians as “son chamber music, an exceptional product of Cuban tradition, enjoyed both by dancers and by those who prefer to dream to the sound of music.
Two later additions to the Compay Segundo group were Félix Martínez Montero (Chiquitico), a lute player from the Celina González Group (Celina was the queen of Cuban country music), who learned to play the armónico directly with its inventor, and Nilso Arias Fernández, a guitarist who played with Barbarito Torres (a well-known Cuban musician) as the second guitar.
Since 1994, when this group accompanied Compay Segundo to the First Meeting of Son and Flamenco, hosted by the Luis Cernuda Foundation, held in Seville –a performance that was widely acclaimed again in 1995–, they travel constantly and participate in important international festivals, concerts and events in Cuba and the world.
Their discography includes Antología de Compay Segundo, Yo Vengo aquí, Lo Mejor de la Vida, Calle Salud and Las Flores de la Vida (nominated for the Grammy), an award they had already received for their participation in the Buena Vista Social Club Album.
In 2004, they recorded the song Como un gorrión, by Joan Manuel Serrat, which was included in an album produced by the Discmedi label in honor of the Catalan artist, where outstanding Cuban figures and groups participated.
Their most recent production is Siempre Compay (Unicornio, 2005), which was favorably received by the critics because Compay Segundo still seems to be present, thanks to the powerful voice of his son Basilio, to the wonders of Félix “Chiquitico” Martínez at the armónico, and to the enduring quality of the rest of the musicians.
The Compay Segundo group has accompanied other outstanding Cuban figures, such as Silvio Rodríguez, Omara Portuondo, Eliades Ochoa, Charles Aznavour, Pío Leyva, Teresa García Caturla, Isaac Delgado, Santiago Auserón (Juan Perro), the flamenco singers Martirio and Raimundo Amador, Lou Bega and the Algerian Khaled.
In September 2003 they reappeared on the international scene at a concert with 15,000 persons in Arcos de Riva de la Garda, in Trento, Italy, during the second edition of the Terre di Confine Music and Art Festival, together with their guests Pío Leyva, Teresa García Caturla and Isaac Delgado, where they were warmly received by the public and the critics.
They continued to captivate the European public in February 2004, in different cities of Spain and Italy, such as Bilbao, San Sebastián, Barcelona, Madrid, Terni and Campobasso.
In June of that same year, they delighted over 1,500 people at the Sala Casa 70, in Luanda, Angola, during three concerts that were all sold out as soon as it became known that the Compay Segundo Group would be playing there. They also gave a special concert to all the Cuban personnel, doctors included, who extend their humanitarian aid to this fellow country.
In February 2005, they visited Spain and Portugal, offering four concerts to a full house in cities such as Madrid, Burgos, Seville, and at the majestic Estoril Casino in Lisbon, Portugal.
Throughout 2006 they continue to entertain audiences with their contagious music, in Cuba as well as in Mexico, Guatemala and Europe. They travel to Italy in July for ten presentations with the Veneto Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of the Italian maestro Stefano Mazzoleni. In a fusion with traditional Cuban music, over twelve musical arrangements were made of Compay Segundo’s works, which were very favorably received by the Italian public. This experience is repeated in Cuba on November 18 of that same year, on what would have been his 99th birthday, at the Sala Dolores in Santiago de Cuba, thereby inaugurating the festivities in honor of Compay Segundo’s 100th birthday.
This Symphonic Project is repeated in the summer of 2007 and of 2008, when they toured almost all of Italy as well as Spain, as part of the celebrations in honor of the centennial of this outstanding figure of Cuban music.
During 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Group continues to take its music to the international scene, in countries like Greece, Rumania, Holland and France. They sign a contract with the French company Benjamin International Productions covering all of France. Under its auspices, the Group has given over 30 concerts in that country, and more recently, it joined the Rouen Opera of Upper Normandy in celebrating the Symphony Orchestra Week in November 2011.
In Havana, the Group continues to play every Saturday night at the Compay Segundo Salón 1930 in Cuba’s National Hotel. This activity was founded by Francisco Repilado on the 80th anniversary of his artistic career, thereby creating a distinguished and classic space for all those who wish to enjoy good Cuban music.
And so the public continues to enjoy the repertoire made universally famous by Compay Segundo: Macusa, Sabroso, Anita, Bilongo (La negra Tomasa), Veinte Años, Las Flores de la Vida and the mythical Chan Chan. His enthusiastic fans, who sing along with the Group, show that the work of Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz, as it is played by the Compay Segundo Group, will continue to instill love and happiness in the hearts of its millions of fans all over the world.
Members of the Group
Salvador Repilado Labrada (director-double bass)
Félix Martínez Montero (armónico)
Hugo Garzón Bargalló (lead and maracas)
Rafael Inciarte Rodríguez (clarinet)
Haskell Armenteros Pons (clarinet)
Nilso Arias Fernández (second guitar)
Rafael Fournier Navarro (percussion)
Joel Matos Rodríguez (second guitar)
Rafael Inciarte Rodríguez (clarinet)