SHOW | HIDE "CHA CHA CHA / CHARANGA..." DESCRIPTION...
Charanga is the name for both a kind of Cuban music and the bands that play it: a light, elegant, sprightly music; at its most lush and string-laden verging towards kitsch MOR; at its most commercial a light medium for pop covers; at its hardest a virtuosic interplay among overblown flutes, searing strings and percussion. The bands developed out of charangas francesas (19th century "French orchestras") and are characterised by flute lead, legato strings (violins and cello), rhythm section (crisp timbales, conga, güiro, bass, piano) and unison male voices. They were identified with the danzón, regarded as Cuba's national dance; hence the bands also became known as danzoneras. The danzón stemmed from the 19th century Cuban contradanza, itself originating from the French contredanse introduced to Cuba by French exiles fleeing the Haitian slave revolt of 1791. Though disputed, the first danzón is usually credited to have been written in 1877 and first performed in 1879 by Miguel Faílde Pérez (1852-1921). From the early '50s danzoneras played cha cha chá and other Cuban rhythms. Enrique Jorrín (1926-1987) is credited with developing the cha cha chá in circa 1948 from a passage in the final part of the danzón. The name of the dance was derived from the shuffling "cha cha chá" sound the dancers' feet made responding to the new rhythm. Cha cha chá swept Cuba in 1953 and became a fad in the USA following its reputed introduction at a Carnegie Hall Latin concert on February 20, 1954. Latin big bands in New York City emphasised the horns to suit the city's sound. Non-Latin bands diluted the music for American dancers. By the time Orquesta Sublime's '59 recording of "La Pachanga" by composer Eduardo Davidson (1929-1994) introduced the pachanga rhythm, the bands were simply called charangas (however, some credit José Fajardo's charanga as the first to perform pachanga). Following successful late '50s tours by Fajardo and Orquesta Aragón, NYC's charanga heyday (which was dominated by the pachanga craze) began in 1960, led by Charlie Palmieri's Charanga "La Duboney", Pacheco y su Charanga and others. The charanga boom abated in NYC in the mid-'60s, with most bandleaders eventually swapping strings for brass. In the second half of the '70s there was a charanga explosion within salsa as an alternative to the brass-led sounds; veterans re-emerged and new bands emerged. - John Child