In 1932 Concepcion Castro and her sisters Ada, Alicia, Ondina, Xiomara, Algimira, Emma, Charity and Olga joined forces to found a female sextet playing Son. With the name of Anacaona, which means Flower of Gold, they paid homage to a noble indigenous princess, first heroine of Haiti and wife of Cacique Canoabo. Within two years of getting together they had a proper jazz and charanga band.
Sisters Georgia and Dora Aguirre, bassist and saxophonist, graduated from the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, and inspired by its musical legacy, in 1983 joined the Anacaona orchestra, under the baton of Alicia Castro.
For four years, the Aguirre sisters learned all they could until, in December 1987, Georgia took over direction of Anacaona. Since then she has tried to keep the tradition alive.Under the auspices of ARTEX's Clave Cubana agency and with the support of the Carnival Company, the Anacaona Orchestra will begin a tour of the Havana neighborhoods in March to celebrate its 85th anniversary.
"The first concert I want be at the intersection of Prado and Neptuno streets, because of the musical significance of that corner of Havana where Anacaona was born in the Payret Theatre. Also, the band was well known in the Prado Free Airs, near the Saratoga and Pasaje hotels, "says Georgia.
Another show ‘Mulatísimas del Sabor' will be in Trillo Park in Centro Habana where Georgia lived for many years, and where the group rehearses. The Anacaona will also arrive at 10 de Octubre street, where the founders of the band lived.The tour will continue to East Havana, the El Latino del Cerro stadium, El Cotorro and the Red Square of the Viper. Afterwards, the band will be perform in each theatre across the provinces of Cuba, with accompanied by the best known local vocalists, with a diverse repertoire, of jazz, danzones and boleros.The final concert of the tour is scheduled for October, in Havana's Mella theatre, in honour of the National Day of Cuban Culture. Special guests will include the dance company Lizt Alfonso, CubaDanza and the diva of Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, who was a member of Anacaona and has worked with the Aguirre sisters for the last 30 years. The concert will be recorded for a DVD.
Although Anacaona has already toured most of the island's towns and cities, performing in festivals, the Havana public has hardly been able to appreciate its art in recent times. Georgia warns that it would like to have a fixed space in Havana, a very important showcase for Cuban culture.
At present, Anacaona consists of fourteen women. This orchestra, which has been active for more than eight decades, cultivates popular dance music, combined with traditional rhythms and contemporary sounds.
The group has shared the stage with Pepe Arévalo and his orchestra; Lourdes Torres; Los Van Van; NG la Banda; Pucho López; D'Javán; Pete "The Count"; Jhonny Pacheco and his orchestra; Papo Lucas with Sonora Ponceña; Cheo Feliciano; El Gran Combo and Oscar de León, among other figures of national and international music.
Their records include: Anacaona, Ay !!; A hundred beautiful Cubans; Like a miracle; What you expected; Cuba sings to Serrat and I can not help it. At the moment, they are in the production phase of a new album – without a name still – that will be produced by the BisMusic label.
The album will include a compilation of tracks by the group, as well as new tracks written by the late Juan Formell, Gustavo Cabañas, Osvaldo Montero and Alberto Reina, among other composers.