Navidades Con la Sonora Matancera
In 1958, at the height of popularity for the famous Cuban band, La Sonora Matancera, Seeco Records released the album Navidades Con La Sonora Matancera. The album was eagerly accepted by the public which featured three great vocalists: Carlos Argentino, Celio Gonzalez and Celia Cruz. It features a variety of Cuban rhythms including guarachas, rumbas and boleros. However, this release coincided with the political takeover by Fidel Castro, and the album was taken off the market before it had the opportunity to reach its full potential. Three years later, by popular demand, Seeco re-released the album under the title Celebramos Noche Buena Con Sonora Matancera. This time it received proper world-wide distribution and recognition.
Celia Cruz’s big break came in 1950 when Myrta Silva, the singer with Rogelio Martinez’ Sonora Matancera returned to her native Puerto Rico. In dire need of a new singer, the band gave the young Celia Cruz a chance. She auditioned in June and at the end of July she was asked to join as lead singer and thus became the group’s first black frontwoman. In her first rehearsal with Sonora Matancera, Cruz met her future husband Pedro Knight, who was the band’s second trumpet. Cruz debuted with the group on August 3, 1950. Initially, Cruz was not received with enthusiasm by the public, but Rogelio Martínez had faith in her. On December 15, 1950, Cruz recorded her first songs with the group, which were a resounding success. Her “musical marriage” with the Sonora Matancera lasted fifteen years. —Bobby Marin