This ajiaco, or stew made, traditional and modern Mr. Alvarez, unique among Cuban bandleaders at the time, said marisol quevedo, an expert in Cuban music and an assistant professor of musicology at the University of Miami. “What it represented was this perfect hybrid of traditional and influences from abroad,” she said.
Unlike many Cuban artists of the era, Mr. Alvarez received permission from the Cuban Communist government to travel abroad, beginning with a visit to Venezuela in 1980. (Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel) Condoled his death.) This freedom of movement gave him access to Latin music outside Cuba and kept him exposed to contemporary musical trends. In 1999, after he and his band performed in New York City, Peter Waterhaus The New York Times called his voice “modern and unstoppable”.
Mr. Alvarez served as a groundbreaker in other ways. A priest in the Yoruba religion La Regala de Ocha-Ifa, he was one of the first Cubans to bring songs focused on his beliefs on stage and in the recording studio. Religions such as Ifa – a mix of Roman Catholic and West African spiritual beliefs – were secretly banned and practiced in atheist Cuba until 1992, when the government declared itself secular and prohibited religious discrimination. Ifa and other Santeria religions are now common and openly practiced.
The ban didn’t stop Mr. Alvarez from recording one of his biggest hits, in 1991. “Y que tu quieres que te den?,” Which focuses on Ifa and asks the audience to think about what they want from the orish or gods. The song served as a tribute to his religion, but also as a public acknowledgment of its popularity.
Adalberto Cecilio Alvarez Zayes was born on November 22, 1948, in Havana, and grew up in Camague, a city in central Cuba. His father, Enrique Alvarez, was a musician, and his mother, Rosa Zayes, was both a musician and a singer.
He attended the National School of the Arts in Cuba, where he studied composition and orchestration. He later taught students a spell until he landed a job writing songs for the group Konjanto Rumbwana in 1972, influencing band leader Joséto González. It was Mr. Gonzalez who introduced Mr. Alvarez to the idea of reviving the Cuban dance tradition.