Orquesta Revé

Elio Reve Matos was a percussionist (timbalero) and Cuban composer who was born on June 23, 1930 in Guantanamo, dubbed the "father of changüí" because of his great contribution to the genre.

Starting in the mid-1950s, Elio Revé was the founding member of two of Cuba’s greatest bands, Ritmo Oriental and Los Van Van. In 1956 he formed his own orchestra, Elio Reve y su Charangón – or Orquesta Reve – a charanga, which also included paper clips and batá.

With Orquesta Revé, he created a unique style – more traditional and percussion-oriented than most salsa bands. No drum kit was used but instead the deep bata drums of Santeria ceremonies, along with the usual Cuban percussion of claves, bongos, maracas, bell, and congas. Revé was the brilliant timbales drum player, while keyboards, trombones, violin and tres provided the harmonic base.

One of the most distinctive features of Revé’s band was their high-pitched, nasal style known as the ‘voz de vieja’ – the ‘old woman’s voice.’ Revé spent three years looking for just the right singers to re-create this style of the old ‘soneros.’ whose skill was to improvise lyrics to suit the occasion, whipping up the audience as they sing.

Many acclaimed musicians have been part of the orchestra, including pianist Chucho Valdés, bassist Juan Formell, pianist Cesar Pedroso (who formed the Los Van Van group), the Yumurí singers and Juan Carlos Alfonso (Dan Den group) and his son, pianist Elio Reve Jr. called Elito Reve.

Over the years the rise in Revé’s popularity was explosive, with his records hitting the top of the Cuban charts and earning him two gold discs. Massive audiences travelled for miles to see him play and dance to his music. The sound of Revé can still be heard pouring out onto the streets of Cuba, blasting from the clubs, bars and taxis. His well-earned title: La Explosion del Momento.

Tragically, Elio Reve died in 1997 following a road accident in Paris. The Orquesta Revé, however, continued to exist under the direction of his son, Elito Revé, and now as Elito Revé y su Charangon.

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