A corner of Santiago de Cuba, January 6th 1957. A guitar and a cap placed on the floor. Someone goes and drops in a nickel: a respectable amount for which who plays at the street, known as trova. Elia... More
A corner of Santiago de Cuba, January 6th 1957. A guitar and a cap placed on the floor. Someone goes and drops in a nickel: a respectable amount for which who plays at the street, known as trova. Eliades Ochoa was only eleven years old at that time. The young man did not suspect that corner was his first stage and that clueless pedestrian his first audience, and that coin his first salary.
From then on he plays in several descargas (jam sessions) in bars in the neighborhood of Mejiquito and other areas on town. When Eliades Ochoa created his first trio, all of Santiago had already heard his guarachas. In 1963 he started working in a guajira and the revolutionary radio broadcast called Trinchera Agraria, staying there nine years. Since then he is a regular at the heart of the Santiago Musical Society, the Casa de la Trova, first as a member of the Quintet Oriente, later as part of the Typical Septet and finally as musical director, vocals and guitar of Cuarteto Patria. His peculiar harmonic guitar can sound like a tres or as an orthodox guitar, it is one of its hallmarks. Another is his peasant hat, that recals the peasant spirit of his music.
Everything in the recent Cuba is marked by revolution. Also is the story of a musical quartet created November 7, 1939; Cuarteto Patria, whose name is inspired by the newspaper founded and directed until his death by José Martí. Nickname, which later used in hiding one of its founders, the rebel Emilia García, Patria Emilia. The Cuarteto Patria created the basis of a primitive sound with the harmonic, maracas, bass and guitar. Thus, the first formation of Cuarteto Patria was composed by Emilia Garcia: Keys and voice, Francisco Cobas La O “Pancho” on vocals and guitar, (founder of Vieja Trova Santiaguera), Rigoberto Echevarría “Mature”: Guitar third and guitar fourth, Reinaldo Hierrezuelo: Maracas (later a member of Los Compadres, La Sonora Matancera and Vieja Trova Santiaguera). Back in 1982 Pancho Cobas, was the musical director, and he asks Eliades Ochoa to take over the leadership of the group, to revitalize and distribute the message outside of Cuba. Eliades then decides to introduce percussion to increase the rhythm.
Ochoa then tours around the world with the group Patria making numerous presentations and recording most notably albums like “A una Coquette” registered by the Mexican label “Corason”. His meeting in 1996 with Cameroon musician Manu Dibango, culminates with an anthology album entitled CUBAFRICA, that further gives an international dimension to Eliades and his Quartet. A year later, Ochoa participates in the collective album, Buena Vista Social Club, produced by Ry Cooder. Winning a Grammy and reaching millions worldwide sales.
In mid-1999, the new label Virgin Spain, Yerba Buena, published his solo album “Sublime Ilusión”, produced by John Wooler and with special guests like: Charlie Musselwhite, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Ry Cooder. This album broadens Eliades’ career followed by touring in the United States and Europe, filling halls and theaters. “Sublime Ilusión” received a Grammy nomination in the category of “Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album”.
The guitar and voice of Eliades Ochoa became a worldwide symbol of Son Cubano, traditional music of Santiago de Cuba. His second album under Yerba Buena was entitled “Tributo al Cuarteto Patria”(2000), and it pays tribute to the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the group that he leads since 1978. An album which is, apart from forced recognition to Pancho Cobas other compadres who kept the flame when there was “Buena Vista Social Club”, a genuine love letter to Cuban music. All of those composers-poets who had left a sublime treasure that revives with each new generation. Eliades is again nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance” with sold out performances around the world.
It’s important to understand that the Cuarteto Patria is a living entity that is always evolving, and is not content with repeating the ancient formulas. Therefore Eliades invited outstanding musicians from Santiago younger generation to be part of this historic group and decided to add two trumpets and piano becoming Grupo Patria.
In 2009 a book called “De la Trova para el Mundo” was published on Eliades life and career.
In October 2010 he released the album “AfroCubism” (World Circuit Records). Eliades along with Grupo Patria collaborates with musicians from Mali, such as Toumani Diabate, Bassekou Kouyate, Kasse Mady Diabate and in November 2010 the band toured worldwide. AfroCubism then stayed on the road until summer 2012. In 2013 he was invited to join the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® world tour and that same year he recorded his new album “Un bolero para ti” (EGREM) and continues to perform concerts in Cuba and the world with the Group Patria.
Between 1980 and the present day he has recorded more than twenty albums, received seven Grammy nominations, two of which were deserving of the highest award in the category of Traditional Tropical Music, including the one for Buena Vista Social Club. Recently he won another Grammy with “Un bolero para ti” for his interpretation, recording, mixing and production. In 2014 he was nominated for his latest title “El Eliades soy yo” an important album that revisits the musical history of his group and includes a documentary about his personal and professional life.
He has also won several national and international awards and has performed around the world several times including stops in Mexico, Nicaragua, Barbados, Granada, Venezuela, Dominican Republic to United States and Canada, England, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Norway and many others in Europe and Asia.
As one of the most recognized Cuban artists who enjoys great popularity all over the world and presently performing on the worldwide sold-out “Adios Tour” with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club® Ochoa’s recent White House performance during Spanish Heritage Month is yet another milestone for a legend in the making.