Rita Montaner: a Legend with a Unique Voice

Rita Montaner. Picture: Internet

Rita Montaner. Picture: Internet

Rita had a sad look and dark skin. She was small and had an enchanting smile. This is how everyone remembers her. One of the iconic artists in Cuba was the unique Rita Montaner.  

Today, 115 years since her birth in the Havana municipality of Guanabacoa her memories remain in every Cuban while her artistic work enriches the country’s cultural heritage.

At an early age, due to her multiple talents, Rita was amidst a cross road: continue her signing and piano studies in which many consider was her future success or risk and follow the popular music career. She bet on the second.

The country needed a figure like her, with a singular voice. The singer achieved her own style and cultivated the Afro Cuban music. Songs with the rhythm of guarachas, rumbas, afros, pregones in addition to boleros, romance and others that filled her repertoire.

She interpreted popular songs like El Manisero, ¡Ay! Mamá Ines and Canto Siboney which constituted insignia songs of the first half of the past century, melodies that are still fresh in the memory of the Cuban population.

Rita Montaner worked with the famous artists of the time, among them Bola de Nieve, Benny More, Trio Matamoros, ChanoPozo and Celia Cruz among others and collaborated with prestigious composers like Ernesto Lecuona and Eliseo Grenet.

“Songs sung by Rita became famous, said Mexican Agustin Lara praising Rita’s musical aptitudes. But he was not the only one that was fascinated, but others like AlejoCarpentier and Luis Carbonell.

Beyond her contributions and achievements in the music, she also sang on radio, film and television not only in Cuba but also in other parts of the world.

She was the first female voice to sing in Cuban radio, inaugurated in 1922, means that was also used to criticize the government of President Ramon Grau San Martin and her participation in some 15 movies in Cuba and Mexico.

Rita’s followers went beyond the borders: Mexico, Spain, Argentina and the United States among others and witnessed her legacy.

She made Afro Cuban music popular with a singular seal. She used her voice not only for people to dance but to fight racial discrimination and government corruption.

Several decades has passed since she fell victim to cancer and passed away at the age of 57. She died as one of the greatest artists in Cuba.

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