Afro-Cuban All Stars

Entertainment Speakers, Sensational Showcase for Cuba’s Most Prodigious Young Musicians

Afro-Cuban All Stars is a top Cuban band led by singer Juan de Marcos González who directed the famous album, Buena Vista Social Club. After their debut, the group became known all around the world for their Cuban sounds including salsa, timba, and rumba.

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  • Afro-Cuban All Stars`s Keynote Speaker Fee This reflects Afro-Cuban All Stars`s U.S. Speaking Fee

    Please Inquire

  • Travels From


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About Keynote Speaker Afro-Cuban All Stars

About Afro-Cuban All Stars…

After gaining international fame for reviving the classic sound of Cuban son, tres master Juan de Marcos turned the Afro-Cuban All Stars into a sensational showcase for Cuba’s most prodigious young musicians. While long revered in Latin America and Europe as a founding member of Cuba’s great son revival band Sierra Maestra, de Marcos first gained notice in the US as founder of the Buena Vista Social Club. It was de Marcos who assembled Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, Ruben Gonzalez and the rest of the crew for Ry Cooder when he came to Havana looking for illustrious old timers. But de Marcos is just as interested in promoting Cuba’s brilliant young musicians as in highlighting Cuba’s senior talent. The Afro-Cuban All Stars not only features a rotating, multi-generational cast; the group draws on both classic Cuban styles, like son and danzón, and contemporary dance rhythms like timba. “What I’m trying to do is create a bridge between contemporary and traditional Cuban music,” de Marcos says. “I’m trying to mix both things so people can realize that Cuban music didn’t stop in time, that it developed in this long period when Cuban music disappeared from the market.”

Juan de Marcos was born in Havana in 1954 and grew up surrounded by music (his father was a singer and played with Arsenio Rodríguez amongst others). At university he studied hydraulic engineering and Russian before working as a consultant at the Agronomic Science Institute, gaining his doctorate in 1989. While at university he co-founded the group Sierra Maestra in 1978. Styled as a traditional Cuban septeto group (tres, trumpet, bass, percussion and vocals), the dynamic young band’s aim was to bring about an appreciation of Cuban son by the youth of the island. The band achieved great success, recording fourteen albums in Cuba, touring Africa and Europe and receiving various awards.

In 1994, Juan de Marcos began his association with the London based record label World Circuit, when the band recorded the album ‘¡Dundunbanza!’ (WCD041). For this recording, World Circuit’s Nick Gold encouraged the group to expand their line-up to include piano, congas and a trumpet section in a tribute to the forties and fifties styles of Arsenio Rodríguez. Having found success and a common ground, de Marcos and Gold looked to develop this understanding further with a big band recording in Havana, featuring the neglected stars of this ‘golden age’ of Cuban music.

Juan de Marcos had long harbored a dream to put together a band combining the ‘old masters’ and the new generation of Cuban musicians. “I wanted to mix the generations so there is the experience of the older guys and the energy of the younger players”, says Juan. He went in search of his heroes and found many of them ‘retired’ from music, forgotten figures delighted that someone was showing faith in them. He recruited the singers Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea, Pío Leyva and Raúl Planas, all in their seventies. Despite the doubts of others in his ability to still reach the heights, he approached the legendary pianist Rubén González. Rubén did not own a piano, so Juan found him a place to practice and encouraged him to rehearse with his chosen bass player, Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López. Juan continued to assemble his dream band and the AFRO-CUBAN ALL STARS were born.

Juan de Marcos and Gold planned to record two albums in Havana’s EGREM studios in 1997: the debut from the All Stars and a collaboration between West African and Eastern Cuban musicians for which Gold had invited Ry Cooder as producer. Due to passport complications the African musicians were unable to travel to the recording. However, the two week recording trip yielded an extraordinary trio of albums: The debut albums from the AFRO-CUBAN ALL STARS ‘A Toda Cuba le Gusta’ and RUBEN GONZALEZ’ ‘Introducing…’ and the BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB.

The impact of these albums internationally would also affect the music industry in Cuba; not only did it resurrect the career of several ‘forgotten’ legends, but left the record buying public worldwide with an appetite for Cuban music, and a receptiveness to new recordings that previously didn’t exist. As for the Afro-Cuban All Stars, they evolved from being a musical dream, to a one-off recording, to the formation of a full-time touring and recording group.

Having been instrumental in the formation of the project, Juan de Marcos moved center stage with his new edition Afro-Cuban All Stars and their ambitious new, forward-looking album ‘Distinto, diferente’. “We have to use all the heritage of Cuban music to create a sound of the future,” says Juan. “It’s important to have that continuity and to fight for the identity of Cuban music.” Whilst retaining the stars of the debut album, the follow up record brought in some additional legendary figures of Cuban music including Omara Portuondo, Lina Borges, Polo Tamayo, Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos, and Amadito Valdés. Some prominent names from current generation of Cuban music such as Orlando ‘Maracas’ Valle, David Alfaro, and Yaure Muñiz, showcased their talents on this album. The result is again multi-generational but with a sound much closer to the vanguard of Cuban dance music, with lyrics – in some cases – that have even greater social relevance now.


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