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article imageOmara Portuondo — ‘First lady of Cuban bolero’, busier than ever

By Igor I. Solar     May 9, 2013 in Entertainment
Santiago - At the age of 82 Omara Portuondo, “the grand old lady of Cuban bolero” remains active delighting audiences in various parts of the world. Her busy schedule brought her to Chile and Brazil in May, and is taking her to Ireland and Poland in July.
Cuban singer Omara Portuondo was born in 1930 in Havana, Cuba. Omara began her artistic career singing a duet in nightclubs with her sister Haydee. Later on, she was a singer and a dancer at the famous Tropicana, a legendary Havana nightspot.
In 1952, Omara toured Europe and the United States as part of the celebrated Cuban all-female singing group “Cuarteto d'Aida”. She remained with the group until 1967, when she started a solo career. Portuondo became one of the most famous singers in Cuba. Her repertory focussed mostly on jazz, ballads, and the internationally recognized Cuban bolero.
During her long artistic career Omara Portuondo has performed with some of the greatest artists of the 20th Century including Nat King Cole, Tony Bennet, Compay Segundo and Ibrahim Ferrer. She has been in films and television. In 1997, Portuondo coincided in Havana at the time producer Ry Cooder was recording a CD with “Buena Vista Social Club”. She was invited to be part of the project. She was featured singing "Silencio", in duet with Ibrahim Ferrer, and the lead vocals in "Veinte Años".
The album won a Grammy, sold more than 1.5 million copies and greatly increased recognition of Cuban music around the world. A documentary on the recording of the album directed by Win Wenders was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000. As a result, Omara Portuondo became better known among U.S. and Canadian audiences. In 2005 and 2008, she gave successful concerts at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Omara Portuondo. (Screencap from
Omara Portuondo. (Screencap from
At the age of 82, Omara Portuondo still lives in Havana, but remains active delighting audiences in various parts of the world. In the last few years, along with a new version of Buena Vista Social Club, she has sold out at venues such as the Olympia in Paris, London's Royal Albert Hall and Barcelona's Liceo, among others. More recently, in March she was singing in Cuernavaca and Mexico City. On May 3, she sang in Santiago de Chile and in May 7 Omara will be in Porto Alegre, Brasil. She is expected to show her ever-lasting talent to Irish audiences when she performs at the Cork Opera House on July 1, 2013, after which, on July 7, she will be in concert in Olsztyn, Poland.
A very busy schedule for an 82-year-old musical legend!
If you liked the song shown in the video above, here is the English translation:
Twenty Years
Why you care if I love you
if you don't love me anymore?
The love that has passed
doesn't have to be remembered
I was the illusion of your life
one day far away now,
Today I represent the past,
and I cannot accept it.
If we could reach
the things we want,
you would love me the same way
you loved me twenty years ago.
With such a sadness we look
at a love that’s leaving us
It is a piece of the soul
that is taken without mercy
This is Omara's performance of her most famous song at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2005.
More about Omara Portuondo, Cuban music, Cuban bolero, Montreal jazz festival
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