The Music Plays On — Paquito D’Rivera

Donato Cabrera
2 min readSep 30, 2020

Together with the great pianist, Chucho Valdés, the composer and multi-instrumentalist Paquito D’Rivera helped to bring Afro-Cuban jazz to a world-wide audience. In 1967, they helped found the groundbreaking Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, and in 1973, Irakere, which would achieve international fame.

Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna achieved such a beautiful blend of styles! The combination of the Hammond B3, electric guitar, afro-cuban percussion and the traditional instruments of the big band achieves an intriguing and exciting synthesis of what was popular music in the 50’s and 60’s, including classical music! Listen to this fantastic collection of their work, including the song, Ay Mamá Inés, which cleverly incorporates the opening of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto №1.

Irakere went even further in incorporating styles both new and old, from funk Afro-Cuban folkloric music, to Mozart. This incredible concert from 1979 is a great example.

Paquito D’Rivera was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948 and defected to the United States in 1980. His mother and sister had defected to the US in 1968, achieving considerable success in their respective pursuits, and were able to help Paquito to quickly establish a foothold in the musical community, although his incredible talents had preceded his arrival.

His first album recorded in the U.S. was an instant classic.

Paquito Blowin’ (1981)