Guillermo Rubalcaba, Cuban Pianist of Danzón Music

“Guantanamera” with Luis Frank in Sofia, Bulgaria

Guillermo Rubalcaba (January 10, 1927-September 7, 2015) was a pianist known in Cuba and beyond for his mastery of the danzón genre, the official music and dance of Cuba.

A fusion of European instrumental influences with African beats, danzón consists of a four-bar introduction, four bar paseo and 16-bar melody, which, according to Rubalcaba’s obituary in The Telegraph allowed “dancers to walk around flirting with their partners during the first two parts before sweeping them up for sinuous, hip-hugging spins during the melody.”

“Descarga” with Maraca

Rubalcaba was from a family of musicians. His father was a pianist and his sons have continued his tradition as professional musicians. He performed as a guest pianist with The Buena Vista Social Club.

He also performed and recorded with vocalist Luis Frank and several of the videos I feature came from a performance the duo did in Sofia, Bulgaria. With the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba, I hope we won’t have to travel so far to hear the renowned musicians of Cuba. Unfortunately, Rubalcaba will no longer be one of them.

“Chan Chan” with Luis Frank in Sofia, Bulgaria