Juan de Marcos González
|Juan de Marcos González|
Pueblo Nuevo, Havana
Juan de Marcos González (born Juan de Marcos González-Cárdenas in January 1954 in Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban bandleader and musician, of African descent, best known for his work with the Buena Vista Social Club.
Juan de Marcos González was born in the Pueblo Nuevo barrio of Havana to a musical family. His father, Marcos González Mauriz (d March 1990), was a vocalist who performed with prominent bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez. He has two daughters, Gliceria and Laura Lidia González Abreu and one son, Juan de Marcos González Pérez. He studied at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory of Music and with Vicente Gonzalez and Leopoldina Nunez.
Growing up, González was a fan of American and British rock music before rediscovering his Cuban roots and establishing a "traditional" Cuban band, Sierra Maestra, in 1978. González's stated goal was to keep the torch of Cuban folk music alive for a younger generation. Sierra Maestra has recorded fourteen albums in Cuba, and toured internationally.
González became a key member of the Buena Vista Social Club, using his contacts in the Cuban music world to contract musicians as the A & R off his label, "World Circuit" and conducting and arranging the recording sessions. When Ry Cooder arrived in Havana for recording, González himself was working an "all stars" album tribute to the golden era greats of Cuban music, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, featuring many of the same musicians who later comprise the Buena Vista Social Club. Subsequently, González led the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Rubén González on their European and American tours, and directed the Buena Vista Social Club original lineup concerts in Mexico's Auditorio Nacional, Amsterdam and at Carnegie Hall.
Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, a central figure in Cuban music for three decades, has set himself a lifetime mission: to show the wealth, diversity and vitality of Cuban music to the world. His work with supergroups and incredible artists such as the Afro-Cuban All Stars, the Buena Vista Social Club, Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Sierra Maestra and others has had extraordinary success in introducing the whole range of Cuban music around the globe.
Juan de Marcos was born in the Pueblo Nuevo barrio of Havana in 1954 and grew up surrounded by music (his father, Marcos Gonzalez, d March 1990, was a singer and played with the great Arsenio Rodriguez, among others). He studied classical guitar at the Havana Conservatory and privately with the great maestros Vicente Gonzalez and Leopoldina Nunez. He also took courses in contemporary harmony and orchestral conducting at The Goldsmith College in London. Growing up, González was a fan of American and British rock music before rediscovering his Cuban roots and establishing with a bunch of friends a "traditional" Cuban band, Sierra Maestra, in 1976. González's stated goal was to keep the torch of Cuban folk music alive for a younger generation. Styled as a traditional Cuban Septeto Group (tres, guitar, trumpet, bass, percussion, and vocals), the dynamic young band's got the appreciation of the Cuban Son Montuno by the youth of the island, who normally tended to shun such “old fashioned” music. The band achieved great success, recording 14 albums in Cuba, Africa and Europe, touring many countries, and receiving various awards.
Although music was a great love, de Marcos returned to university to study hydraulic engineering as well as the Russian and English languages. He worked as a professor at the Agronomic Havana University, gaining his doctorate in 1990. Once again, though, De Marcos found himself drawn powerfully back to the world of music.
In 1994, he began his association with the London-based record label World Circuit, when his Sierra Maestra band recorded the album Dundunbanza. For this recording the group expanded its line-up to include piano, congas and a trumpet section: it was a tribute to the legendary Arsenio Rodriguez, whose style dominated the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Things really took off a few years later when De Marcos’s signature group, The Afro-Cuban All Stars, released A toda Cuba le gusta (which was Grammy-nominated in 1998). This was the first album to be recorded during the now-legendary Buena Vista Social Club sessions, which he conducted and orchestrated, and De Marcos' band proved to be a springboard for the success that followed. After the album’s release, Juan de Marcos led the Afro-Cuban All Stars and The Ruben Gonzalez Ensemble on their European and U.S. tours and directed the Buena Vista Social Club during the only concerts of the original line-up at top theatres such as Le Carre in Amsterdam, New York's Carnegie Hall and the Mexico’s Auditorio Nacional.
Never content to take things easy, de Marcos continues to develop promising new ideas for Cuban music, which is evolving in exciting ways. In 2005, he masterminded one of the most promising developments from Cuba for the new millennium with his innovative new companies: DM Ahora! LTD (London), and GG and LL Records (Mexico). His first releases – Step Forward by the Afro-Cuban All Stars (Grammy-nominated 2006), Goza Pepillo by Interactivo, and A Diario by Telmary – became a snapshot of where one of Cuba’s top musical creators is looking for as well as a blueprint for the future of Cuban music. As De Marcos himself says: “We have to use all the heritage of Cuban music to create a sound of the future. It’s important to have that continuity and to fight for our identity.”
During his career, De Marcos has arranged, conducted, produced or co-produced more than 25 albums. His work with the Afro-Cuban All Stars has been nominated for four Grammies and a Billboard, and the band was hailed by jazz bible Downbeat Magazine for its continued excellence. De Marcos has been responsible for creating, conducting, producing and co-producing some of the most important and seminal recordings of 20th century Cuban music including the already mentioned “A toda Cuba le gusta” and “Dundumbanza” as well as “Buenavista Social Club”, “Buenavista Social Club presents Ibrahim Ferrer”, “Introducing Ruben Gonzalez”, etc. Gonzalez has two daughters, Gliceria and Laura Lidia González Abreu and one son, Juan de Marcos González Pérez. Speaks Russian, English and Spanish and has some knowledge of Lucumi and Abakua.