It was founded in Matanzas in 1924 under the name of La Tuna Liberal.
Its first members were: Valentín Cané, director and tres player, Manuel Valera, guitar and second voice, Manuel Sánchez (Jimagua), timbal, Ismael Governa, cornetín, Pablo Vázquez Govín (Bubú), double bass, Domingo Medina, guitar, Ismael Goberna, cornetín, Julio Govín, guitar, José Manuel Valera, guitar, Juan Bautista Llopis, guitar.
In 1926 Carlos Manuel Díaz Alfonso (Caíto), falsetto voice and maracas, and Rogelio Martínez Díaz (El Gallego), guitar, joined the group and it adopted the name Sexteto Soprano.
On January 12, 1927, under the name of Estudiantina Sonora Matancera, they moved to Havana. In November of that year they recorded their first two recordings for the Victor label: Fuera, fuera, chino, by José Manuel Valera, and El porqué de tus ojos, by Valentín Cané.
With the definitive name of Conjunto Sonora Matancera, it began its transmissions on the radio station El Progreso Cubano (later Radio Progreso). At that time it appeared on Radio Atwater Kent; in 1932, at the suggestion of Rogelio Martínez Díaz, it took the name of Sonora Matancera, and began its performances in the Havana Sport dance academies, and later in Marte and Belona, and later became part of the cast of CMQ Radio. In 1935, trumpeter Calixto Leicea joined the group; in 1939, composer, pianist and orchestrator Severino Ramos, who gave the Sonora its distinctive sound with his orchestrations.
In 1944 pianist Lino Frias and trumpeter Pedro Knight Caraballo joined the group, who with Calixto Leicea formed the most interesting trumpet duo in the history of Cuban ensembles; in 1945 singer Bienvenido Granda Aguilera; in 1948, Angel Alfonso Furias (Yiyo), tumbadora. At this time the Sonora Matancera was formed by Rogelio Martínez Díaz, director, guitarist and chorus; Pablo Vázquez Govín (Bubú), double bass; José del Rosario Chávez (Manteca), timbal; Ángel Alfonso Furias (Yiyo), tumbadora, who replaced Valentín Cané; Calixto Leicea, first trumpet; Pedro Knight Caraballo, second trumpet; Lino Frías, pianist; Carlos Manuel Díaz Alfonso (Caíto), falsetto voice and maracas; Bienvenido Granda, singer and claves; and Celia Cruz, who soon became the stellar singer we knew and the mainstay of the Sonora Matancera hits. Thus began a period that critics have called the golden age of the Sonora.
In 1950, with the advent of television, the Sonora Matancera was one of the first musical groups to perform on this medium. It also signed a contract with the Seeco record company, with whose recordings it made a name for itself in the international market. In 1952, Raimundo Elpidio Vázquez replaced his father, Pablo Vázquez, on double bass (when Rogelio Martínez Díaz died in 2001, he took over the leadership of the group).
In 1926, it changed its name to “Septeto Soprano”. That same year, Carlos M. Díaz “Caíto” accompanied Eugenio Pérez in the choir.
Later in 1927, on Caíto’s recommendation, Rogelio Martínez joined the group and the name of the group was changed to Estudiantina Sonora Matancera.
With a great desire to improve the group travels to Havana where they get in touch with the record company “RCA Victor” and make their first recording on January 12, 1928.
At the beginning of the thirties, the group began to adapt to the new rhythms that were appearing at that time as well as adapting new instruments, such as the grand piano, which was played for the first time in the group by Dámaso Pérez Prado, who years later would become the “King of the Mambo”.
But it was in 1935 when the group took the name La Sonora Matancera, and with this change it introduced a new trumpet player: Calixto Leicea, who replaced Ismael Goberna, who died a few months later due to health problems.
The unforgettable José Rosario Chávez “Manteca”, who replaced the resigned “Jimagua”, also joined the band. Humberto Cané joined the group playing the tres and his father Valentín Cané began playing the tumbadora.
In 1938, Dámaso Pérez Prado retired and left the vacant piano position to Severino Ramos, who soon after became the musical arranger of the group.
During the first years of the forties they made presentations in dance academies, cabarets and in Radio Progreso Cubano, they also included in their repertoire: guarachas, montunos.
On January 6, 1944, two musicians from Arsenio Rodriguez’s group joined the group: Lino Frias (author of the popular song Mata Siguaraya) who began to play the piano and Pedro Knight who became the second trumpet player of the Sonora Matancera.
In the month of December, Bienvenido Granda enters the band recommended as vocalist, being his first recording “La Ola Marina” by Virgilio González, and with him they sign a contract with the nascent record label Panart Records. Valentín Cané, Israel del Pino, Caíto and Humberto Cané made recordings with this label.
In the middle of 1946 the founder Valentín Cané suffers asthmatic problems that force him to leave the group, dying two years later. Before the group joined Panart Records, it recorded other songs for the “Varsity” label, without the name of the Sonora Matancera appearing on the labels, here the first version of “Se Formó la Rumbantela” by Pablo Cairo, “Tumba Colorá”, “El Cinto De Mi Sombrero”, Bienvenido Granda and Humberto Cané participated in these numbers.
Trumpets: Calixto Leicea and Pedro Knight
Double Bass: Elpidio Vázquez, replacing his father Pablo Vázquez, “Bubu”.
Piano: Lino Frías
Timbales, Bongó and Campana: José Rosario Chávez “Manteca” Chávez
Tumbadora: Ángel Alfonso Furias “Yiyo”.
Guitar and Choir: Rogelio Martínez
Maracas and Chorus: Carlos Díaz Alonso “Caíto”.
Claves and Choir: Bienvenido Granda.
Last January 13, 2023 they turned 99 years old and are still going strong from generation to generation.
Enrrique “Culebra” Iriarte, Venezuelan pianist, arranger and orchestra conductor.
Bibliography: Ecured Cuba