On the foundation of Irakere, Chucho Valdés said: “For us the Group always existed, it was present at all times, it was like something pending, at the beginning it did not have a name, it was just an idea in which we worked: to use Cuban folk percussion in dance music, and look for different timbres and with a common characteristic: “our.” Then Oscar Valdés came up with the combination of the not easy and little-known batá drum with tumbadora, güiro and cowbell and so, step by step we came to the current group … ”
On this first stage of Irakere, says Leonardo Acosta: “one of the successes of Irakere had been not to try to invent and identify with a” new rhythm “, according to the old patterns of advertising claim so used since the forties until the sixties The slogan about the “new rhythm” was until recently the “open sesame” with which the musicians counted to become famous overnight, and that was the way to achieve quite commercial results. no “new rhythm” is so new, they all come from the alteration or amalgam of pre-existing rhythms.
The only alchemy of Irakere comes from the spontaneous creativity of its members. When there is no commercial effort, laboratory practices are unnecessary, and the group can interpret a contradanza, a danzón, a son montuno or a cha cha chá without fear of appearing “outdated”, since they are actually playing at the same time. time something else. And without proposing it as a goal, or have to invent a name of “stick”, almost by an imperative of the material they work, new rhythmic combinations are emerging, to the point where the rhythm of Irakere is unmistakable among listeners – or dancers – Cubans
Certainly, and despite his triumphs at international jazz festivals, Irakere is not a jazz band. But these successes are not free either, because as we have seen, they have formidable musicians of great experience in the jazz field, especially in the aspect of improvisation, the great finding of jazz and perhaps its greatest contribution to the music of the 20th century [ …]. »
His first international tour went to Finland, 1976; later they participated in the Festival of Jazz of Newport, New York, 1978, in which they acted, in addition, Mary Lou Williams, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, Larry Corcel and Maynard Ferguson: On their participation in this festival, comments the critic John Storm Roberts: “The work they do is unlike anything we’ve tried here, its emphasis on jazz and rock elements is greater than in the New York bands of salsa and fusion, and it’s much more intensely Cuban, with new traditional percussion treatments, new ways to combine jazz, rock and Latin music in solos and blocks, new ways to mix elements in small subtes -new everything.For three years, the comment has been that when we hear what is done in Cuba, the sauce will be liquidated, it is beginning to happen. ”
Chucho Valdés, director of Irakere, affirms: “Jazz for us is one of the elements of universal music that has value, that has use, it means that, and from jazz we have extracted many factors, just as we have extracted them from the classic, of the impressionists, the contemporaries, of Latin American music, jazz is one more element. ”
Later he would act, at Carnegie Hall, and began a tour of Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, where he performed at the Cellar Door; Montreux Festival, Switzerland, and at the Jazz Jamboree’78, Poland, and Jazz Festival, Belgrade, Yugoslavia. That same year he won the Grammy Award, granted by the National Association of Recordings, Arts and Sciences of the United States, and in Cuba, the Silver Record granted by the Company of Recordings and Musical Editions of Cuba, EGREM. But 1978 would be significant, also, for the concert they offered at the Karl Marx Theater, accompanying the guitarist and composer Leo Brouwer in the works Drume negrita, Ernesto Grenet; Prelude no. 7 and Study no. 1, Heitor Villa-Lobos. This experience was repeated the following year on the same stage, this time Leo performed the Concierto de Aranjuez, by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo, and The Fool on the Hill.
In 1988, Chucho reconsidered Irakere’s sonority, incorporating the most modern technology at that time; thus incorporates Jupiter 6, a polyphonic synthesizer; the DX 7, a programmed synthesizer, and the RX 5, from the Yamaha, which is a computer. On the use of these instruments, says Chucho Valdés: “With them I can obtain many elements that the group does not have, practically write for an orchestra with all the sounds that I imagine, invent combinations, program certain accompaniments.” And it points out the risk that can be run with the use of this technology: “The risk would be to abuse, and we will not fall into that, nor make music