The centenary of a major Son Singer: MIGUELITO CUNI

Por: Lino Betancourt Molina

Since legendary Nené Manfugás played the first “Tres” guitar ever seen in Cuba in the distant 1893, the Son rhythm appropriated of that cords instrument which would be essential to play it.

The Son rhythm, that was born playing and sweating among the Southern Oriente high, had in the Pinar del Rio native Miguelito Cuní one of its greatest singers although this is something difficult to affirm categorically considering that among our “soneros” we have had voices such as those of Benny Moré, Carlos Embale, Trío Matamoros, Tito Gómez and many others. However Cuni’s voice, perfect, warm and electrifying, was made for the Son rhythm, although could also categorize in other rhythms like the bolero, the  pregón and  the guaracha.

But it was when he was singing a Son when Miguelito Cuní mostly showed off his immense voice. It was then when that giant grew even bigger, his metallic and sweet tone penetrated strongly, dominating cords and leathers and matching Félix Chappotín trumpet.  Then the chant became a lone rhythmic piece dominating everything to bring us to ecstasy in the melodic environment they both created or to make us unleash our impulses through dancing.

Miguelito Cuní, when he was still called by his name of Miguel Arcángel Conill, started his artistic life early singing sones. At the age of twelve he was already singing with the Sexteto Los Caramerelos, in his native province of Pinar del Río. He later joined the Sexteto Caridad directed by el Niño Rivera. He also belonged to  the Sexteto La Lira, from Margarito Santa Cruz.

In an interview in Revista Bohemia he told us that el Niño Rivera, Arsenio Rodríguez and Félix Chappotín were his best teachers. But also with his natural modesty he respectfully bent before other great Son singers and mentioned the Trío Matamoros, the Septeto Habanero, Fernando Collazo, Cheo Marquetti and Abelardo Barroso.

Miguelito Cuní always admired the young “son’ singers and had words of praise for those who started to stand out like José Antonio Rodríguez with the Conjunto Sierra Maestra. He had public admiration for representatives of “Son” that formed part of the Movement of the New Trova, such as Pancho Amat and Sara González.

From May 8 to November 14 of 1983 he was hospitalized after he suffered a brain thrombosis, of which he recovered with new spirit to continue his artistic career. Once he was discharged, he declared with great optimism that he would participate in the festival he would be invited.

He remembered nostalgically, but never sad, his participation with the orchestra of Ernesto Muñoz with which he started in the radio in 1938 in the El Progreso Cubano radio station that later became Radio Progreso.

In 1939 Arsenio Rodríguez called him to sing at the famous cabaret Sans Soucí, and in 1942 he sang with the Arcaño y sus Maravillas orchestra at the CMPQ and Mildies radio stations.

When Arsenio Rodríguez moved to the United States, Félix Chappotín assumed the direction of the band which took the name of the famous trumpet player. In our opinion, that was Miguelito Cuní’s  best period and when he reached the greatest broadcasting of his formidable recordings, in which he alternated his voice with Chappotín trumpet with his unmistakable  ¨lloraos¨ (crying) no one has been able to imitate. 

Let just remember some of the “sones” that became famous due to the duet made by Cuní and Chappotín, such as ¨El guayo de Catalina¨, ¨Canallón¨, ¨El carbonero¨ and some others.  

This year is the centenary of Miguelito Cuní. He was born on May 8 of 1917, but, up to now, the date has passed with no glory but with great sadness for this glorious singer who encouraged our legitimate Cuban identity through the world spreading the Cuban rhythmic atmosphere with the richness we receive from the Eastern Mountains with his melodic voice.

This voice that made our most pure feelings to tremble was no longer listened to on March 8 of 1984; he was 77 years old.     

In the centenary of his birth we remembered his voice “sonera” as a Cuban identity standard honoring the impersonation of the “Son” and the “bolero”, because he is not quiet, he sings even louder when other voices make us think of this nice Cuban who made the “Son”, the “bolero” and the “guaracha”, values of the Cuban culture.






Betancourt, Lino: Estoy bien, gracias. Bohemia, 20 de mayo de 1983

Betancourt, Lino: Miguelito Cuní: ese sonero impecable. Bohemia, 16 de marzo de 1984