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Discos Fuentes created many super groups and studio projects that never saw the light of day as real performing bands. Antonio Fuentes also had the good fortune to meet many aspiring musicians who already had a group together but were willing to be molded and recast under his entrepreneurial direction in order to record their music, like what would become Los Corraleros de Majagual. Several Fuentes bands, like La Sonora Dinamita, had two distinct periods, early and later phases of existence, with different stylistic modalities commensurate with the tastes of the day. Orquesta Ritmo De Sabanas was also such an entity, with two versions of the band existing in two different decades, the first incarnation being christened “Rhythm of the Savannahs” in 1954 by Antonio Fuentes in a nod to the band’s penchant for playing typical folkloric ‘sabanero’ genres but with a more orchestral approach inspired by the current Cuban and Puerto Rican big bands playing mambos, cha-cha-chas, guarachas and jazz. The original line-up, which was founded in Sincelejo by trumpeter Don Pedro Arturo “Pello” Torres Bautista (who also acted as orchestra director), included Pello’s right hand man Néstor Montes on baritone sax, with Luis “Lucho” Almario (father of Latin jazzman Justo Almario) and Otoniel Tatis on clarinet and saxophone. Joining Pello on trumpet was Demetrio Guarín; on congas, Emigdes Benítez. Bass duties were handled by someone only identified in an interview with Pello as Gutiérrez; and the vocals were by Gregorio Calderón, known as “Cascarita” (Little Eggshell), not to be confused with the Cuban singer known by the same nickname. The recording session in 1954 with this line-up of musicians produced four sides released on a 78: ‘El Culebro’, ‘Montería’, ‘Cógeme la caña’, and ‘20 de enero’, and were also released on 45 RPM singles. Interestingly, these tracks were later recorded by Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros, at Antonio Fuentes’ urging. After the success of ‘El Culebro’ and ‘Cógeme la caña’ (both double entendre songs), Torres and his band remained together but changed their name to Pello (sometimes spelled Peyo) Torres y sus Diablos del Ritmo, releasing several popular albums on the Sonolux, Phillips (Polydor), Tropical and Fuentes labels under that name, and performing and touring for an astounding 45 years. The second phase of the orchestra was revived decades later by Isaac Villanueva to also record genres associated with the coastal savannah – porros, paseaítos, cumbias, and bullerengues – but with a more contemporary sound. The later Ritmo Sabanero studio sessions, from which ‘Qué se hicieron’ has been chosen for this compilation, were released as the LP “El pechugón”, which has a release date of 1973, though it sounds a bit older than that. At any rate, the record has some sonic similarities to Los Corraleros de Majagual from their mid-to-late 60s period, not least because Eliseo Herrera and Lucho Pérez sang with both groups. Lucho Gómez, who had been a vocalist in Lisandro Meza’s Combo Gigante, was also recruited to sing a couple of songs and join on coro. The more modern instrumentation sounds a bit more like Michi Sarmiento’s Bravos than the Corraleros (there is no accordion or bombardino). Elisero Herrera delivers two self-penned, characteristically humorous tongue-twisters (‘Chula vende chicha’, ‘La marimonda’), and Pérez nails it with the earthy cumbia ‘El corazón de mi guitarra’ (inspiring the LP cover art). The most well-known tune from the album was ‘Porro bonito’, also released on a best-selling 45, composed and sung by Lucho Pérez (with a tasty clarinet solo, perhaps by Michi Sarmiento), a track that still gets a lot of play by tropical music fans to this day. There does not seem to be any information about this 70s version of the band performing live in any annals of Colombian tropical music history. Sadly, the orchestra does not even merit a mention in the official Fuentes history book, “Colombia musical (Una historia… una empresa)”, despite the importance of its contributions to costeño culture.

Orquesta Ritmo de Sabanas Biography Gallery
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