A Dominican Guitar Legend's Historic Debut

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/18083766/18086893" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Music from 'Mujer de Cabaret'

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/18083766/17227078" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/18083766/18087149" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Puerto Plata

On Mujer de Cabaret, Puerto Plata exhibits the specifically Dominican version of the musical style called son. hide caption

toggle caption

The sound that established the career of 83-year-old Jose Manuel Cobles lies buried beneath layers of musical and political history. His stage name, Puerto Plata, refers to the resort town where he was born. But Cobles made his mark in La Joya, the storied red-light district of Santiago, one of the Dominican Republic's largest cities.

In the late '40s, when he got his start, Puerto Plata's signature style was son. Son is typically associated with Cuba, but it can be heard all through the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Dominican son was overshadowed because that country's notorious dictator, Rafael Trujillo, preferred merengue, effectively making it the national music by the time of his assassination in 1961. It's no surprise, then, that Puerto Plata also cranks out a mean merengue.

Puerto Plata is the only surviving member of his original group, Trio Primavera. But he's pulled together an impressive ensemble of veterans for a twilight-years release, a long-overdue solo debut called Mujer de Cabaret. The two lead guitarists provide the real fireworks: Edilio Paredes and his protégé, Frank Mendez, drive Mujer de Cabaret.

A song called "Los Piratas" functions as Puerto Plata's response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Merengue tradition has always called for commentary on contemporary events, even from musicians whose mission is to revive the sound and spirit of the past. Mujer de Cabaret is Afro-Latin roots music at its best: passionate, brisk, and, coming from an all-but-forgotten octogenarian, delightfully unexpected.

Correction Jan. 17, 2008

In the broadcast version of this review, we incorrectly call Santiago the capital of the Dominican Republic. While Santiago is one of the country's largest cities, the capital is Santo Domingo.

Purchase Featured Music

Mujer de Cabaret

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Mujer de Cabaret
Puerto Plata

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from