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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Jose Manuel Cobles has been making music since the 1940s. He's a native of the Dominican Republic, where he watched musical styles come and go. He's over 80 now, and he has outlived all the members of his original music group. Now, he has released his first solo album in the U.S. It's called "Mujer De Cabaret." Banning Eyre has a review.

(Soundbite of music)

BANNING EYRE: The sound that established the career of Jose 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, a storied red-light district of the Dominican capital, Santiago.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PUERTO PLATA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: This style is called son, Puerto Plata's signature back in the late '40s when he got his start. Son is usually associated with Cuba, but you find it all through the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

Dominican son got overshadowed because that country's notorious dictator, Rafael Trujillo, preferred merengue, effectively making it the national music. No surprise then, Puerto Plata also cranks out a mean merengue. Like this one, "Dolorita."

(Soundbite of song "Dolorita")

Mr. PLATA: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Puerto Plata is the only surviving member of his original group, Trio Primavera. But he's pulled together an impressive ensemble of veterans for this release. The two lead guitarists provide the real fireworks. So far, we've been hearing 62-year-old Edilio Paredes. But Paredes' protege, Frank Mendez, also plays on "Mujer de Cabaret," and he's no slouch either.

(Soundbite of song "Los Piratas")

EYRE: On this song, "Los Piratas," Puerto Plata condemns the 9/11 attacks. Merengue tradition has always called for commentary on contemporary events, even from singers whose mission is to revive the sound and spirit of the past.

"Mujer de Cabaret" is Afro-Latin revival music at its best - passionate, brisk, and, coming from an all-but-forgotten octogenarian, delightfully unexpected.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org. The CD by Puerto Plata is called "Mujer de Cabaret."

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