Super Uba
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Super Uba


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The best kept secret in music


"Dominican rhythms keep music moving"

Dominican rhythms keep music moving
Steve Hinnefeld

Super Uba y Su Conjunto let their music do the talking during two Lotus festival performances Saturday night.
No choreographed dance moves. No mugging for the crowd. Very little between-song patter, all in Spanish. Just Uba's resonant, soulful baritone voice, sandwiched between a rollicking rhythm of bass and percussion and Frank Mendez' virtuosic lead guitar.
Ubaldo Cabrera, aka Super Uba, and his band play the roots music of his native Dominican Republic: Cuban-based son and soulful boleros, driving dance tunes and especially the grass-roots music called bachata.
Playing at the Monroe Bank tent, they got the crowd dancing with the thumping 1-2-3-4 beat of "La Yuca" and other numbers in the popular merengue style. And they kept up the excitement with guitar-based bachata, a music that developed underground at Santo Domingo parties, brothels and bars and only began winning commercial success 10 years ago.
Uba, a big man who radiates presence, moved to New York in 1995 and has helped spread bachata’s popularity. It was a worthy addition to the mix of musics, folksy and formal, that Lotus has brought to Bloomington over the past decade.
- Herald Times

"World Music Fest Plays On"

World Music Fest Plays On

Ubaldo Cabrera [Super Uba] took the A train to his find current fate. But instead of the jazz of Duke Ellington, he used a bolero by Agustin Lara as his ticket.

A native of the Dominican Republic, and an accomplished musician in his homeland, he moved to New York City in 1995. After knocking about for a few years, he got his break while singing in the subway. One day, he was performing "Solamente Una Vez," a well-known bolero by Mexican composer Lara, and the whole platform started applauding. Benjamin de Menil, the owner of IASO Records, an indie label that specializes in roots music, heard Cabrera and invited him to his studio. Earlier this year, IASO Records released his debut U.S. disc, "Tierra Lejana."

Cabrera, who goes by the stage name Super Uba, specializes in merengue, bachata and son, the traditional roots music of the Dominican Republic. Most Americans associate merengue with the frenetic horn-driven sounds of Latin music stars such as Olga Tanon and Elvis Crespo. With its fluid acoustic guitar lines and distinctly Afro-Caribbean percussion, Cabrera's guitar-based music sounds more like traditional Cuban son (the style revived in recent years by the Buena Vista Social Club). "That's because son originated in Santiago [in the Dominican Republic] and later migrated to Cuba," said Cabrera in a phone interview from New York last week. "It's the music of the country, the campesinos."

Merengue, embraced by longtime dictator Rafael Trujillo, in honor of his peasant roots, was declared the Dominican national music in the '30s. After his assassination in 1961, merengue underwent rapid change, taking on accelerated tempos, salsa-style instrumentation and risque lyrics. Cabrera favors the original form, which is called merengue tipico. But whether it's "salsarengue" or reggaeton, the latest hybrid which fuses reggae, merengue and rap, "it's all merengue to me."

About his nickname: "I used to be called Uba as a child, and now I'm big, so that's why I decided on 'Super Uba,' " he said, laughing.

El Bachatin (born Alberto Moreno) also hails from the Dominican Republic, but he came to the United States in the mid-'70s as a member of the Dominican national boxing team and worked for many years as a carpenter. He first collaborated with Super Uba in 1998, and they've played together since. At the festival, El Bachatin will sing coro for Cabrera and then perform his own set.

Like Cabrera, he grew up in a musical family. "Everyone played guitar and sang all styles," including merengue, bachata, son montuno, and the Afro-Dominican variants of palo, salve and gaga.

Despite his nickname, he does not limit himself to bachata, a ballad style once associated with the Dominican underworld. "The person who gave me that name was Frankie Ruiz's pianist," he said, referring to a seminal figure on New York's tropical Latin scene. "Ruiz would play with with Cuco Valoy [another innovator, especially in merengue], and I would sit in."

But he does not mind the bachata label. "Bachata is so big now, everyone dances to it. Even Sammy Sosa," he said. Back home, the Chicago, Cubs star grew up in the same neighborhood as El Bachatin. "I've known him for years."

So he's rooting for the Cubs to win the National League pennant? Not exactly. His brother works for the Mets and his nephew is a catcher with the Toronto Blue Jays. "But I have to support my people, so I have to back Sammy Sosa and the Cubs." - Chicago Sun-Times

"Tierra Lejana"

With Tierra Lejana - a nostalgic combination of bachata, bolero, merengue and son - Super Uba woos the listener back to a simpler time with music and lyrics that are sweet and simple yet meaningful. Super Uba does a great job of bringing classic merengue into the present without losing the nostalgic feel of the music. Edilio Paredes, an innovator of the guitar style in bachata accompanies his friend Uba to add to the traditional sound of "Tierra lejana".

Overall, Tierra Lejana is a very enjoyable listening experience. Beware of "Amorcito Corazon" and "Tierra Lejana", whose contagious rythms will really make you want to move. Meanwhile, "Magdalena" is a beautiful bachata perfect for holding your partner close. - NY Daily News

"It's a bird, it's a plane!"

Born and raised on the Dominican Republic's rural north coast, vocalist and composer Ubaldo Cabrera, also known as Super Uba, started playing bachata, merengue and other island rythms in the streets and backyards of Santo Domingo. After decades spent honing his skills with various local bands, he packed up his rootsy musical sound and moved to Brooklyn, new York. In 2000, a record-company president discovered Super Uba preforming in a subway and signed him up.

In his all-acoustic debut CD, Tierra Lejana (IASO Records), Uba takes Dominican folk straight to the dance floor. No blaring horns, no 12-piece orchestras - he manages to shake things up with a few steel-string guitars, a bass, and a metal scraping guira. On all 10 infectious, upbeat tracks, Uba's rick voices trades melodies with fast, fluid guitar lines from Dominican Virtuoso Edilio Paredes. The result is intoxicating. - Caribbean Travel & Life


Tierra lejana, 2003
Noche de fiesta, 2007


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Dominican Republic is home to an extraordinarily rich musical culture which is still relatively unknown to outsiders. The island’s guitar music, merengue, bachata and son, are quite different from the commercial orchestral merengue and salsa which most listeners have been exposed to. Uba’s style of music has its roots in the Dominican countryside; during the 1960s and 1970s it matured in the streets and barrios of Santo Domingo and Santiago.

Ubaldo Cabrera was born to a farming family in the rural town of Guateque de la Isabela, near Puerto Plata. At age 19 he was drawn by his love for music to the city of Santiago, where he lived with an uncle who taught him to sing and play the guitar. Santiago is the heart of the Cibao, the northern region of the Dominican Republic which is the cradle of merengue. When Uba speaks of the city as it was in the 1970s, he describes a culture where music thrived. “At that time, someone could go to an open air bar, or to a night club, and start playing, and if he was good, crowds would gather to listen to him.” Uba supported himself playing all of the different styles of music which he sings on his CD; as a bass player with various groups playing bachata (a rhythmic Dominican variant of bolero) and merengue, and as a singer in a trio which played traditional bolero and son. Finally he came to New York in 1995, touring with bachata legend Leonardo Paniagua. He makes his home in Brooklyn NY.

Uba comes from a culture where the folkloric legacy is still cherished and he gives a unique flavor to his country’s music. He has a distinctly Afro-Caribbean vocal and compositional style. His original merengues, “Tierra Lejana” and “Dona Inez”, are excellent examples of this living tradition.

Uba’s singing is complemented by the virtuoso guitar playing of his longtime friend, Edilio Paredes. Edilio is a prodigious natural talent who for thirty years was the unchallenged master of the style that has become known as bachata. Both intricate and sensual, Edilio’s playing combines rhythmic grooves known as mambos into evolving solos. His original yet firmly traditional arrangements give Uba’s songs another dimension of richness.

Whether he is singing bachata, bolero, son or merengue, Uba captures you, bringing you for a moment into his world of rhythm and color. The rich tonal quality of his voice—now playful, now forlorn—is a rare gem in the monolithic world of today’s pop vocal music.

Super Uba is well received at festivals and venues throughout the USA., from classic New York venues like the Symphony Space and Lincoln Center to national music festivals like The Chicago World Music Festival, Festival International de Louisiane and Columbus Festival Latino.

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