Manuel Mirabal Biography

Luis Mañuel Mirabal Vazquez, 5 May 1933, Melena del Sur, Havana, Cuba. His father was musical director of a municipal band and as a child Mirabal played various instruments before concentrating on the trumpet at the age of 11. By his late teens he was sufficiently skilled to play regularly with Conjunto Universal in Havana. This band played traditional Cuban music, but Mirabal also played American jazz with Swing Casino and an international repertoire with the Orquesta Casino Parisien. By the mid-50s he had formed his own band, Conjunto Rumbavana, which became very popular. In 1960 he joined the Riverside Orchestra at the Tropicana Club. It was here that he was given his nickname by Tito Gómez; ‘el guajiro’, which roughly translates as ‘country bumpkin’.

Towards the end of the 60s, Mirabel became a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana De Música Moderna, which was then led by saxophonist Armando Romeu. Others who played in the band over the years include Paquito D’Rivera, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Arturo Sandoval and Chucho Valdés. Mirabal remained with this group for a quarter of a century although he played concurrently in other bands, often in support of leading entertainers, such as José Feliciano.

Based at the Tropicana, Mirabal worked steadily through the decades into the early 00s. Also in these years he played in Estrellas De Areito, appearing on some records with the group on the World Circuit label, the National Revolutionary Militia’s ceremonial band, and he attracted widespread attention in the late 90s through his playing with other members of the Buena Vista Social Club. In the early 00s, Mirabel toured with an all-star band that included Manuel Galbán, Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López and Aguajé Ramos. He also made his debut album after many years as a highly respected if relatively anonymous sideman. In addition to performing, Mirabal is also a teacher.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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