Senra shares legacy of Cuban music

Community By Linda Trischitta, Editor Friday, December 6, 2019

How long does the love between a father and son last?

For Fred Senra and his late father Fernando Senra, those feelings spanned three quarters of a century.

And now the bond between the Senra men is embodied in their shared passion, a legacy music project that was begun by the elder and finished by the son, for everyone to enjoy.

“Cuba…and Its Music,” is a collection of 16 albums.

It holds songs and instrumentals performed in that country from the late 1950s, before the Communist Revolution.

“It is something mainly done in Cuba, during the days of glory and the days of Cuba being a great country to live in, a free country to live in,” Senra said.

Senra is an amateur musician who is a semi-retired partner at Miami Lakes AutoMall.

He created the collection over nine months this year and launched it online in November.

“So I think it should bring back a lot of great memories for the older people,” Senra said, adding that it’s not just grandparents who will enjoy it.

“My son listens and my nephew listens,” he said.

The music can be downloaded from 51 platforms, including Spotify; Amazon; iTunes and YouTube.

It will bring generations together in another way, because children and grandchildren will likely want to help their elders download the songs from the internet.

And there is a lot to choose from among the 163 tracks.

There are boleros and bailables (slow and fast dance music); guaracha (quick rhythms) and guajiras (country tunes); danzones (slow moving dance rhythms); tangos and valses (waltzes); de la trova (troubadour music) and Villancicos Cubanos (Christmas carols).

Fernando Senra was born in Havana in 1926. As a boy he traveled the country with a pianist, performing in “Fernandito Senra and the Stars,” a theater show for children.

A show business prodigy of sorts, Senra brought the company to a radio program in the early 1940s and began hosting a show when he was just 14, according to his son.

Senra then began producing music in studios at Radio Progreso in Havana.

Some of the artists he worked with include Berto Gonzalez (The Tropical Troubadour); Manolo Fernandez (The Gentleman of the Tango) and Elizabeth del Rio.

Nico Membiela, Olga and Maria Luisa Chorens, Maria Ciervide and Rene Cabel (The tenor of the Antilles), also appear in the collection.

Senra and his wife Candida, and sons Fred and Luis and daughter Nuria (daughter Tammy was born later in the U.S.) moved to Florida in 1961.

The elder Senra continued producing music on his own label and for others. And he recorded the orchestra from the Les Violins supper club that once stood at Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 17th Street in Miami.

He kept all of those master recordings.

Fred Senra, now 73, said that before his father died at age 90 in 2014, he reminded him almost weekly to do something with the masters.

“That was money he invested and he would tell me, ‘Make sure you do something with them,’” Senra said. “And I used to say, ‘I’ll get to it.’ Two years into my semiretirement, I’ve gotten to it.”

And it turned into a nearly full-time job.

“Initially it felt like an obligation,” Senra said. “But I couldn’t throw them away. He’d asked me to do it.”

The reel-to-reel tape recordings had been stored in file cabinets in his parent’s home until the younger Senra moved them to airconditioned storage.

“I was afraid it wasn’t as good as he said, and I was afraid of the quality,” Senra said.

The tapes were converted to a digital format and then remastered. It took many hours of listening for Senra to choose the best numbers to include in the collection.

“I drove my wife Maggie crazy, but she was very patient and encouraging as well,” Senra said of the culling process.

And the result?

“A labor of love after I found quality pieces that I remembered from when I was a child,” Senra said.

He used to accompany his father to the recording studio and is partial to songs that feature Gonzalez and Fernandez, as well as Los Llopis, who could rock like Bill Haley and His Comets.

His goals for “Cuba…and Its Music”?

“Bringing those jewels back to life,” Senra said. “I want to touch the emotions of the listener. I hope it brings them great memories from a beautiful era in Cuba and the beginning of the exile in the U.S. as well, just like it did for me.”

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