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Arsenio Rodríguez

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Ignacio de Loyola Rodríguez Scull, known as Arsenio Rodríguez* (August 30, 1911 - December 31, 1971) was a Cuban musician who developed the son montuno. He was a prolific composer and wrote nearly two hundred songs.

He was born in Güira de Macurijes in the province of Matanzas. As a young child, Rodríguez was blinded when a horse (or possibly a mule) kicked him in the head.

Later, he became a musician, and eventually became one of the most renowned bandleaders on the island earning him the nickname “El Ciego Maravilloso”. His music emphasized the Afro-Cuban rhythm as well as the melodic lead of the tres, which he played. In 1928 he played his own compositions with the Sexteto Boston, which disbanded in 1937 because as a blind he felt unable to be a bandleader, and he joined the Septeto Bellamar of cornettist José Interián. From 1940 to 1947 he led a band again, Arsenio Rodríguez y su Conjunto. He then went to New York where he hoped to get cured from his blindness but was told that his seeing nerves had been completely destroyed. This experience led him to compose the bolero La Vida es un Sueño (Life is a dream). He went on to play with percussionist Chano Pozo and other great players of what became Latin Jazz like Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Mario Bauza. He had success in the US and went to exile there in 1953. But at the end of the 1950s the Mambo craze more or less petered out, and Rodríguez showed no interest in modern Latin styles like Guaracha or Boogaloo.

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