Conjunto UNIVERSAL – A Miami 70′s Cuban Band REUNITES!

by Maria Tojeiro Gonzalez on November 13, 2010

By MIGUEL MARTIN

Miguel Martin is a professional singer and percussionist now with MANTRAP, and an accomplished Miami music historian and writer.

Miguel Martin is a professional singer and percussionist now with MANTRAP, and an accomplished Miami music historian and writer.

I will never forget the first time I heard them. It was a UNIQUE experience. EL CONJUNTO UNIVERSAL. Yes, it’s been a long time, but like your first taste of those things that are and always will be unforgettable, this was one of those times. Going into the ELECTRICIAN’S HALL, the sound coming at you from all directions, from the Marble floors to the Columns, the SOUND of this Legendary Cuban ORQUESTA could be heard from the street all the way out to 17th avenue and beyond.

The unmistakable Voice of the Great SONERO, EDDY GUAL, to the COROS of the Great AQUILES SANTIAGO, the Heavy Percussion of Jorge “Arana” Hernandez on Congas, Tony Gundin on Timbales and Alfredo “Super” Dobarganes on Bongoes, and the TUMBAO of the Piano of the LEADER, the great Cuban Pianist and Arranger, JAIME GARCIA to the Pulsating Bass of POLITO ABREU and  Those Trumpets… SOPLALA VITI CO!!!!

I like to call them, LA ORQUESTA DE NUESTRA GENERACION, or the Orchestra of OUR GENERATION. EL CONJUNTO UNIVERSAL was the most glorious of the Salsa Orchestras that came from Miami. Sure there were many, and good ones, but this Band was UNIQUE. It was an Orchestra that was constantly in demand. Weddings, Quinceaneros, Private Parties and of course EL BAILE CUBANO, the weekly Cuban dance so popular in the Miami of the 70′s and 80′s, it seemed as if they were EVERYWHERE. Recording their first Album for the TONE label in 1967, later signing with the popular Latin label VELVET Records where they found their greatest success.

And the Hits came DOLORITA, LA BOLITA, CHANGO ME LLAMA, FLOR AMARILLA, FLOR COLORA, AQUILINO, CONMIGO NO TE METAS, ALABAO, EL POLLO, LA GORDA, BUENO Y QUE, MANTECAO, REPITE Y PON, V~CILA Y GOZA, LA ASPIRINA, OYELO BIEN, QUE NO ME EMPUJEN, NI GORDA NI FLACA, QUE DICE EL DICHO, CON LA MAYOR ELEGANCIA, GUAGUANCO PARA LOS SONEROS, COCO RICOCO, QUE SE SEPA -  I mean, I could go On and On

Conjunto Universal - Miami Bands of the 70sThis Band, this Collective Unit of incredible Taste and Swing was relentless in their pursuit of our ears and hearts during their existence in the Miami Music Scene. EI CONJUNTO UNIVERSAL was royalty, and I can still see and feel the anticipation when they were due to arrive to any dance or event. We always thought, AHI VIENE LA UNIVERSAL and the Bright Yellow Van with the Big UNIVERSAL logo that is so imbedded in our memory would drive up and you KNEW you were in for a Night of Dancing and excitement once again.

The Band, started by the Great JAIME GARCIA, the Pianist and Chief Arranger, who is now 90 years old, lasted longer than any other Band or Orchestra in the City of Miami, from 1966 until 1982 to be exact. When LA UNIVERSAL stopped playing it was as if a friend of the family had left forever and somehow you knew that you would never
experience something like this again.

UNTIL NOW!

For a long Time, Alfredo “Super” Dobarganes, the BONGOCERO that played the Most years with the Band thought of putting the Band back together. Talking it over with Tony Gundin, a Great Percussionist who’s played with Everybody from THE JUDGE’S NEPHEWS to DAVID LEE ROTH, and one of the TiMBALEROS of La Universal in their heyday, the seed of the idea was formed to Bring Back once again this incredible and Legendary Orchestra.

LA UNIVERSAL is Back and are ready once more to Hit the Stage and transport us to Another time, Another Place, to a Time of extreme happiness and dancing and going out every week and so much more. On November 19th, the Stage at CLUB RENAISSANCE in Coral Way will once again shine with the Greatest of our Orchestras, and again we will feel, what we once felt, And see, what we thought we wouldn’t see again.

YES SIR, EL CONJUNTO UNIVERSAL IS BACK!

QUE SE SEPA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you. C’mon… don’t be shy now.

La Universal at Club Renaissance on Friday November 19, 2010

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Ileana & Robert Castillo November 16, 2010 at 11:03 am

Wow! So long awaited by our generation of Cuban American’s that grew up in the 70′s era. I just wish I lived back in Miami. But, we will do the best we can to attend to this 70′s Volcano that has erupted in Miami. All Thanks to our Good Friends at Mantrap which started the fire that gave heat to that Volcano.
LOL,
Ileana & Robert Castillo
All the Way From N/C

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Janib Abreu Ihaia November 18, 2010 at 8:42 am

So proud and excited for my dad, Polito. How I loved singing all those songs when I was little. All the merengues were my favorite! “Tocame la sampans Maria, tocamela.. La campana de la factoria, Maria, tocamela..”

I wish so much I could be there, but I’m hundreds of miles away in Denver.

To those who go: enjoy, have fun, sing, dance and remember the old times..

Janib

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Pedro de Pool November 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

Era la primera vez que ensayaba el Universal, en una iglesia protestante en la 17 Ave del N.W, y como la 34 Calle. Yo trabajaba en la antigua WMIE, despues “La Cubanisima.” y mas tarde WQBA, que tenia su antena y estudios en la 36 Calle y la 13 Ave. del N.W. Alexis me dijo que fuera para ver como tocaban y me encanto. Luego vinieron los bailes cubanos a los cuales yo asistia y despues cuando era locutor de WCMQ 1220AM, con Roberto Suares, Nilso Pimentel, Ricardo Vila, y Tony Rivas entre otros, Tony Moreno QPD. me pidio que fuera a oir el nuevo disco para la Velvet. Lo pegamos y de que manera. Luego despues mi primo, alque yo le daba la leche por las mananas a el y a su hermano Frank, empezo a tocar y produjo entre otras con ellos “La Gorda.” El famoso Arana. Jorge.
No puede asistir a esta presentacion. Pero mi corazon esta ahi con todos ellos. Felicidades y saludos a Jaime.

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Maritza Garcia-Gonzalez November 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Me llamo Maritza y soy la hija menor de Jaime Garcia, en estos momentos me encuentro en Jacksonville, y nos fue imposible asistir al evento. No encuentro palabras para expresar el orgullo tan grande que siento por mi padre. Mi hermana y familiares que fueron a verlos me contaron que fue todo un exito y que la pasaron de maravilla. Siempre recordare aquellos tiempos en los inclusive yo lo ayudaba cantandole las melodias para que el hiciera los arreglos, y despues toda la juventud cubana de Miami se daba cita en los famosos bailes cubanos. Ojala que se repita otra reunion pronto y podamos ir a bailar y recordar.

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EMY September 24, 2011 at 9:00 am

Maritza yo soy la hija de uno de los congeros. Me gustaria poder communicar me contigo.

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Maritza Gonzalez September 25, 2011 at 7:43 am

Emy, como se llama tu papa? que gusto poder comunicarnos, Papi esta muy bien, ya tiene 91 anos y a veces pienso que esta mejor que yo, contestame a mi e-mail es mas facil, mcgonza50@hotmail.com carinos

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DJ Nicos February 23, 2011 at 3:21 am

Hello from Greece
I trying to find an amaizing song from Conjunto Universal named “Que linda son la mujeres”. Can any tell me from where i can buy cd or vinyl included this song??
Regards
Nikos

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Evelio Niebla April 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

Call Jorge from Ricky’s Records in Hialeah, he can probably help you find it. I know he has a couple of CD’s from La Universal and if he doesn’t have it may be he can direct you as to where to go.
4040 Palm Avenue, Hialeah FL 33012 / Phone : (305)823-5931

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Evelio Niebla April 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

Those were great times, I did all the dances on Saturdays, Sundays, sometimes in off days in the middle of the week – never missed one. Ahhh to go back to el salon Santa Cecilia, el Hialeah Auditoriuom, el Brooksville, el Dinner Key Auditorium and share those moments once again. I’m very sorry to have found out about the event too late. I keep in touch with Manuel Santayana and Eddy Gual when I can.
Not many people remember those times because they were not around and don’t even have an idea of what it is to dance to a live band, but for us whom shared those times with them, the memories are precious and they will always remain with us.
May I suggest that this becomes a happening of no less than once a year, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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Frank Prieto April 7, 2011 at 11:42 am

Evelio, thank you for sharing your memories. I have GREAT NEWS for you. La Universal is doing it again on May 14th, 2011. Below is an e-mail I got yesterday from Nelson Correa with more information. As soon as I have the ticket information I’ll send out a call out. Make sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out.

MAY 14, 2011 AT THE FIRETOWER 8000 NW 21 STREET IN DORAL, WE WILL HAVE THE RETURN OF LOS BAILES CUBANOS WITH LOS REYES DE LA SALA EL CONJUNTO UNIVERSAL PLUS MIAMI’S PREMIER DISCO BAND MANTRAP. HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US AND PLEASE POST THE FLYER ON YOUR PAGE. TICKET INFORMATION WILL BE POSTED SOON.

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Evelio Niebla April 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Gracias Frank,
I’ll be alert and make sure I don’t miss this one. You can count on me !

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Ileana & Robert Castillo April 7, 2011 at 11:50 am

Our Bags are packed and our Airline Tickets have been purchased!!!! Just waiting on our friends from Mantrap to release where we can purchase our tickets!!!
Can Not Wait!!!!!!!
LOL,
Ileana & Robert Castillo from NC

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linda welsh May 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

porfavor cual es el nombre completo del muchaco que esta de pie al lado de el que tiene el traje blanco y detras del que esta sentado? gracias

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Edward Herrera July 20, 2011 at 2:24 am

Como se puede conseguir musica en CD o DVD,de los jovenes del hierro y de la universal,soy uno de los pocos de la vieja guardia,que jangeaba por el cafe jamaica por la 27 ave y la 5 st del nw

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Frank Prieto July 20, 2011 at 6:52 am

Edward, try El Museo Del Disco

Saludos,

Frank P

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Dania C Martinez May 25, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I want to thank you finally got to purchase some cds from Conjunto Universal . When is there going to be another concert, would love to attend . Heard about this too late. Please let me know. Thanks.

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lisette brito October 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm

i would love to see the band again lots of good memories also pls
let aquiles santiago know i need to spk with him he should know who i am

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lisette brito October 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm

nice time i had with your band pls keep me posted would love to see u guys again and spk to aquiles

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Roberto Garcia "Musicuba" January 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Me parece conocida esa guarachita del Conj. Universal , Que se sepa.Quién es el compositor?

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admin January 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Hola Roberto, lo que sabemos por ahora es que el compositor original es cubano de la Havana de hace 30 años. Jaime Garcia hizo el arreglo de La Universal a su manera, y Roberto Roena hizo tambien su porpia version.

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Roberto Garcia "Musicuba" January 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Gracias , lo busco en disco CD y no aparece , solo lo encuentro en vinilo.

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admin January 23, 2012 at 8:11 pm

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