By MIGUEL MARTIN
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
This 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.
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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