Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b '37, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) The sons of a carpenter, Cuco Valoy (singer, composer, arranger, producer) and his guitarist brother Martín began working as a duo (Los Ahijados, the Godsons) in the late '50s based on popular Cuban voice and guitar duos and trios of the time, many songs written by Cuco. 'Páginas Gloriosas' '65 ('Pages Of Glory'; available on Páginas Gloriosas, Adelante Soldados '94) was Cuco's patriotic hymn and the anthem of the short-lived 'constitutional revolution', suppressed by a military government helped by US Marines. 'I was young,' he says (now describing himself as apolitical); 'I identified with the impoverished and marginalized against the wealthy establishment in power ... but it was a long time ago.' (interviewed by Philip Sweeney in the Independent '93). They met leaders of the budding salsa boom in New York '71; Cuco formed a twelve-piece band '75 which he named both Los Virtuosos (the Virtuous) and La Tribu (the Tribe), changed to Nueva Tribu (New Tribe) when new members were added mid-'80s. The lineup included lead and chorus voices, rhythm section and a changing front line of one or two saxophones, two or three trumpets and frequently one trombone; personnel including the splendid vocalist Henry García (mid-'70s to mid-'80s), Martín on bass, and two of Cuco's 14 sons: Marcos Antonio Valoy (sometimes on trombone) and Ramón Orlando (Valoy, piano, musical director, arranger, composer, chorus singer). Ramón left mid-'80s and became a major Dominican star. Until then, Valoy featured a variety of salsa and merengue (the DR's predominate dance form) but then deviated from this rule on albums that were largely or totally merengue. Lots of his best material was scattered through albums on the Discolor and Kubaney labels '75-83, later compiled on the Kubaney CD collections: Sonero, El Brujo (Volumen 2), 20 Exitos De Los Ahijados (with Los Ahijados), La Salsa De Cuco Valoy -- 15 Exitos, Salsa Con Coco, Bien Sobao, Sonero Mayor and Cuco y Martín Valoy (with Los Ahijados) '87-94; annoyingly, just to confuse things, the '92 compilations Salsa Con Coco and Bien Sobao have the same titles and cover artwork as Valoy's '78 and '82 releases. His key albums on Discolor were Salsa Con Coco '78, Tremenda Salsa '78 (aka Cuco Valoy y su Tribu en Curazao), Arrollando '79 and Tiza! '80, the latter including what Sweeney described as the 'superbly melodramatic salsa thriller' 'Mendigo de Amor' ('Beggar Of Love').

Cuco recorded for small firms '83-7, returning to Kubaney '88; treasures lurking among the mid-'80s albums include Cuco Valoy y su Tribu '84 on his own CVR label, Mejor Que Nunca '85 and Con Sabor del Tropico '86, both on Team. He made a substantial return to salsa on A Petición Popular Salsa '89, which was entirely arranged by Isidro Infante. Cuco reunited with Ramón on La Gran Obra Musical De Cuco Valoy '91 on J&N/Fuga Records; Infante was co-musical director, co-arranger and keyboardist on Valoy's last album on J&N, El Que Sabe! '92 and as co-arranger on Sabroso '93, his first on AVL. On Sabroso he returned to his first love, old Cuban songs; he told Sweeney it was the music he felt most deeply. Cuco settled in New Jersey '91, and with his Nueva Tribu was doing three to four gigs a week across North and South America in '93. Many of Cuco's more than 300 songs are about women, such as his monster hit 'Juliana' from Salsa Con Coco '78; 'I find it easy to write songs on the bitterness of love gone wrong because it's a part of the everyday life of ordinary people -- everybody recognizes it.' He acquired a nickname and an association with the Afro-Christian voodoo cult of santería with his merengue hit 'El Brujo' '77 ('The Wizard' from El Brujo '76, aka Corre, Policia, Corre!): a woman with a wayward husband uses a potion to bring him back. UK disc jockey Tomek decided '91 that Cuco really was a wizard, in 'his mastery of all elements of the Cuban-Dominican expression, ''merensalsa''. The immaculate swing of his band is informed by arrangements which never sacrifice the bittersweet diasporic tradition for specious modernism...' Further albums: Las Mujeres Calientes: Bachata, Merengue y Son '94 and Selección de Merengues '95 on AVL, Merengues Bombon '95 and Salsa Con Valoy '96 (compiles salsa tracks from '91-3 albums) on Mr Imperio.