The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is proud to host the Emmy Award-winning National Cuatro Festival, an annual music and cultural festival that brings internationally acclaimed cuatristas and other talented Latin musicians, from Puerto Rico and across the country, to Chicago. This year, in celebration of our 20th Anniversary, the NCF has invited to perform the legendary singers Ismael Miranda and Yolandita Monge, renowned cuatrista and composer Luis Sanz, 18 big band members from the Philharmonic Orchestra, director Angel “Cucco” Peña, Latin Music Project and more to come… The NCF also honor painter Arnaldo Roche for his life-time of artistic accomplishments and his commitment to supporting the next generation of Puerto Rican artists. This year’s emcees are Zoraida Sambolin, NBC5 News Anchor & Ray Rubio Radio Personality.
A portion of this year’s admission proceeds from this event will support PRAA’s Chicago for Puerto Rico Artistic Vitality Fund, created to support artists from Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria.
Ismael Miranda was born in the town of Aguada, Puerto Rico, on 20 February 1950. At an early age he moved to New York, where he began his passion for music. In 16, he recorded his first hit song “Rumbón melon” with Joey Pastrana. Then, he became part of the Orchestra Harlow in 1967, with which he achieved success of the song “Abran Paso”. Ismael dabbled solo in 1972, with a new production called “Opportunity”. He also formed his own band called “The Revelation” and recorded another CD called “Así se compone un son”. Miranda’s top hit has included such songs as “Borinquen tiene Montuno”, “La Cama Vacía”, “La Copa Rota”, “Como Mi Pueblo” y “Las Cuarentas. In 1974, the founders of the Fania, Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco, asked Ishmael to form part of the Fania All Stars, where he was dubbed “El Niño Bonito de la Salsa” by being the youngest of all members. During the course of his great career, Miranda has recorded more than 20 albums and has performed with notable artists such as Nicky Marrero, Hector “Bomberito” Zarzuela, Reinaldo Jorge, Ismael Quintana, Willie Colon, Ray Barreto and Luis ‘Perico’ Ortiz.
Yolandita Rosa Monge Betancourt, 16 September 1955, Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. Although Monge’s Puerto Rican parents lived in New York City, they returned to their home for a few weeks for her birth. She then lived in New York until the age of seven, at which time the family moved permanently to Puerto Rico. While at school, her singing was noticed and she appeared on radio and television before she was 10. She appeared on the stage and at 12 made her first album from which came several hit singles.
Monge’s career gathered pace in the 70s, with hit singles, albums, and tours that took in Mexico and New York. In 1975 a record of ‘Cierra Los Ojos Y Juntos Recordemos’ was a huge hit, confirming her transfer to a flourishing adult career. She appeared on-stage with Libertad Lemarque, who became a friend and mentor. Early in the 80s, Monge was again in New York, this time for an appearance at Carnegie Hall. During this decade, her record sales rocketed. She represented Puerto Rico at an International Song Festival in Colombia and had another major success with ‘El Amor’. Additionally, Laberinto De Amor was nominated for a Grammy Award, while in 1988 Billboard magazine named her as the year’s bestselling Latin artist. Her 1988 recording Vivencias became one of her bestselling albums, reaching platinum status.
In the 90s, Monge had more successful albums, several hit singles, SRO concerts, and her role in popularizing her homeland’s music was officially recognized by the Puerto Rican Senate. In 1992, Monge joined opera singer Placido Domingo on a recording that paid tribute to the artist Goya. In 1995, she and vocalist Ricardo Montaner played three concerts on the same day in three cities, Mayagüez, Ponce and San Juan.
Monge has appeared often on television, singing and acting in popular series, such as La Viuda De Blanco, and she has also appeared in some Puerto Rican films, including Mujeres Sin Hombres (2006). She also appeared on the stage in 2003’s Clase Maestra (Master Class), playing the role of opera singer Maria Callas. Monge’s daughter from her first marriage, Noelia, has become a very successful singer and they appeared together on Monge’s Sexto Sentido.
Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Luis Sanz is a talented cuatro player, composer, arranger and musical director of the group Hermanos Sanz. He began playing the Puerto Rican cuatro at the age of four. Luis’ creative development and talent in improvisation brought him to arranging and composing works for symphony orchestra, jazz bands and ensembles. He has produced three recording albums. His cuatro playing and his expertise with Puerto Rican folk music has brought him great recognition. Just this year, Luis headlined the Latin Grammy Award show with Residente, and collaborated with Lin-Manuel Miranda on music for a new film about Puerto Rican culture. Recently, was honored as ambassador of the Puerto Rican cuatro for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade of New York. Click here to listen to Luis Sanz message.
The Orquesta Filarmónica de Puerto Rico Big Band Ensemble is made up of eighteen top musicians dedicated to celebrating the big band era of Puerto Rican music. Considered one of Puerto Rico’s cultural treasures, the group’s mission is to serve as a cultural bridge between generations and to link the musical heritage of Puerto Rico with diverse musical influences from around the world. Founded by the renowned pianist, composer and conductor Don Arturo Somohano, the ensemble’s parent orchestra entitled – the Philharmonic Orchestra, made its first appearance in 1950 at San Juan’s Tapia Theater.
Born in Santurce, PR, Angel Cucco Peña became interested music at an early age. In the 1980s Peña became a music director, producer, composer and arranger for a wide variety of singers and styles, such as Willie Colón, Olga Tañon, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Ricky Martin, Chayanne, Lissette, Ricardo Arjona, Luis Fonsi, José Feliciano, Celia Cruz, Franco de Vita, Willy Chirino, Juan Diego Florez, Marc Anthony, Lucesita Benitez, Glen Monroig, Gloria Estefan, Jerry Rivera, and Lunna. Peña believes that music can be seen from three perspectives: that of the artist, the music company, and his own. He works with all three to produce the music he believes people want to hear. Peña awards and recognition include: Grammy for best tropical album, Contra la Corriente, Marc Anthony (1999); Latin Grammy for best tropical production, Olga Tañon (2002); 60 Cuspide Awards; 40 Addy Awards; 20 Awards from the New York Theater Festival and Agüeybaná de Oro Award (1993) for “Director of the Year
The Latin Music Project, a music program of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, seeks to educate children and youth through heritage-based music classes and ensemble performance. PRAA’s Latin Music Project Ensemble brings Latino culture to diverse audiences throughout Chicago. The group has performed at the Chicago Theater, Navy Pier, Copernicus Center, Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain and more. Enjoy this next generation of talented Latino artists, accompanied by advanced students from El Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance Board of Directors proudly announces that this its 20th Anniversary National Cuatro Festival is dedicated to Arnaldo Roche, for his distinguished international critically acclaimed artistic career and his commitment for supporting new generations of Puerto Rican artists. Watch Arnaldo Roche’s Video