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Punto guajira

Article: Reader's Forum

by Oliver Berliner

Dear Mr. Polin:

I know I'm a bit late but I've just bought a copy of your March 1993 issue because I was interested in George de Stefano's interesting profile of the unappreciated Henry Fiol, who I was first exposed to when I discovered that Earthworks/Virgin Records had released his version of La Negra Sanda, published by my company and which the label had failed to report (tsk, tsk).

Fiol is indeed a fine and inventive artist and thus I was not surprised to learn of his interest in what he called Punto Cubano.

The correct name of this obscure Cuban musical genre is punto guajiro...farmer's point. I'm probably one of a very few Americans to have heard this 6/8 tempo the studios of Radio Progreso (now Radio Libre) in Habana in 1959, where every day the network would broadcast an hour of punto followed by an hour of tropical...the greatest groups performing live before an audience.

What is punto? It is the white farmer's music, as contrasted by the black farmer's (guajira, rumba flamenca). The primary instrumentation of the punto group consists of guitar, bongo (incredibly, a black man's instrument) and a singer who chants to no particular melody and who is "answered" by another singer or more. The lyrics are inspiration and incredibly long stories, far more difficult to do than what the soneros do in the case of música bailable. The music — if you can call it that — is very repetitious...and non-commercial. But Fiol may have something if he can adapt it to suit our taste. Unfortunately, his problem has always been his surfeit of originality and lack of commerciality.


Oliver Berliner, CA

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