March 01, 2009
The Correct Biography
(La Correcta Biografia De "Meñique, Sonero Añejo" Miguel A. Barcasnegras)
A conversation with John Child
Panama has produced a number of world class Latin singers, including Azuquita, Rubén Blades, Carlos El Grande and Gabino Pampini. In 1968 Miguel Ángel Barcasnegras "Meñique" became one of the first panameño vocalists to break onto the international scene when he journeyed with Kako's band to New York, then the headquarters of the world Latin music industry. There he went on to work with such luminaries as Arsenio Rodríguez, Tito Puente, Willie Rosario, Santos Colón and Charlie Palmieri, among others. Although he's a dyed-in-the-wool exponent of classic salsa, in 1983/4 Meñique contributed vocals and compositions to the Noche Caliente albums that spawned the salsa romántica craze. Here he speaks to John Child about his notable career, which began in Panama City at the beginning of the 1950s. The piece is followed by a selective discography of Meñique's solo albums and recordings featuring him as a lead vocalist.
John Child (JIC): Where and when were you born? Please share your memories of your family and upbringing...
Meñique Barcasnegras (MB): I was born in the capital city of the Republic of Panama, on December 30, 1933. I am the eighth of 14 brothers and sisters. As a young boy, I worked as a shoeshine boy, selling newspapers, washing cars and as a salesman. My parents were very strict, and as far as I can remember, we all respected our parents and respected each other. All are living except one, who died young in an auto accident.
JIC: Was there a tradition of music in your family and what were your earliest musical experiences?
MB: My mother Rosa Elena and my stepfather César Cantoral sang in duo, and he played the guitar at house parties. My mom had a soft voice like Libertad Lamarque. I used to go with them from the age of eight, and as they were singing, I was constantly watching them. I started to feel the music within me at that time. I had an urge to sing and it was in my blood.
My first musical experience was when I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law. He was a singer and heard me singing while I was taking a shower. He asked his wife who was singing and she said it was Miguel, "He always sings in the shower." When I came out, he said I had a good voice and insisted I should go and sing coro in the band he was singing with. I was almost 16 years old. Six months later he left the orchestra. I had reached 16 years old, and the bandleader asked me if I wanted to take his place as the lead vocal of La Sonora Panameña. Of course I accepted.
JIC: How did you get the nickname "Meñique"?
MB: I was already singing professionally with the Orquesta of Penonome. A trumpet player named Chicho Caseres was trying to call me and could not remember my name, so he called me "Meñique" instead, which means pinky, the little finger on the hand, because I was the shortest in the band. I did not mind it; I liked it.
JIC: I understand you started your working life as a tailor. How did your musical career begin?
MB: While I was singing, I was still in school and graduated from the Institute of Arts and Design in Panama as a professional tailor. I did both, worked during the day and sang at night.
JIC: Please tell me about the early bands you sang and recorded with and the music scene in Panama City at the time?
MB: After La Sonora Panameña, I sang with La Orquesta of Raúl Ortiz, later with La Orquesta Universal de Mojica, with whom I recorded my first song and my first composition named "Colón", a 45-rpm. Later I sang with the first orchestra of Panama, La Perfecta de Armando Boza. The music of that time was Cuban music, like guaguancó, son montuno, guaracha, cha cha chá, and other rhythms.
JIC: In the mid-'60s you replaced Azuquita, another Panamanian singer, as the lead vocalist of Kako's orchestra. How did you hook-up with Kako? Is it true that you were his brother-in-law?
MB: In 1968, Kako came to play at Los Carnavales de Panama, and you know, he was left without a singer. So he asked the musicians in Panama if they knew a singer that could learn his music fast. He was told there were two singers, Beto Duvois and Meñique. He wanted both of us, but I was the lucky one to come to New York because I was able to get my visa, and Beto could not come. After a year, Kako became my brother-in-law when I married one of his sisters.
JIC: Tell why you decided to relocate to New York?
MB: I decided to relocate because this was the capital of the best orchestras, and it was my opportunity to be known as a singer.
JIC: In New York you made your first long-playing record with Kako, Sock It To Me, Latino! for the Musicor label in July 1968, produced by the incredible Al Santiago. Please share your memories of this project, the musicians involved in the recording and your time with Kako's band?
MB: The recording of the long player Sock It To Me, Latino! was a great experience. I have great memories of everyone that participated in Kako y su Combo.
JIC: Are you able to share some of these great memories of everyone who participated in Kako's group?
MB: Some of the musicians that participated in Sock It To Me, Latino! were Chamaco Ramírez, Frankie Figueroa, Manny Román, Víctor Paz, Cheo Feliciano and Raymond Maldonado. All the musicians were in good humour and I blended into the group, even though I was only with them for about three months. Kako was a great guy; he took me in with his family when I came from Panama. And then after I went to live with his mother and family, that is where I met his sister.
JIC: In 1968 you also sessioned on Arsenio Dice (Tico), the final album by the legendary Arsenio Rodríguez. Typically there were no personnel credits on the album sleeve. However, according to David García's book on Arsenio (Arsenio Rodríguez And The Transnational Flows Of Latin Popular Music, Temple University Press, 2006), the session involved Julian Llanos, first voice; Israel Berrios, second voice and guitar; Marcelino Guerra, second voice; Víctor Paz, trumpet; Agustín Caraballoso, trumpet; José "Bebo" Peréz Cedeño, tenor sax; René "El Latigo" Hernández, piano and arranger; Arsenio, tres and director; Kiki, tumbadora; and Alfonso "El Panameño" Joseph, bass. But García doesn't mention you. How did the opportunity to record with Arsenio arise and what are you recollections of the project?
MB: As for Arsenio Dice, the lead singers were Ceron, a Dominican, I don't remember his first name, and me, as I was invited. All the other singers sang coro on the recording. I can't explain why the lead singers were not included in the credits. Maybe it was an error on the part of the editor.
JIC: The Dominican singer you mention is Santiago Ceron. He is credited as the vocalist on Arsenio's mid-'60s LP Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto, Vol. 2 for Ansonia Records. Could it be this album you sang on?
MB: I am going to tell you the story of how Arsenio approached me for Arsenio Dice. One evening, Tito Puente was playing at the Caborrojeño in New York, I was singing. Then Arsenio Rodríguez visited the club with his brother Kike, who took him everywhere. Arsenio heard me singing. He told Kike to go and tell me that he wanted to speak to me. So when I finished the set, I went to his table to find out what he wanted. He told me he wanted me to record one song on his new album. I did not know what to do, because I was with Tito Puente and did not want any problems. But he was so insistent that I finally agreed to record only one song, which was programmed for the next day. So I told him, "Only one song, pay me, and I will go home."
After I had finished recording the song at the studio, I asked him to pay me and said that I had to leave. He said, "No, wait a minute, I have to say something." He stood up and went to the recording cabin. He came out a while later and asked me to sing another song. Against my will, I accepted and recorded the second song. Once finished, again he got up and went to the recording cabin. When he came out again, he asked me to record a third song. I was already feeling sorry for his lead vocalist, who was also there, and told Arsenio that his singer might get annoyed. Arsenio said, "Don't worry, he is alright, he is not angry." So I finished the third song, and as I told you, Santiago Ceron was also a singer in that album. The LP came out a year later in 1969 on Tico, months before Arsenio passed away.
I was not in New York when Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto, Vol. 2 was made.
(NOTE: Having re-listened to Arsenio Dice, it's unquestionably Meñique singing on the cuts "Mi Corazón No Tiene Quien No Llore" and "Ven Mi Mora." Santiago Ceron can be heard singing lead vocals on "Kiko Medina" and the boleros "Menos Que Cenizas " "Pasion Extraña" and "La Verdad." The vocalist on "Esto Es Yambú," "Daddy Give Me Candy" [I cannot identify the English vocals on the song], the bolero "Orgullesida" and "Quendembo Jazz" sounds like Julian Llanos.)
JIC: You sang with Tito Puente's band in 1969, then joined Willie Rosario's band. Why was your stint with TP so brief at that point?
MB: I sang with Tito Puente's orchestra for about seven months. The reason I left was because I had no transportation. I had to sing every night, but I had to use public transportation or a taxi, and it was a hardship. I was also feeling very cold, being that I came from a tropical country!
JIC: How did the opportunity to work with Willie Rosario arise?
MB: Willie Rosario found out that I had left Tito Puente and contacted me to sing on his band. Since some of his musicians lived around my neighbourhood, I used to travel with them. He also only played on weekends.
JIC: With Willie you made El Bravo de Siempre (Inca, 1969) writing "La Cuesta de la Fama," his biggest hit up that point. Please share your memories of the project?
MB: When Willie Rosario approached me to tell me about this recording, I told him that I had written a few songs and asked if he would like to use one of them. He was interested, but his answer was negative because he said he had all the songs he needed for the recording. Later on, Willie came to my house to tell me he needed a song to complete the LP, so I gave him "La Cuesta de la Fama." Willie told me that this was his biggest hit.
JIC: How long were you a member of Willie's band and who were the other members at the time?
MB: I was only with Willie's band for six months because Tito Puente called me back. I can only recall Papo Pepin, the conguero. I don't remember the other musicians.
JIC: How did the return to Puente's band come about?
MB: Tito Puente called me back and this time I had transportation to go everywhere, so I accepted his offer.
JIC: At this point you recorded two albums with TP for the Tico label, Pa'Lante! / Straight! (1970), for which Charlie Palmieri was the A&R man, and the classic Para Los Rumberos (1972). Please share your recollections of these productions and the personnel involved?
MB: Tito Puente invited Charlie Palmieri to play the organ for the Pa'Lante LP. Charlie wasn't involved with Para Los Rumberos, it was Tito Puente's band and I recorded "Niña y Señora," which became a hit of hits. Tito had not had a hit for a while. We travelled to a lot of countries with this hit.
(NOTE: Contrary to Meñique's recollection, evidence suggests that Charlie Palmieri was involved in both Pa'Lante! and Para Los Rumberos. Charlie is credited with A&R on the former, and while not originally credited on the latter, the personnel listed on the 2006 Emusica / Fania reissue includes Charlie on piano and organ.)
JIC: What are your outstanding memories of gigging with Tito Puente in the early '70s?
MB: I did a lot of travelling and gained experience, discipline and recognition as a professional international singer.
JIC: What's the story behind you signing with Cotique Records, for whom you made your solo album debut Meñique (1972) arranged and directed by Tito Puente and produced by Ralph Lew?
MB: Ralph Lew was in charge of bringing artists to Cotique Records, and contracted me to record for the company as a soloist. This was my first recording as a solo artist, accompanied by the Tito Puente orchestra
JIC: Can you recall the sidemen who sessioned on Meñique?
MB: I am sorry to say that after so many years I cannot remember the names of everyone I have recorded with. At that time there were 14 or more musicians on every recording, and so many other people involved. It is impossible to recall because I have made so many recordings.
JIC: Did you perform the material from Meñique live as a solo artist or with the Puente band?
MB: I performed live as a soloist. Tito's band just accompanied me for the recording.
JIC: Cotique, which had been taken over by Fania Records by this stage, paired you with Tito Puente's long-time singer Santos Colón for Long Live The King (1973). The album, which pictured a set of timbales on the front cover, was produced by Larry Harlow with Sonny Bravo, Louie Cruz, Gil López and Louie Ramírez credited as arrangers; there are no musicians credited. This record always struck me as a Tito Puente album in all but name. What's the story behind this project?
MB: The recording Long Live The King was conceived when Santos Colón and I left the TP orchestra. Jerry Masucci came up with the idea of recording this LP with Tito Puente's band without Tito. It was decided to put the timbales on the cover in honour of The King. There are five of my own compositions in this LP, and one of them, "Cantando a Cuba," became a hit in Europe where Cubans lived.
JIC: Again for Cotique, you recorded Soy Hijo de Chango (1974), also produced by Larry Harlow with Louie Ramírez, Louie Cruz and Eddie Martínez credited as arrangers; no musicians are credited. You composed all the songs, and I understand that the track "La Habana Vieja" became a hit. Tell me about this project?
MB: Yes, I recorded Soy Hijo de Chango, all the songs were my own inspiration, and the song "Habana Vieja" was another hit, not only in Miami, but also in Europe, where there were Cubans living. This song has feeling and a message. The musicians were selected.
JIC: Were you performing live as a solo act at this stage or with someone else's band?
MB: When I recorded Soy Hijo de Chango, I was singing as a solo artist.
JIC: Also in 1974, as a member of Charlie Palmieri's band, you participated in the Tico-Alegre All Stars Recorded Live At Carnegie Hall, Vol. 1 on Tico Records. What are your memories of this event?
MB: This was the very first day I started with Charlie Palmieri's orchestra. Vitín Avilés was leaving the band to become a bolero soloist the same day I started. This event was like a reunion of the greatest artists, like Tito Puente, Joe Cuba, La Lupe, Chocolate Armenteros, Vicentico Valdés and many more. For me, it was a great pleasure to be on stage with all of them.
JIC: I, like many Latin music fans, always wondered what happened to Volume 2. Do you know?
MB: I never knew what happened to Volume 2. It went under the table.
JIC: In 1975 you were involved in Meñique Presenta Tropical de Chicago (IND) by Orquesta Tropical Tropical de Chicago. I don't know this album. Please tell me all about it?
MB: A Mexican, the owner of the club El Mirador in Chicago, Illinois, contracted me for a year. I had to form an orchestra for the opening of the club and to play three nights a week (weekends). There I met an owner of another club, next to the club where I was playing. The orchestra playing there was La Tropical de Chicago. He spoke to me about recording a few songs with his band in New York, which I did. In that album I have two songs of my own inspiration, "El Quinto y la Conga" and "Por Mejico Entero." I also sang another song, "La Besé," Kako was invited to play congas on the song "El Quinto y la Conga".
JIC: How and when did you hook-up with Charlie Palmieri's orchestra?
MB: I had left Tito, and I was already singing as a soloist, when Charlie called me.
JIC: You made three albums with Charlie, Impulsos (Coco, 1975), singing coro, Con Salsa y Sabor (Cotique, 1977) and The Heavyweight (Alegre, 1978). Please share your recollections of these projects and your period with Charlie?
MB: Yes. On the first album Impulsos I sang coro. Regarding the second album, Con Salsa y Sabor, I want to make it clear to all the collectors and music writers that I am the Cotique artist on this album, and that the album is Meñique's recording. Charlie Palmieri was an artist of Alegre Records, and Jerry Massuci invited him to record in Meñique's album. Seven of the songs on this album are my own inspiration.
When I finished the contract in Chicago, I returned to New York and Charlie called me to record The Heavyweight. I only recorded a few songs, because he had another singer, Julito Villot. After that we both stayed with Charlie's band.
JIC: Were you gigging with Charlie at this point? If so, what numbers did he feature in his set and who were the regular sidemen?
MB: After I came back, the songs I sang were the ones we had recorded and some were the songs of Eddie Palmieri, his brother. As I said before, the sidemen were too many to remember.
JIC: Tell me about Julito Villot, the other lead singer on The Heavyweight, who sounds very much like Tito Rodríguez?
MB: Yes, Julito Villot sang like Tito Rodríguez and in his style. He was liked because of his imitation.
JIC: How and when did the opportunity arise to sing with Rolando Valdés' Charanga Sensación, which, for all intents and purposes, was the New York continuation of the Orquesta Sensación he led in Cuba?
MB: At that time, the Cuban style of music predominated. My style came from Cheo Feliciano and Benny Moré. I combined those two styles to make my own. One of Rolando Valdés' singers didn't show up and I was called in.
JIC: By the late '70s your contracts with the Fania run Cotique and Alegre labels were presumably finished. You sang in the vocal ensemble on two Charanga Sensación albums, Sensación Hay Una Sóla and Charanga Super Charanga, released on Ansonia Records in 1978 and 1979. Please tell me more about these records?
MB: Yes, I recorded on these albums. Roberto Torres recommended me. I don't remember much because it was such a short time.
JIC: Did you perform live with Charanga Sensación? If so, please share your reminiscences?
MB: No. I just recorded.
JIC: You also contributed to productions by other acts, for example, you sang coro on recordings by Tito Rodríguez, Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Noraida, Chivirico Dávila, Joe Cuba, La Protesta, Marty Galagarza y La Conquistadora, Adalberto Santiago and Ray Barretto. Tell me more about this aspect of your career?
MB: Not all singers can sing coro because you need to have harmony. We were a group of singers that were always called to sing coro, like Adalberto Santiago, Yayo El Indio, Santos Colón, Vitín Avilés, Roberto Torres and others. In Tito Rodríguez' recordings, the only coro singers were Yayo El Indio and me. In the Ray Barretto recording with Tito Allen on lead vocals (Indestructible '73 on Fania), the coro was Héctor Lavoe and me.
JIC: Can you remember which Tito Rodríguez albums you sang coro on?
MB: The LP where Yayo El Indio and I sang coro is the one where Louie Ramírez was the composer, pianist and director (Louie Ramírez y Tito Rodríguez: En Algo Nuevo '72 on TR Records).
JIC: During the 1980s you were involved in an interesting mix of recording projects. In March 1980 you shared lead vocals with Tito Contreras and Willie "El Baby" on Rarezas del Siglo by Carlos Barbería y su Orquesta Kubavana (Lasonic Records, 1980). Please tell me about this production and the band?
MB: This band was all Cuban musicians, including the singer Willie "El Baby", and like I said before, Panamanian singers have the same style as Cubans. That's why Tito Contreras and I recorded with this band.
JIC: In 1983 and 1984 you sang along with Tito Allen and Johnny Rivera on the second and third volumes of Noche Caliente on K-Tel, recorded in Los Angeles and New York respectively. The first volume, Noche Caliente (1982), produced by Louie Ramírez with vocalists Ray de la Paz and José Alberto, is regarded as having paved the way for the salsa romántica boom. Please share your recollections of these recordings?
MB: I will always be a classic salsa singer until the day I die. I had the opportunity to record romantic salsa, it was booming at the time. So I wanted to be with the crowd, without forgetting my classic salsa. In the third Noche Caliente album, four of the songs were my own inspiration. I recorded three and Tito Allen recorded the others.
JIC: Apart from lead singer, arranger and producer credits, there are no musician credits on the Noche Caliente albums. Can you remember some of the sidemen involved in the sessions?
MB: The musicians were selected for the second and third Noche Caliente albums. In the second album, the pianist, co-arranger and director was Sergio George, and on volume 3, the pianist and director was Larry Harlow.
JIC: Did you get live work off the back of the Noche Caliente albums?
MB: No, this was only a recording project. After the first album, which Louie Ramírez recorded with selected musicians, he named his own band Noche Caliente. Then he had a problem in court because he was using a registered name, and had to take the name off the band.
JIC: In 1983 you sang on Nicolás Vivas y su Conjunto Chaney on Calor Records recorded in Puerto Rico. Chaney later became associated with the salsa romántica sound, featuring future stars Eddie Santiago and Willie González in their line-up, but the album you sang on was in a straight-ahead típico vein. How and when did the opportunity to record with Chaney arise? Where you living in Puerto Rico at the time?
MB: No, I was living in New York. The recording was made in Puerto Rico, and Roberto Torres bought the production. He called me to put the voice in the recording in New York.
JIC: Did you replace existing lead vocals on the Puerto Rico recording of Nicolás Vivas y su Conjunto Chaney or was it just the music and coro vocals that Conjunto Chaney recorded in Puerto Rico?
MB: John, yes, they had a lead vocal, but what happened was that Roberto Torres bought the production and did not like the voice, and contracted me to put the voice on that record. I don't know who the lead singer was.
JIC: What is your opinion of salsa romántica and the impact it had on the salsa industry in the 1980s and '90s?
MB: In my opinion, it had a good impact because classic salsa was a little down and salsa romántica gave it a lift to revive it again, and new young singers became really good.
JIC: Around the same time you released Meñique En Blanco y Negro (Oye, 1983) produced by Frank Ferrer and with César Pereira receiving credit for piano, arrangements and horns contractor. Tell me about this project and where it was recorded?
MB: When Charlie Palmieri moved to Puerto Rico, I also moved there. I continued to sing with his band for a year until I had the opportunity to record an LP with Tierrazo Records, for which I contacted Archie Pereira to select the musicians. A few days before the recording, Archie invited me to a rehearsal. As I walked in, I panicked when I saw the group of musicians he had hired. The group had baby faces; they were kids. The oldest was Archie who was 22 years old, and the rest were 14 through 17 years old. I took Archie outside and told him this was a serious recording; it was not a joke. He laughed and told me to rehearse any song I wanted, and then give him my opinion. I gave them the hardest one to start, and I was really surprised, they were all professional. I congratulated them, and we recorded the album. If you have the chance to hear it, you will like it. After that, Archie and I teamed up together and made a band. I stayed in Puerto Rico for another two years.
JIC: Please tell me more about your time with Charlie Palmieri's band, particularly the time you spent with him in Puerto Rico in the early 1980s?
MB: The times I spent with Charlie Palmieri were good times. He was like a brother to me. His mother was well liked and loved me like a son. I sang for his orchestra for about a year on and off. I sang for the Sonia López Band at the same time, so that is when I decided to change and formed the orchestra with Archie Pereira.
JIC: In 1985 you contributed to Papo Colón y Salsa Punta by Papo Colón. Where and for what label was this album recorded? Please tell me more?
MB: I went back to New York before the Christmas of 1983 and formed a band with Papo Colón. In 1985, Mr. Carlos Cruz, owner of Capri Music, called us to record an LP called Punta Salsa, on which I recorded my own composition "De Panama a Puerto Rico."
JIC: Apart from appearing on Somos Boricuas / We Are Puerto Rican: Bomba y Plena en Nueva York (Henry Street) by Los Pleneros de la 21 in 1996, you were virtually off the recording scene for 20 years. Please tell me about your activities during this period?
MB: I was not 20 years away from recording or singing. From 1985 to 1994, I travelled singing as a soloist. In 1994 my wife Titi was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was operated on and recuperated, and we moved to Orlando, Florida. I formed a band, and it was really good, playing in festivals and clubs. In 1996, Juan Gutiérrez, leader of Pleneros de la 21, called me to go to New York to record with them because I used to perform with them when I was in New York.
While I was living in Orlando, my wife got sick again and found out that the cancer had spread to different parts of her body. I had to put a hold on everything and dedicated myself to taking care of her, until she passed away in 2001.
JIC: I am very sorry to hear that. In 2004 you marked your 55th anniversary in the business with Meñique, Sonero Añejo - 55 Años Trayectoria Músical (Shangai Music) recorded in your native Panama. Tell me the story behind this project?
MB: Before my wife passed away, I already had a contract to sing in Holland and France in the Festival Toros Y Salsa, Dax. This Festival was in September and I buried her in July of 2001. I could not cancel, I did the show and there is a DVD of the show filmed in Dax.
As time passed, I did not want to sing or perform again. My family became worried and afraid I would get sick, so they called a daughter of my friend to tell her mother to come to Orlando to speak to me. She had worked as a counselor and was good at it. She was a widow and had gone through the same loss. The therapy she gave me was so good that we fell in love. She started to speak to me about starting to record and sing again. She went on to help with the project. So I moved to Miami. At that time I began to gather my material and started my inspirations. Then we went to Panama in 2004 and recorded Sonero Añejo - 55 Años Trayectoria Músical. Seven of the songs were my own inspiration and one is D.R.
JIC: Thank you for being so candid. Is it so that you have a new production entitled Salsa y Bembé in the pipeline? Please tell me more?
MB: As for my new production Salsa y Bembé, which is just finished, it has seven songs of my own inspiration and one of the songs is by Tite Curet Alonso. One of the songs I wrote is the story of my new wife. The production is all classic salsa, well balanced in my style. It will soon be on the market, we are in the process of a contract with a well-known recording company. I hope that when the public hears it, they like it and buy it.
JIC: What is your view of the current salsa music scene?
MB: You cannot compare the salsa of today with my salsa from yesterday and forever. When the public hears my new CD, they will understand what I mean.
JIC: I understand you are still actively performing. For instance, I know you appeared during 2008 Panama Carnival. Tell me about this and other highlights in recent years?
MB: I did not participate in Carnavales for many years. Things are different from when I lived there. It was great and a great experience. It rained, but the parade went on.
Many things have happened between 2004 and 2008. I performed in various ballrooms, like in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando with Willie Colón, in Puerto Rican festivals, in Miami, Orlando, Broward, Port Richie, and many other places. In 2005 we moved to Orlando. The band of La Sonora de Orlando has accompanied me at various concerts like the Salsa Congress. I also sang with Manuel García's Casablanca Big Band, which sounds like Tito Puente, at the Salsa Congress at the Coronado Spring Hotel in Disney World. I sang at the Tropicana Club in New York, in Puerto Rico at the Club de Leones in Naguabo and in San Juan. I traveled to Panama three times.
In 2006, I was contracted in Puerto Rico as the surprise artist at the El Dia Nacional De La Salsa. Right now (May 2008) I am scheduled to go to Mexico D.F., also to Medellín and Cali, Colombia, then in August on a Royal Caribbean Salsa Cruise from Puerto Rico. So I still have a public that wants to hear me. I still have the same tone of voice and still keep going.
JIC: Now for my regular closing questions: Is there anything else that you would like to add that we have not talked about?
MB: I don't speak about my private life, but I can tell you I have 18 children. One of them I raised. I have walked a straight line. I never smoke and only drink socially. I take good care of myself. I have been told that at 74, I look good and my voice is still in the same key. I can go a long way, and that gives me more desire to sing to my public. Music is the oxygen I inhale. And I want to say that I will keep singing my classic salsa, even after death in the Orquesta Celestial.
JIC: What title would you choose for this interview?
MB: La Correcta Biografia De "Meñique, Sonero Añejo" Miguel A. Barcasnegras.
JIC: Thank you for taking time out to speak to me. It has been an honour.
MB: To the contrary, I am very grateful for the opportunity that you have given me, so that all the Descarga.com readers will know my real musical history. Thank you. To everyone that reads my biography, I want to thank you for taking the time and supporting this website, Descarga.com.
Selective discography of Meñique's solo albums and recordings featuring him as a lead vocalist
Kako, Sock It To Me, Latino! (Musicor, 1968)
Arsenio Rodríguez, Arsenio Dice (Tico, 1968)
Willie Rosario, El Bravo de Siempre (Inca, 1969)
Tito Puente, Pa'Lante! / Straight! (Tico, 1970)
Tito Puente, Para Los Rumberos (Tico, 1972)
Meñique (Cotique, 1972)
Santos Colón and Meñique, Long Live The King (Cotique, 1973)
Soy Hijo de Chango (Cotique, 1974)
Tico-Alegre All Stars Recorded Live At Carnegie Hall, Vol. 1 (Tico, 1974)
Meñique Presenta Tropical de Chicago (IND, 1975)
Meñique and Charlie Palmieri, Con Salsa y Sabor (Cotique, 1977)
Charlie Palmieri, The Heavyweight (Alegre, 1978)
Charanga Sensación, Sensación Hay Una Sóla (Ansonia, 1978)
Charanga Sensación, Charanga Super Charanga (Ansonia, 1979)
Carlos Barbería y su Orquesta Kubavana, Rarezas del Siglo (Lasonic, 1980)
Noche Caliente Vol. 2 (K-Tel, 1983)
Noche Caliente Vol. 3 (K-Tel, 1984)
Nicolás Vivas y su Conjunto Chaney (Calor, 1983)
Meñique En Blanco y Negro (Oye, 1983)
Papo Colón, Papo Colón y Salsa Punta (1985)
Los Pleneros de la 21, Somos Boricuas / We Are Puerto Rican: Bomba y Plena en Nueva York (Henry Street, 1996)
Meñique, Sonero Añejo - 55 Años Trayectoria Músical (Shangai Music, 2004)
Meñique, Salsa Y Bembe (Sonero Añejo, 2008)
Check out these related pieces in The Descarga Journal Archives:
Profile: Kako: Francisco Angel Bastar
by John Child, January 17, 1999
A discographic profile of the Francisco Angel Bastar, Puerto Rican percussionist known as Kako. Continues
Profile: Willie Rosario
by John Child, June 30, 1999
A discographic profile of the popular Puerto Rican bandleader, composer, producer and timbale player. Continues
Profile: Tito Puente
by John Child, November 08, 2000
Here is a discographic profile of the legendary bandleader, composer and musician, Ernesto "Tito" Puente, who passed away on May 31, 2000. Continues
Profile: Charlie Palmieri
by John Child, August 15, 1999
A discographic profile of the pianist, bandleader, arranger, composer, A&R man, producer and fine soloist with emphasis on the melodic in improvisation. Continues
Profile: Louie Ramirez
by John Child, March 29, 1999
A discographic profile of the multi-talented band-leader, composer, timbale and vibes player. Continues
Interview: Ray De La Paz
by John Child, October 08, 2003
John Child spoke to Ray de la Paz backstage at London's Royal Festival Hall on Saturday April 26th 2003 immediately after the distinguished sonero, composer and bandleader had taken part in the Spanish Harlem Orchestra's acclaimed UK debut performance. Ray missed out on the post show party to tell John about his accomplished career in Latin music, which has included stints with Chino y su Conjunto Melao, Ray Barretto, Guararé and Jorge Dalto, as well as co-leading the Louie Ramírez - Ray de la Paz Orchestra and his own band... Continues
© Descarga.com and John Child. John Child produces and selects the contents of the totallyradio show Aracataca. He is an editor and journalist for the Descarga.com Latin music website, and a contributor to the
MusicWeb Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Penguin and Guinness Encyclopedias of Popular Music, and has prepared compilations for the Union Square and Nascente labels.