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Horacio Riambau

Born Horacio Riambau y Averhoff in Havana Cuba on December 26, 1926 to a German mother and a French father. When he was young he had a nanny that was Karabali of Southeast Nigerian decent. Through her he was exposed to the underworld of Havana probably without the knowlege of his parents. On occasion Horacio had the opportunity to hear the falsetto singing and the many voices of the Yoruban bata drums. On these excursions he saw the true interpretations of Yambú, Meta, and Guaguancó.

Although Horacio had decided to become a surgeon he was lured away from his studies by Antonio Arcaño’s great band. He started hanging out in the dance and beer gardens of the Polar and La Tropical where he perfected every style of dance to the music of Arcaño, Sonora de Piñon or Arsenio Rodriguez. These groups attracted the best dancers. He became a professional dancer the way it was oine back then; by dancing better than everybody else. He was one of the few whites that could dance Meta and guaguancó the traditional way like a black man. He could also sing Guaguancó. His peers were dancers whose names are still famous in Havana: Picolino, Modesto, Chocolairo, Cipio El Cabezón, and Reglita, and la Niña. La Niña was known in two provinces for being able to shake her buttock like a bumblebee.

By day these dancers were clerks, newspaper salesmen, bricklayers, petty criminals, or whatever. They lived for Saturday night where they would transform themselves and in fine dress and congregate at the nightclubs. Horacio learned from both sides of the contemporary dance traditional folk expressions such as Yambú, Columbia, Meta, Guaguancó, and the self-conscious and stylized exhibition dance that was native to the nightclubs.

Horacio Riambau brought, in 1945 from Cuba to New York, the mambo in its rudimentary or purest form along with Meta, Guaguancó. and other of the dances of which he was knowledgeable.

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