Emulating American doo wop groups such as the Platters and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers while incorporating bossa nova and calypso rhythms proved a unique and successful combination for the Cuban quartet los Zafiros. Recording between 1962 and 1967, los Zafiros (translated as "the Sapphires") gained relative fame in Cuba and in Europe, once performing a live show in Paris with the Beatles in attendance.
Their singing is classic doo wop; Ignacio Elejaide's tenor leads and the competent vocals of Miguel Cancio, Leoncio "Kike" Morua, and Eduardo Elio Hernandez follow. Manuel Galban's minimal guitar and piano accompaniment gives the music much of its distinctly Cuban element. But beyond their music, los Zafiros are interesting to hear for historical reasons. They gained fame in revolutionary Cuba by performing a style with American origins. This fact was considered scandalous in the face of the Cuban missile crisis, but politics ultimately did not halt their accomplishments. However, such crises did lend their music a subtle undercurrent of tension and even tragedy.
The band eventually experienced tragedy in their own right, breaking up in the early '70s amid personal troubles. Galban, one of the two members of the group to live through the '90s (Cancio was the other), continued to perform with groups such as the Buena Vista Social Club. Los Zafiros' best work became available in 1999 on the album Bossa Cubana. Hermosa Habana followed in early 2001. ~ Ben Tausig