b. 14 October 1928, Havana, Cuba, d. June 1996, Cuba. At the age of 12 Valdés sang in a competition and won an award. Before long she was heard regularly on radio and in live performances, sometimes in church. She often performed yoruba and attracted favourable attention for this and for singing other material within the tradition of Cuban folk music. She built a good following and arising from this was invited by historian Fernando Ortiz to participate in his lecture tours during which he expounded upon Cuban music’s African origins. This led in time to Valdés becoming a leading exponent of the music connected with santeria. She began recording this music in the 40s and toured with a company directed by Ernesto Lecuona and she also worked with Obdulio Morales, Sergio Vitier and Guillermo Barreto. With Lecuona she appeared on television, notably in Serenata Cubana, thus expanding her audience still further. Valdés performed extensively in Cuba and also performed overseas.
For a period, Valdés appears to have had problems entering the USA but these seem to have been resolved as late in her life she performed there, giving concerts at prestigious venues. Also late in her life, she was associated with Jane Bunnett and can be seen performing in the film Spirits Of Havana (2000) in which Bunnett’s strong musical links with Cuba are examined. Although Valdés was for several decades one of Cuba’s mostly highly regarded performers, reports suggest that her last years were spent in poverty.