This week, I thought we’d lighten things up a bit after last week’s edition in which we discussed Ruben Blades’ hit ‘Plastico’ and how it was a critique of today’s materialistic society and it’s effect on our culture. It’s almost depressing when you think about it, so let’s shake it off, and groove to the smooth stylings of Cheo Feliciano. In today’s edition, we’ll discuss El Raton, one of Cheo’s biggest hits. For all you Cha Cha Cha lovers, this one is for you.
First, let’s get to know Cheo a bit – as if he needed an introduction. Cheo Feliciano is a composer and singer of Salsa, Cha Cha, and Bolero music. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he was exposed to the music of groups like Trio Los Panchos, a very popular bolero group from that era. At age eight, he started his own group called El Combo Las Latas (The Can Combo), named as such because all their instruments consisted of tin cans. After finishing his primary education, Cheo attended the Free School School of Music in Ponce where he studied to become a percussionist.
After moving to Harlem in 1952, famed bandleader Tito Rodriguez heard Cheo playing for a band called Ciro Rimac’s Review and immediately offered him a position with his orchestra, which he accepted. After a brief stint with Rodriguez, Cheo left the orchestra to join up with Luis Cruz as a Conga player. He also played with Kako y su Trabuco band and was a roadie for Mon Rivera. On October 5, 1957, Cheo made his singing debut as the lead singer for Joe Cuba Sextet (this also happened to fall on his wedding day). After ten years with JCS, he moved on to work with Eddie Palmieri and his orchestra after which he finally decided to branch out on his own having released a handful of albums under his name. Cheo is known for having sung many hits, from boleros like “Amada Mia” (my favorite), to upbeat hits like “El Pito: I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia” and today’s number “El Raton”.
El Raton is a song about a Cat that’s dominated by his wife who never lets him out, so he’s forced to sneak out at night so he can hang out with his friends. Where ever he goes, she goes out to look for him. Towards the end of the song, his wife calls him a mouse because of how easily dominated he is. Afterwards the chorus kicks in with “De cualquier malla, sale un raton” (from any cage, a mouse will escape) in other words, if you keep your man caged up, he’s bound to break free (take heed ladies. I know I’m gonna hear it for that jab). The song is a nice medium to slower paced Cha Cha. Nice to dance to, even able to throw a few pachangas into the mix. Personally, this is one of my favorite Cheo songs, and if I’m going to suggest a version for you to listen to, look up the live performance in Zaire featuring Carlos Santana on electric guitar and the rest of the Fania All Stars sharing the stage. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy this song as much as I do. Hasta la proxima semana!!