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Silva, Myrta

Musician, songstress, songwriter, commentator and producer, Myrta Silva, was born on 11 September 1927 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and was affectionately known as “La reina de la guaracha”, or “the queeen of the guaracha“.

Her first public singing appearance was at age 10 in the local theater of Arecibo. Then, as an adolescent, she moved with her family to live in New York City. There, she performed in musical productions in local Hispanic theatres and radio stations during the 1930’s. Her talents were immediately recognized and Silva signed a recording contract with RCA Victor records.

In 1939 Silva met the noted Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández, who liked her voice and invited her to join his band, Grupo Victoria. She toured Puerto Rico and other countries while working with Grupo Victoria and was offered a contract for performing in Havana, Cuba.

Silva left Grupo Victoria in 1940 and went on to record with various well known bands of that time such as the orchestras of Moncho Usera and Armando Castro. But she was better known for her performances as a club singer at the famous Escambrón Beach Club. So much so, that her growing legion of fans made her the best selling recording artist between 1947 and 1949.

She also established herself as a composer starting in 1941, with a number of hit ballads such as “Qué sabes tú”, “Cuando vuelvas”, “Fácil de recordar” and “En mi soledad”. Many of her songs were being performed by the leading artists of the day, including Ruth Fernández, Olga Guillot, and Daniel Santos. Despite all of this, it was undoubtedly her song “Chencha, la Gambá” that brought her international recognoition.

Her already well established singing career, was also moving forward; her popularity extending well beyond Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community in New York. In Cuba, she was named most popular foreign artist, but Silva also performed in other Latin American countries during that time, including Mexico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Peru and Argentina.

But singing was not Silva’s only talent. She also demonstrated her ample skills as a percussionist, playing the tumbadora, bongós, maracas, clave, and timbales. In fact, she was the first woman to be certified as “timbalera” by the musician’s union in the United States.

Silva’s career blossomed in the 1950’s. In 1956, she started working in the broadcast television medium with a show called “Una Hora Contigo” which was broadcast from New York and ran for several years. This was followed by a show broadcast from Puerto Rico where many of the artists performing at the various hotel nightclubs would appear. Silva played her famous TV role of “Madame Chencha” as hostess of the show. A later dispute with the TV broadcast network led Silva to leave Puerto Rico and return to New York City where she hosted another TV program in 1967, called “Radio TV Mirror” which was honored as the best variety show in New York.

But this period of Silva’s life, again in New York, away from her native land, proved at once nostalgic and artistically productive. She composed a number of songs in the early 1960’s, considered among her finest during that time, including “Puerto Rico del alma”, “Qué sabes tú”, “Tengo que acostumbrarme”, “Fin de un amor”, “Aunque se oponga el mundo” and “Yo quiero volverme a enamorar”, and others.

Her work as composer continued into the 1970’s with great songs such as “No te vayas de mi vida” and “Sabes una cosa cariño”, made popular in 1971 on the airwaves by songstress Evelyn Souffront. That same year, Silva returned to TV in Puerto Rico, on the hit show “Una Hora Contigo”. Toward the very end of that decade, Silva was broadcasting a TV show dedicated to the music and artists of Puerto Rico.

Her illustrious career spanned many decades and traversed a wide path. Along that route she performed with some of the best known artists of the time and had a great impact on the music of Puerto Rico.

The talent of the beloved Silva was lost at her death on 2 December 1987.

Discography

Compositora e Interprete (2000)

La Bombonera de San Juan (1998)

Myrta Silva le canta al corazón (1980)