Azúcar Negra was formed in 1997 when Leonel Limonta, Haila Momprié (no longer with the band), and other musicians split off from Bamboleo. Limonta had written almost all of the material for Bamboleo’s brilliant second album, “Yo No Me Parezco a Nadie” and Haila was one of the lead singers. Azúcar Negra created a great new arrangement of the title song and Limonta continued to pour his songwriting talent into the project. In 2001, after a number of world tours, they finally released their first studio album, Andar andando.
Their second CD, Sin mirar atrás, was released in early 2004. All of Azúcar Negra’s material is written by Limonta, who also wrote four huge hits for Charanga Habanera and two for Issac Delgado. Juan Carlos González said of Limonta — “He’s not a trained musician, but every song he brought in had some kind of special magic and became a huge hit”. In the years prior to the release of Andar andando, Azúcar Negra, like many Cuban bands, had a string of radio hits. The bands record relatively inexpensive demos and release them to Radio Taíno and other stations. In some cases, such as Paulito’s “La Última Bala”, the demo winds up being better than the recorded version because of personnel changes. In other cases, great songs are released as demos and then never officially released.
Two of Timba’s greatest tracks fall into this category: Paulito’s “Laura” and Azúcar Negra’s “Almas disfrazadas”. Azúcar Negra is an extremely well-rehearsed band whose live show is full of interesting medleys and segues. They’re definitely a thrill to see live. They only have the two albums, but they’re so packed with great music that we count them among the upper echelon of Timba bands, especially considering the past accomplishments of Limonta.