In late May of 2009 the local South Western Pennsylvania minority publication
published the following article describing some aspects of the role that our family has played over the past two decades in the development of Spanish-language music in general and Cuban-influenced music in particular in our area of Pennsylvania and surrounding communities.
The reprinting of this Pittsburgh Courier article here will serve as the introduction of the theme of this discussion forum in which I intend to highlight the history of the relationship between Pittsburgh and Latino music and the role played in that history by our family.
Like father, like son…...Latin music lives in Pittsburgh
Following in the footsteps of his father, Miguel Sague Jr., a legend in the Latin music scene in Pittsburgh, Miguel Sague III, or Cha as he likes to be called, is a quintessential “chip off the old block” when it comes to Latin music.
In the 1980s Miguel Jr. started a music group, Guaracha (guaracha refers to a musical genre developed in Cuba and a precursor to salsa). The group performed salsa, meringue, cumbia and bolero, rumba and other styles of Latin and Caribbean music. “We used to have these parties that included all the Latinos in the Pittsburgh area. I was just a little kid at the time,” Cha said. But that “little kid” paid rapt attention during this time, learning how to play percussion and music dynamics.
“It was my rite of passage, being introduced to this. I was playing in clubs and in festivals at the age of seven,” he said. In addition to great music, several of the finest dancers got their start with Guaracha and lessons from Miguel and his wife, Lenny. They would offer dance lessons—free of charge—before the event started so people would be motivated to dance.
Cha and his father are of Afro-Cuban descent.
LATIN FLAVOR—Father and son, together in music. Sitting at drums: Cha and standing, Miguel S Miguel Sague Jr.
With the advent of deejays and Miguel’s demanding schedule as a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School system, Guaracha eventually disbanded. Cha went on to spend his childhood and teenage years performing professionally in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, as well as parts of Latin America. As a graduate of Pittsburgh’s CAPA High School, Cha has become one of the finest conga players in the city. He brings the authentic Cuban sound with his velvet voice and a gifted set of musicians in a 10-piece band. Cha shares his talents and knowledge by teaching at the Propel Schools, and has begun on a second “tour” of the legendary band Guaracha. Some of the original group members come and sit in while Miguel still helps out on vocals during many performances.
Guaracha began its reemergence at the Altar Bar in the Strip last month and will continue playing every Wednesday night though May at Envy on Penn Avenue in Garfield.
Future plans include performances at Your Inner Vagabond on Butler Street, and the Pittsburgh Cafe on Meyran Street in Oakland.
Continuing his family tradition, Cha also offers free salsa lessons prior to performances.
While Miguel Jr. doesn’t perform as he used to, he continues to love music and still has music in his blood. He fronts one of Pittsburgh’s finest Mariachi groups, Miguel’s Mariachi Fiesta; a charming Cuban Conjunto, Miguel’s Latino Moods, and one of the hottest Caribbean steel drum bands in the Three Rivers area, Miguel’s Caribbean Nights. Guaracha has recently appeared at the following venues: Cozumel, Pittsburgh’s First Night, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Wilkinsburg Community Day, and the Pittsburgh Public School System. They will also play at this year’s Seminar at Sea, touring Latin America and are featured on a local television commercial for Cozumel Mexican Restaurant.
(Any of the groups can be booked for entertainment though Sague Presents Entertainment at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 412-377-1025.)