Directed by Havana-born pianist Aida Diestro (1928-1973), Cuarteto d'Aida was one of Cuba's most successful singing groups of the 1950s and'60s. Originally featuring vocalists Omara and Haydee Portuondo, Elena Burke and Moraima Secada, Cuarteto d'Aida brought a new sensibility to Cuba's pop music with their sophisticated vocals and swing arrangements.
The popularity of Cuarteto d'Aida lifted the four women to international fame. They performed their songs for enthusiastic audiences in South and North America and Europe and recorded with influential Afro-Cuban trumpet player Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill. Burke, Secada and the Portuondo sisters rose from extremely impoverished backgrounds. When they made their first appearances on Cuban television, they wore homemade clothes.
The senior member, Burke (February 1928 – August 18, 2002) (real name: Roman Burques) had the most previous experience as a performer. Having made her debut, on Havana radio station, CMQ, in 1941, she became a professional actress, a year later, and appeared regularly on the radio and in cabarets.
Cuarteto d'Aida remained together until the early-1970s. As members left to pursue solo careers, Diestro enlisted highly talented women singers to replace them. Even the death of Diestro in 1973 failed to put an end to Cuarteto d'Aida. The group continues to be active today.
The original quartet recorded their sole album in 1957. Although Haydee Portuondo left music and settled in the United States, her sister, Omara, continues to be heralded as the "first lady of Cuban music."
Burke passed away, after a long bout with AIDS, on August 18, 2002. ~ Craig Harris