The full name of this Cuban performer, bandleader and instrument builder from the early 20th century inspires a kind of pretentious fantasy. A herald stands atop a glittering balustrade and announces: "Ladies and gentlemen, Jose Orlundo de Buenaventura Ajo!" Then there is music -- played on an organ, naturally. Those with a superficial understanding of Cuban music might expect the more typical conga drums, timbales or trumpets blasting squeaky notes, but Ajo's area of regal musical majesty was indeed the organ, an instrument usually associated with genres such as lounge and funky jazz, not to mention Baroque. He was also the father of a musical dynasty which continued these interests, one of his sons fronting an ensemble called Hermanos Ajos y Su Organo Oriental, or "The Brothers Ajos" and their "Eastern organ."
Ajo's music career is generally said to begin in 1914 with the group Ciudad de Paris. At this stage, Ajo was playing timbales, a set of tuned tom-toms common in much Cuban music. He also began studying the properties and mechanics of the organ, developing into a professional tuner of the instrument and then a builder. In the early days of the Cuban recording industry, Ajo created versions of many dance favorites, often utilizing arrangements written by Horacio Olivera. Ajo set in motion a series of "fiesta," or festival events, in which his group performed.
Three sons have carried on in his footsteps, or perhaps foot pedals would be more appropriate. The children seemed to divide their father's talents up, each concentrating on a different area. Arnaldo Ajo turned to making instruments, Alcides Ajo became a keyboard tuner, and Arquimedes Ajo became the leader of the previously mentioned ensemble. When a professional organist creates such a brood, the only sane reaction is to bring up the old joke about Johann Sebastian Bach, altered slightly. Question: Why did Jose Orlundo de Buenaventura Ajo have so many children? Answer: His organ didn't have any stops. To conclude on a less vulgar note, Hermanos Ajos y Su Organo Oriental were the subject of a Cuban documentary film.