Mexican singer Cuauhtemoc Garcia, better known as el Cugar in the music world, specializes in duranguense -- an exuberant, fast-paced style of horn music that is exemplified by artists like Alacranes Musical, los Brujos de la Sierra, Grupo Montéz de Durango, Brazeros Musical de Durango, Metal de Durango, and Coralillo. Some authorities on regional Mexican music consider duranguense (which was created in Durango, Mexico) a form of banda; others argue that duranguense isn't really banda. Whatever one's opinion, there are definite parallels between Sinaloa-style banda and duranguense -- both emphasize the use of horns, and while the Sinaloa sound and the Durango sound that el Cugar is best known for are not identical, they are definitely similar. Further, many people who are drawn to Sinaloa-style banda tend to be quite receptive to duranguense artists like el Cugar, who grew up in Durango and began singing at the age of seven.
At first, he sang traditional Catholic music in church with members of his family (including his mother, a pianist, and his guitar-playing father). But el Cugar's parents also encouraged his interest in secular Latin music, and he grew up appreciating a variety of Mexican artists -- not only banda, mariachi, norteño/Tex-Mex, and ranchera performers, but also romantic pop singers such as José José, Joan Sebastían, Juan Gabriel, and Marco Antonio Solís. El Cugar was 17 when, in 1990, he decided to leave Mexico and move to Chicago. The Windy City has long had a large Mexican-American community -- Chicago's Blue Island section could easily be called the East L.A. of the Midwest -- and el Cugar got his foot in the door when he joined a local Mexican group called la Banda Salvaje. When la Banda Salvaje's lead vocalist became ill, el Cugar was hired as a replacement. But el Cugar wanted to put together his own group, and eventually, he formed el Cugar y Sus Dorados de Villa -- a duranguense-oriented outfit that included several other immigrants from Mexico, including Ramon Lara (trombone), Guillermo Brambila (sax, clarinet), Oscar Ponce (keyboards), Jorge Ponce (drums), and Alberto Soto (percussion).
In 2003, el Cugar signed with Disa Records -- a major player in the regional Mexican market -- and Yo Te Recuerdo, his first album with los Dorados de Villa, was released the following year. Disa billed el Cugar as "el Caballero de la Musica Duranguense" (the Gentleman of Durango Music), which is appropriate because Yo Te Recuerdo successfully combines a smooth, polished, romantic vocal style with duranguense's high-speed exuberance. Rhythmically, Yo Te Recuerdo (I Remember You) is very much a duranguense album, but el Cugar's love of ultra-romantic lyrics demonstrate that he could have easily become a full-time Latin pop singer along the lines of José José, Julio Iglesias, or Juan Gabriel. In fact, Yo Te Recuerdo's title track is a duranguense remake of a famous Gabriel ballad that became the theme of Mariana de la Noche, a popular Mexican telenovela (Latin soap opera) that ran on Univision in 2004. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi