White y Lafitta, José (1835–1918)

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White y Lafitta, José (1835–1918)

José White y Lafitta (b. 31 December 1835; d. 15 March 1918), Cuban violinist and composer. A world-famous black musician, White was born in Matanzas, Cuba. There he met the renowned American composer Louis M. Gottschalk, who in 1855 persuaded White's family to send him to study at the Paris Conservatory. There he worked under the master violinist Jean-Delphin Alard, whom he temporarily replaced at the Conservatory when Alard was away.

White was highly praised by the critics and musicians of his time. He traveled throughout the world, playing for royalty and receiving standing ovations from the most sophisticated audiences. He may have been the first black musician to appear with an American orchestra. At home he sympathized with the Cuban insurgents in the Ten Years' War (1868–1878) against Spain. He composed a popular piece for violin and orchestra titled "La bella cubana," for which he was expelled from Cuba in 1875 when his playing it in a Havana theater caused a patriotic disturbance. Most of his works, however, are classic compositions. His Violin Concerto was played for the first time in the United States in New York City in 1974.

See alsoMusic: Art Music; Ten Years' War.


José I. Lasaga, Cuban Lives: Pages from Cuban History (1881; repr. 1968), vol. 2.

James M. Trotter, Music and Some Highly Musical People (1878).

Additional Bibliography

Sublette, Ned. Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Chicago: Chicago Press Review, 2004.

                                     JosÉ M. HernÁndez