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Singer. Born in 1930 in Cuba. The daughter of a Cuban baseball player, Portuondo began her career as a dancer at a famed Havana nightspot called the Tropicana. She started a duo with her sister Haydee, singing in clubs. The two later formed the group Cuarteto las d'Aida, which toured the United States and Europe, beginning in 1957.
In Miami at the time of the revolution, Portuondo decided to return to Cuba while her sister decided to stay in the United States. Under Fidel Castro, she continued to make music and tour in many countries except the United States. Portuondo is considered one of the most famous singers in Cuba. Known especially for her boleros, or ballads, she has been compared to American blues artist Billie Holliday and French vocalist Edith Piaf. A living legend, Portuondo has been the subject of a documentary, Omara, which won an award at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.
Portuondo happened to be recording at the same Havana studios at the same time as the Buena Vista Social Club, an ensemble of Cuban musicians. Producer Ry Cooder asked her to lend her legendary voice to the project. As a result, she sang her lead vocals on "Veinte Aos" on Buena Vista Social Club (1997). The album sold more than 1.5 million copies and stirred interest in Cuban music around the world. Unlike many of the other performers on the album, Portuondo already had a thriving career. But Buena Vista Social Club raised her profile in the United States and won her even more fans.
Portuondo continues to perform live and make new albums. Some of her most recent albums include Gran Omara Portuondo (2002) and Lagrimas Negras Canciones y Boleros (2005).
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