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Los Zafiros (The Sapphires) were a Cuban close-harmony vocal group working from 1961 until 1970.[1] The group was part of the filín (feeling) movement, inspired by American doo-wop groups such as The Platters. Their music was a fusion of Cuban genres, such as the bolero, with doo-wop, ballads, R&B, calypso, Bossa Nova and early rock and roll.

Los Zafiros
OriginHavana, Cuba
GenresFilín, doo-wop
Years active1961–1970



Los Zafiros were formed in Cayo Hueso, Havana in 1961, by Néstor Milí Bustillo, with the following members:[2]

  • Leoncio Morúa (Kike)
  • Miguel Cancio (Miguelito)
  • Ignacio Elejalde, a counter-tenor, in high register.
  • Eduardo Elio Hernández (El Chino)
  • Néstor Milí Bustillo, musical director and guitar.
  • later, Manuel Galbán (guitar) became musical director, and at times Oscar Aguirre (guitar) substituted.

The group was highly successful from the start, with high record sales and popular tours at home and abroad. However, some members of the group were self-destructive and undisciplined, with heavy drinking and other activities. Two died young: Ignacio died in 1981 at the age of 37 from a brain hemorrhage. Kike died in 1983 from cirrhosis of the liver. El Chino, beset by vision, speech and drinking problems, lived alone in Cayo Hueso until his death on 8 August 1995 at age 56. Today only one member is alive, Miguel Cancio, who lives in Miami.[3][4]

Manuel Galbán and his wife lived in the same house in Havana as in the heyday of Los Zafiros, until he died of cardiac arrest on July 7, 2011. He was active on the Cuban music scene through his work in The Buena Vista Social Club and as a recording artist for World Circuit records. In 2001, World Circuit arranged a special recording session for Galbán and Cancio at EGREM. Along with Orlando Lopez (Cachaito), Roberto Garcia and Bernardo Garcia (Chori), Cancio and Galbán recorded two of their old songs. This session plays a central role in the film and marks the first time that Galbán and Cancio recorded together in over thirty years.

In 1987 a revival group known as Los Nuevos Zafiros was formed.[2]


  • Bossa Cubana CD (1963–1967, re-released 1999)
  • Los Zafiros Story CD (2006)
  • Los Zafiros: Music from the edge of time. DVD


  1. ^ Giro, Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. vol 4, p298, says the group disbanded in 1970. Another group called Los Zafiros made numerous British TV appearances after this date which may have led some to say they continued until 1975[citation needed].
  2. ^ a b Giro, Radamés 2007. Diccionario enciclopédico de la música en Cuba. La Habana. vol 4, p. 298.
  3. ^ "Historical Notes". 1995-08-08. Retrieved 2014-06-24.
  4. ^ "los zafiros/the sapphires - a proposal for a feature documentary". 1995-08-08. Retrieved 2014-06-24.

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