Grupo di Betico is a family ensemble with deeply rooted Aruban musical and cultural ties, they have been promoting the family’s musical heritage for decades, while headquartered in Santa Cruz, in the home of Francisco “Panchico” Croes and Maria Luisa “Mimita” Croes Lopez.
All kids growing up around that home and neighborhood played musical instruments and sang.
In 1959, when teacher Betico Croes returned to Aruba after finishing his studies in the Netherlands, he livened things up at home with his charisma, and the infectious sound of his accordion, especially around the end of the year celebrations. At that time, all family members pitched in, offering their extended social circle a joyful musical greeting, and blessings for the new year, in the form of Aruba’s much-loved Dande.
In 1968, brothers Rudy and Tommy return from school, and before long Betico and his group, which is their name now, count on siblings Rudy, Aiky, Tommy, Efrain, Hendrik and Adison, Chichia, Mary, Didi, plus uncles and cousins, to support and contribute to the merriment.
In 1986 with Betico’s tragic passing, the musical group changed its name to Grupo di Betico, and continue to dedicate time to folklore and culture, as was his wish for them, and his legacy.
As the years go by, the group benefited greatly from the musical leadership of the late Hildward Croes, Maiky & Ada’s son, who pursued music professionally, and gave the groups many of its hits. Musical giant Gus Oduber is band leader, and he often recruits outside talent to arrange and direct.
You should know that three original members are still playing, that’s 50 years of music.
Three members today are no blood relatives, but feel like family.
In the last five year, the group has been active year-round, not just for the end of the year celebrations.
I talked to architect Jouel Croes, an enthusiastic member of the band, he told me a fun story about his grandpa, Janchi Werleman, who played Dande with Betico and his group.
At the time Betico’s political career was in full swing and the group used to take off before New Year, travel from house to house, performing Dande. They came back home on January 6th, to nurse the world’s biggest hangovers, and finally take showers, to grandma’s great chagrin.
Jouel continues the tradition. He sings and plays guitar, he composes music; when he drinks, he says, he tells jokes.
I talked to him about the recent Golden Anniversary Concert.
Grupo di Betico sold 1,400 tickets to the Renaissance Conference Center. It was the first time that the folkloric group blended in with a classic orchestra, that means violin, viola, cello, and played twenty-five of the group’s most popular songs.
The list of performers who supported this musical effort sounds like the Who’s Who on the island: calypsonian Claudius Phillips, his brother Teddy, singers Landa Henriquez, Sharon Rose, Roderick Franken, and Jeanedy Semeleer, with Ruben Garcia and Sandra Croes as emcees, musical star Izaline Calister from Curacao, and Franklyn Granadillo as musical director. Apologies if we omitted a few, the list is long.
The band is managed by a foundation, dedicated to the promotion of culture and folklore.
Most popular song? From 1990, Hildward Croes’ Paranda Arubiana.
Their other classics include: Ban Celebr’e Y Festeh’e, Añ ‘Nobe Awe, and Arubianonan.