THE NEW CUBAN MUSIC

HAVANA, July 28  EVERYTHING, my brother? ” Cimafunk, the singer of the moment in Cuba, greets the waiter …

of the hotel that has recognized him. Like the public sunbathing on the terrace. “Ohhhh! It’s him! He doesn’t run away without us taking a selfie,” promises a tourist.

Erik Iglesias (Pinar del Río, 1989), that this is his real name, wears sunglasses, an openwork hat, tight pants, and a printed shirt. Ask for a Cristal, the local beer whose production is mostly destined for tourists. The majestic landscape of the dilapidated buildings of Vedado unfolds imposingly from the terrace and the sun is tightening, but we are in Havana and sometimes things happen.

The fame of Cimafunk has not prevented that, among the hundreds of people who cross the doors of the hotel every day, the concierge forces him to identify himself at the reception, an order that the musician complies without questioning. “We do this for your safety,” replies the employee before the protest of the journalists. And so, “very safe”, we go up to the attic.


“I’m going to my house, I’m going to my house, I’m leaving, I’m leaving, but girl, look, if you want, I’m going to yours, we both want the same.” The hit, which is already heard in the middle of the world, sounds thunderous on the terrace as a welcome to its author.

His first album, Therapy, rather than talking about the new special period that everyone says is coming, encourages people to dance using inclusive language. “Sex is essential for everything, it is more important to talk about it than anything else,” says the singer. “It’s something instinctive. We go through different situations, we Cubans have nothing, but in our personality, there is a way of relating, a sensitivity, a sexual thing that has nothing to do with the act, but that activates the dialogue and encourages the approach ”.

Cimafunk, who appeared last Tuesday in Madrid, has already played in Paris, full for three nights that he blames the “Cuban word of mouth.” And he has just returned from his American tour. He wants to become a “showman”, achieve “a visuality” like Marvin Gaye or James Brown and “sing and dance” hugely like Benny Moré.

“I have Paco de Lucía in my heart, he gave me the vision to return to Cuba with another perspective”

His is a story of overcoming. A few years ago he arrived in Havana with one hand in front and one behind. He made choirs, worked as a mechanic and passed the money to pay for a room.

The crucial point came at the home of Raúl Paz, a musician from his town. “That day I saw all of Cuba, in a single video on all channels, a black hair with weird hair, shingle pants and tight little things. There I started to generate money. ” Cimafunk seeks to recover the ancestors of its Nigerian ancestors.

Alain Pérez, total artist. He went from flamenco to Cuban roots. Singer and bassist, he has taken a radical turn to his career with Benny Moré as a great reference. JAVIER SALAS

“In the United States they are blues fans, they defend that tradition with a serious voltage, they touch it. In the beginning, I was blocked from thinking about Cuba and its traditional music, I lacked access to information because what you have every day does not value you until I started working with the Interactive group and started to improvise. There I realized the seriousness of our folklore. ” Afro-Cuban music is everywhere and its references range from The Beatles to James Brown. “I try to recycle all that, but in our time,” he adds.

And he is not the only one looking at his roots. Do you remember Alain Pérez, the bassist who accompanied Paco de Lucía? He lived in Spain for almost 20 years rubbing shoulders with flamingos like Enrique Morente, Niño Josele or Diego El Cigala, but he returned to Cuba after the guitarist’s death to rethink his career.

He found the solution by returning to its roots guajiras with echoes of the son, the music that sounded as a child in the parrandas of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, where he lived since he was nine years studying music in a conservatory. This dawn occupies the center of the stage.

Sing and dance, wrapped by a band of 14 musicians, in El Sauce, an outdoor party room in the Miramar area. Popular dance-music sounds, a mixture of salsa and Latin rhythms with echoes of genres, such as mambo or chachachá, but experimenting with renewed sounds. It is not the typical Pedro Navaja sauce.

THE NEW CUBAN MUSIC

Brenda Navarrete. Singer, percussionist and dancer, his charisma and physical attractiveness have made him essential in all salsa and drum parties on the island. JAVIER SALAS

These are new themes, where all the arrangements have a score. There is no conga hit that is not planned. Perhaps tonight at El Sauce we witness the musical evolution of the ancient Tropicana, famous for its half-naked mulattos and the great orchestras playing for Snowball or Nat King Cole.

On stage, Alain wears two-tone Oxford shoes, a printed silk shirt, and jeans. Sing, dance, jump, scream … Sweat drips down the shirt like a poorly closed tap. He wears the shaved temples and sports a leafy ponytail that comes out of the crown and reaches him to the waist.

It is Saturday morning and there are hardly any tourists among the public. The ebony divas and the tracksuit rappers, those who dance touching the eggs, mix on stage. Whites, blacks and mulattos sway and dance with what they call the Cuban swing, but with a dose of perreo: they, ladies entered in meats or young girls with shaved temples, move their asses, and they get close behind very close following the rhythm.

There is nothing impure in the gesture, only that approach to the sensuality that dominates relations in the Caribbean and, especially, in Cuba. What Cimafunk defines as the essence of a character.

The lady in charge of the bathrooms sells cigars, and the waiters sell beer and rum to avoid dehydration. On stage, the show seems endless. Follow the download. Alain uses a cane to help with the rhythm, as Benny Moré did. “You have Camarón, we have the barbarian of the rhythm,” he says.

“I value what I did in Spain, I take Paco [de Lucía] tattooed in my heart, it gave me a new vision to return to Cuba with other perspectives. Now I have lost the intimacy of the instrumentalist, but I have gained the strength of the song that takes you to eternity. ” In the middle of the frenzy, the piranha, flamenco percussionist, breaks into the track with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other. He is accompanied by Kiki Morente and Antonio Carmona, who soon join the mess.

Brenda Navarrete, Afro-Cuban sound figure, dreams of putting together a women’s orchestra

The three flamingos, in addition to the band that occupies the stage, played together a few hours ago in the Patio de los Capitanes, in a concert organized by Acción Cultural Española, the group Prisa and Iberia to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana.

Globalization comes from afar. Guajiras, cuplés, tangos or fandangos traveled on ships in months and merged into new rhythms. Now the world has become small, events are transmitted in streaming and composers travel from one continent to another on direct flights from Spain in just 10 hours. Alain and Piraña met in Madrid two decades ago.

The first came to the Spanish capital when music played every night in rooms like Clamores or Cardamomo. In the year 2000, the Madrid night was still effervescent. Now Alain knows the beat well and knows how to play through bulerías, and Piranha dominates the key of the guaguancó. With stories like this, a style has been created that some notes sounded in Havana’s concert last May with singers such as Argentina endorsing the Habanera de Cádiz or Ginesa Ortega with its torn Kiss me a lot. But also the merengue of the black Atilia was heard, arrived from Venezuela from the hand of Nella.

In the first photo, Roberto Carcassés. Play the piano, sing and compose. The leader of Interactivo pilots a musical project dedicated to promoting music and the exchange of artists. In the second photo, Ray Fernández. Irreverent singer-songwriter, you can see him on Thursday in a matinee session at El Diablo Tun Tun: “Whoever smokes, drinks and sings, gets his throat screwed.” JAVIER SALAS

Five centuries after the creation of Havana, all that cultural fusion has been globalized under the label of Latin music, and in the world circuit, the Latin sweeps over the Anglo. Luis Fonsi or Daddy Yankee has more views than Beyoncé or Madonna. Cubans represent in music what Brazilians and Argentines in football. Who doesn’t like a good sauce?

Sound in Sydney or in Stockholm, surely a trumpet or drummer is a Cuban who left the island in search of a future. If there is something that works in Cuba it is music. They are jazz, trova, rock or rap sound tireless in this sound laboratory.

There are concerts almost daily in places where talent and energy are wasted, performed by artists trained for generations in music schools where Soviet discipline prevails. It is not uncommon for musicians to master various instruments and that kind of unwritten law has been broken that prohibited women from playing wind instruments, bass or drums.

There are, and very good. Like Brenda Navarrete, the protagonist of all the rumba and drum parties in the capital and emerging figure of the Afro-Cuban sound. Sing, dance and must be seen hitting batá and tumbadora. While he turns on his first album, Mi Mundo, he dreams of putting together a women’s orchestra. He is already preparing his next album, which will probably bear the same name because there it is, he says, the essence of his music.

“The Cuban musical educational system is the best in the world, but then they seem not to know what to do with all that artistic wealth. You have the tool but then you do not give it output.

All that talent, that energy and that roll with pasta can be a Ferrari without brakes, ”suggests producer Javier Limón as he passes through the island. “The filming of Fast & Furious 8 and the performance of the Rolling announced an opening that broke with the arrival of Trump to the presidency of the United States.”

“Cuba is an island of music and we Cubans pay to listen to it,” says Roberto Carcassés

Artists are public employees, they need to be attached to national production companies that move their performances and decide who goes on television or plays on the radio. And then there is Decree 349, which controls artistic content: an excuse for censorship, although the Government defends itself by arguing that it only tries to limit the bad taste and sexism of that shameless and explicit music that is recorded and distributed in the networks.

“Pure Stalinism that affects all artists,” says a musician who cites as an example the repression of hip-hop and the problems of the Los Aldeanos group, with Silvito (son of Silvio Rodríguez) leading the way.

Telmary, a 38-year-old Havana woman and first rapper woman on the island, describes that the hiphopera era as true urban journalism. “His verses narrated what the official press did not publish. It was such a fertile movement that they created a rap agency, a curious fact since there is no son agency; then the rappers went to reggaeton, earned more money and did not have to deal with censorship. ”

Telmary was going for a journalist, but he got hooked to music almost by chance. “At a Los Carpinteros party, some glasses were lost, and I, a microphone in hand and with a disc jockey friend who played electronic music, encouraged the crowd to look for them.” The next day, her friends convinced her to continue doing poetry with background music. ”


In the first photo, Alain’s band. Four virtuosos From the left, Yandy García, drums; Dayron Oney, trumpet; Andy García, pianist and Rainer Pérez, bass.
In the second photo, Nella Rojas. It is not Cuban, but it deserves to be. The voice arrived from Margarita Island participated as a guest artist in the concert Atlantic key.

Small things are moving in the Pearl of the Caribbean. Sixty years of dictatorship are too many. Two artists stand out as talent agglutinates: Roberto Carcassés, the leader of Interactivo, and Ray Fernández, both from the stages of the Bertolt Brecht Theater and El Diablo Tun Tun, two clubs with great public success, give way in their own group to new creators where rhythmic compatibility prevails.

“Cuba is an island of music and Cubans pay to listen to it,” says Roberto Carcassés at his home, a low house in the Marianao neighborhood. “The artists work with state companies; if you belong to a group, you only work with them, and the idea of ​​Interactivo, which started in 2001, was to break with that: that nobody felt obliged to remain here and that their stay in the band was understood as a creative process ”, Carcassés account at his home, a low house in the Marianao neighborhood.

She wears her hair in a ponytail and signs of having spent the night. Last night he had a jam session and today he will repeat, two hours of downloading in which there will be space for the entire orchestra, wrapped by an unconditional audience. To belong to the group, through which artists such as rapper Telmary or percussionist Brenda Navarrete have passed, two referents each in their style, it is essential to be a composer.

“The good thing about working with many musicians is that everyone brings their influence. Cuban music is always evolving, traditions are important, my references go from the Beatles to Benny Moré or Chick Corea, ”he says. Carcassés was struck down after requesting direct elections, free marijuana and freedom of information on a television program, but the intervention of Silvio Rodríguez (not the first time the author of Hopefully placates the regime’s anger, directed even against his son Silvito) was crucial for me to act again.

Probably the pianist has seen his state contracts reduced, which at another time would have been the end of his career. But time changes, although at first glance it seems that in Cuba it has stopped. Carcassés has Facebook and connects with friends of all political trends in Miami or anywhere in the world. “The disks are no longer the key. I can upload a video with my music that half a planet sees. That and put a picture of the garbage in the neighborhood to come and pick it up. ”


In the first photo, Leni. 23-year-old Reggaeton makes a living with the taxi but composes urban music since childhood. He records the voices and a friend from the USA makes the bases. In the second photo, Adonis. In the blood, it carries what it calls perverse DNA. At 36, this self-taught musician dominates all the instruments derived from the blow. JAVIER SALAS

Ray Fernández’s activism is going another way. His is humor. It is his way of speaking seriously: “I am a member of the Communist Party of Cuba; With a playwright’s genius, I gave up being rich along with Carlos, Federico and Rosita Luxembourg, ”he says before asking for“ a cola ”with ice, lighting another cigarette and reneging on his children, who only listen to reggaeton.

“The 14-year-old already speaks to me and I don’t understand him. It tells me that I am lacking a graph, that is, late. ” We are at the door of El Diablo Tun Tun, where there is already a line to see him perform in his Thursday morning session, in which for almost three hours he amazes his unconditional with a repertoire in which he mixes great Formula V successes with Ranches and own compositions.

Fernández confirms the good moment that the singer-songwriter genre is going through, once the school of Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, who, trying to emulate them, degenerated into very boring songs. To listen to the latest trova? You have to travel to Santa Clara, where Ramón Silverio, creator of El Mejunje, has designed space of freedom for young people, including the LGTB collective, which the regime’s police still detained. It will be on another trip.

Cubans have been solving shortcomings with ingenuity for some time now. The live and private parties allow artists to generate additional income. That, together with greater flexibility to obtain exit visas to tour the world, has contained, in part, the exile of artists, a phenomenon similar to that experienced by writers such as Wendy Guerra or Leonardo Padura.

“The rappers went to reggaeton. They earned more money and didn’t have to deal with censorship. ”

But “solving” on the island covers many aspects. The news of what moves in the world of international culture is bought on the black market. The package, a Pendrive with contents of the latest that is released in series, videos, movies or sports, and that is renewed weekly, supplements the scarcity of the Internet and helps to contrast the official versions.

Local packers serve it at home or it is acquired in the back of some establishments under the government’s blind eye. The most optimistic prediction that in these gigs the end of the regime is cooked, which will be like Chernobyl for the Soviet Union. Bad tongues also say that the package was responsible for the landing of reggaeton on the island, a sound that spreads like a virus. Even the taxi driver, an egg-shaped two-seater, Leni González, 23, makes his rhymes.

This morning the party says goodbye to the rhythm of Cimafunk: “If you want, I go with you / the party is over and there is nothing on the street but you are here to enjoy and I do not want drama, we will agree, We both want the same. ”

While the public disperses between taxis and private cars, a santero dressed in white with an open umbrella of the same color mixes among the people, perhaps seeking to redeem misguided souls. Not far from there, in La Cecilia, another open-air concert hall, where reggaeton usually sounds, the People of Zone play at 50 CUC the entrance (the Cuban convertible peso, the only currency that tourists use, equivalent to about 50 euros)

Miramar, a residential neighborhood surrounded by greenery, sleeps peacefully. In the Malecón people take the fresco, and the young people return home walking while the police watch over their dreams.

Translated from Elpais.com