Vania Borges as Defender of Cuban Music

That renown singer took many piano lessons since she was a child as it was a musical instrument that she likes a lot, but her curiosity made her to change it for the oboe one,

In statements to that local radio station, Vania Borges stated that she is currently performing in some provinces as a personal related pending activity, besides, she also considered that performing in different places is most important for her because that allows her not to stop doing it.

Regarding the way she decided to start in the music, the singer said that her father had been always her reference as he had been a musician of the Cuban Radio and Television Institute for many years.

Vania Borges as Defender of Cuban Music

Vania Borges commented that each Sunday it was typical that the musicians of the ICRT band gather at her house to carry out a kind of musical-free performance- That gave her the chance to be able to get the influence of singers like Elena Burke, Moraima Secada and Omara Portuondo, among other great national musicians.

One of the main recognitions tthat have marked her life was the International Prize of the Californian Son 2009 which was an award granted to her due to her sing entitled´ Disfrútame´ by German Nogueira.

Vania Borges as Defender of Cuban Music

  • Published in Culture

Elito Reve: “I will die in Havana”

Elito Reve, one of the most important icons of the Cuban popular music, answered some questions for CubaSi with humbleness and grace.

He began playing the claves and then the piano in the orchestra. He still follows the path paved by his father Elio Reve as the leading musician of El Charangon. Here some of the answers of El Charangon’s director who after 60 years remains in the public’s preference.

Let’s begin with some history…

Orquesta Reve was founded in 1956 in Havana. My father came from Guantanamo and brought Changui —musical genre original from Guantanamo— with him. We are descendent from a French man who fell in love with a Cuban slave; thus, there you have the origin of my surname Reve, which means dream. Six generations of Cubans have danced with La Reve. Outstanding musicians like Juan Formell, Cesar Pupi Pedroso, Juan Carlos Alfonso, Yumuri, Vicente Rojas, and young singer-songwriter Emilio Frias “El Nino,” have been part of the orchestra.

How do you feel when you are regarded as a school for other stars in the Cuban musical arena?

We have been lucky to enjoy musicians such as Chucho Valdes, Ibrahim Ferrer, Enrique Alvarez…Being in the preference of the public has not been an easy goal after 61 years. We have created music since my father’s day. I have tried to continue the path. Several CDs have come to light since. Our work is reflected in all those generations that have danced with the orchestra. Our band still has its signature.

How much continuity and renewal can we see in La Reve?

Look, being in the elite is the hardest thing. There are orchestras that get a hit because they are made of good artists, singers, and they have talent. But being there in the public’s preference all the time is not easy at all. My father and I have achieved it. The orchestra still has good national and international preference despite new emerging genres.

I set a full drum work in the orchestra as I wanted to enrich the percussion work of the band. I initiated the use of a bass. A woman works with the orchestra as a singer for the first time. It is a strong band but you need to give a different show every day. I have made some changes for the sake of the group. We have made changui better, different, full of spirit; nonetheless, the musical concept of the orchestra remains the same…”

La Reve and Los Van Van joined forces and performed live at the Sports City in Havana to pay a special tribute. What can you tell us?

It was my idea. I talked to Samuelito and said: look, Elio Reve and Juan Formell have played an essential role in the musical history of our nation. And we must give this Cuban people and the world a live concert…It was named Dos leyendas juntas. The live concert DVD will be launched soon.

What can you tell us about your recently launched CD…?

“Yo me muero en La Habana” is a BIS MUSIC CD. Yomil y el Dani featured one song with us, with the special arrangement of Dagoberto Gonzalez Jr. and Cucurucho Valdes. It is a very beautiful album. It is online already. The song La cuchara has a video and will be premiere in the upcoming days.”

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz//CubaSi Translation Staff

Pure Feeling!

Past February 28th, Elena Burke would turn 90 years old. She was (is) one of the greatest Cuban singers of all times, key character of feeling. We approach that huge career…

Those were the years of splendor of feeling, that expression that fed from our deepest musical traditions and also (to a certain degree) of jazz, the music of blacks. The feeling was not just a genre; it was an attitude towards life, a feeling. Among all the singers who defended this genre (who really felt it), a group of stars, creatures of Havana nights, among all those singers who sang and told as if singing were saying and vice versa, among all of them one shone above the rest: Elena Burke.

Many people consider Elena to be the most complete and autochthonous singers of the Cuban song. There is no way of deciding those hierarchies in art; it’s not healthy to do so either. The truth is that Elena was unique. A warm voice, of deep resonances, a singular scenic presence (she went on stage—says a friend of mine who saw her sing in night clubs in the 60’s—and everything else ceased to exist, you could not help but look at her), a very eloquent sensuality when saying…

Elena discovered unsuspected twists to the songs she performed, and not just from the musical point of view (her variations were delicious, she gave them interesting melodic lines, always coherent with the spirit of the song); also in the intentions, in the interpretation. She multiplied the senses, she went beyond the lyrics, she suggested without the need of being explicit.

Good taste, natural good taste that was not attached to the Cuban spice. Funny, she was indeed, vulgar never—I heard her say once in a radio show. It had to do, of course, with her training, by the hand of rigorous teachers; but mainly, with the respect to the public.

She could be hilarious, but also harrowingly dramatic. Her transitions could be sudden and overwhelming. With a unique economy of expressions, moving just the necessary, she was able to recreate an atmosphere.

Mrs. Feeling, no better nickname for her. She sang songs written by the greatest authors in our panorama. Everyone admired her. She had tons of followers; she still has them, 15 years after her death. That voice is saved.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Paulo FG: Sonando en Cuba, Expression of Needed Identity

We exchanged with promoter of Sonando en Cuba, Paulo Fernández Gallo, in a Cuban music atmosphere and a project of Isla Grande rum blossoming.

Complicity is in our side and, without further ado, the also known as the Sofocador de la Salsa, since he created la Elite, he agreed to speak with Cubasí.

What sensation has brought this successful second season of Sonando en Cuba? Did you think it would get such welcoming?

I still can’t believe it. I’m still moved by people's repeated congratulations. Not only the praising, but also everywhere we go or events in which we participate, the examples of gratitude have been great. People can say bravo, but when they say thank you, it lasts longer.

Does this sensation mean that for coming seasons you plan to redesign it?

We have to move on, the mind is completely evolutionary. Right now we will do a follow-up to their careers in a year, so the public can keep track of them. Meet what was promised to them, boost their artistic presence and after that time, have control of their future careers.

In fact, we have put on hold their joining the groups that were interested on them before, because most of them can be considered talented singers.

Two years and half, two seasons, a quality improvement. Cuba had prior shows like this one Todo el mundo canta why the idea of such huge project like Sonando en Cuba?

Someone told me: you did it and you were not in need of it. You have a solid career and certainly ranked high in the Cuban popular music panorama. I think it’s just the opposite: if you are aware of your surroundings, with a critical eye and your feeling of belonging to our music, to promote this idea was a must-do task.

It’s no secret the degradation of idiosyncrasy existing, especially in the youths. I could see in my kids’ friends with a total ignorance of their music, their cultural wealth. Speaking more about what was foreign, Latin, English-speaking, a product sold as modern. Our identity was getting lost, the idiosyncrasy for which our music is identified worldwide. Personally I requested this project three years ago and we could channel it two and a half years ago, it was then when we began the process.

If suddenly, triggered by the changes taking place in Cuba, foreign visitors keep coming or in-house we don't have enough to give our people a cultural event of identity, I´d like to quote Gabriel García Márquez who said that Cuba had established a musical dictatorship in the Caribbean for its authenticity. Just a quick trip back in the history of Cuban music reveal great artists like Lecuona, Bola de Nieve, Rita Montaner, Roberto Faz, Celia Cruz, Benny Moré, a treasure forgotten in a far corner that needed to be rediscovered. It’s criminal that young people, schools, overlook that knowledge.

Then we thought of a program with sensibility. I had heard young talented artists around, with great voices and told them: Why do you sing that, with those qualities you have?, they simply answered: If I don't sing this, I won't eat.

Can it be said that Sonando en Cuba becomes an antidote or response to a real threatening situation?

The main goal was always to create for those youths a panorama or build a musical, audiovisual, aesthetics platform. Placing them on a big stage, well trained, and supported by others; to put in their hands great works. We approached those new voices, sounds with new interpretive styles, and something that is essential for me: during the casting, the main objective was to choose contestants with authentic sounds, having a genuine, and very personal interpretation.

Very good vocalists came, but they were tainted, influenced, and those regrettably didn't go through, because they had lost their authenticity.

In that search we found the talent we thought we needed, musically with another renovating energy, and that’s what happened.

Why such a huge project that reaches society, the human fiber? Is it another expression of Cuban identity to reach deep?

We grew artistically, culturally and socially with that training. I felt the absence we were witnessing had somehow influenced in the changes that were taking place. It is really hard to educate. The reactions of young people when you ask them to clean a street or carry out a give task are not the same anymore.

I remember I painted curbs in festival dates, we hung adorns on working Sundays, I sowed plants, I completed an internationalist mission in Angola When I started down the path of music with Dan Den, Opus 13, and La Elite, we were even defenders of many ideas of the youth amid the Economic Crisis in Cuba. Those were battles that, in a way, had great human sense, of social solidarity. We wanted the new generations to find that in the show and learn that material things, don’t last forever.

Third season already in mind?

Of course. We cannot stop now. Earlier there was a different expression with Bailando en Cuba, and then the third season will have a different dynamics, because we attempt to involve the talents from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic; it would be an international competition of three teams that comprises rhythms, songs and sounds of the three countries. A wider dimension. We trust it would be equally successful to the one we just finished.

We finished out talk, almost to the sound of two songs of Haila in the Great Hall Canaria of Meliá Habana Hotel. Paulito finished showing his gratitude to every last person who, in one way or another was involved with Sonando en Cuba, and with the people, the greatest critic of any show. Paraphrasing one of his songs and looking up ahead I wish him luck.

  • Published in Specials
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