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Reviews Album cover 50 degrees. Design: Alexandre Arrechea. Album cover 50 degrees. Design: Alexandre Arrechea.

50 degrees / Kelvis Ochoa

For Sureya Perez 

When you turn 50, you're hopefully halfway there. Kelvis Ochoa decided to give himself a special gift at that point, his album 50 degrees, licensed under the Bis Music label. The phonogram, with nine songs, is part of the soundtrack of the series promises, broadcast by Cubavisión and although, according to the author himself, there were songs already written, he had to assume the creation of some new ones and accommodate himself in various tones, so that he moved by son, bolero, song and even urban music .

The themes then go to that treatment of almost guilty love that abounds in commercial phonograms, but the singer retraces that path with mastery and knowing that, as Sabina says, “it can be cheesy”; after all, a song does not have to be a poem, to also quote Liliana Casanella.

Kelvis's generation was the one that stood up, left the bench of traditional minstrels and danced without any guilt. In fact, many of them flatly reject the term troubadour, but it is impossible to listen to them without recognizing them as heirs to Sindo or Matamoros. Ochoa, according to Boris Larramendi, discovered himself as he is today (in his way of singing) after improvising on some spree; he left his then most obvious rock influences aside a bit and armed himself with these modes that make him distinguishable in any collection.

Now that the former Habana Abierta finishes off the moments of early youth, he insists on what distinguished his generation: leaving the windows open. In 50 degrees the singer uses the same reminiscences of Maroon 5 as the recognizable sound of a Juan Luis Guerra. His guests also walk the paths of eclecticism. They are Pablo Milanés, Leoni Torres, the always immense Gema Corredera, Majela Rodríguez, her daughter Isla Ochoa, and El Chacal.

The album, as I mentioned before, appears as the soundtrack of the audiovisual series promises. The singer had done it before in films like Lizanka, Cuba neighborhood and, above all, in Havana Blues where as a composer he shared a Goya with X Alfonso, Descemer Bueno and Juan Antonio Leyva. It is familiar territory for this man who knows how to install himself in the most exquisite taste and in the most common. I say this knowingly, remembering my radio program on Sundays, Ground Wire. Sometimes they called me from places that would seem intricate to ask for a Kelvis song. But it is that although his time in other places has given him that feeling of cosmopolitanism, Kelvis comes, and his authenticity does not allow him to deny it, from the countryside of Las Tunas and the black sands of the Isle of Youth. 

Listen 50 degrees here.

If they asked me for a couple of pieces whose listening I would repeat until exhaustion, one would be naked and unhappy. Here a Kelvis overflows who, like few others, knows how to retrace the interstices of the song, the soft way in which the melody must say beautiful things in time that can also be profound. Here is present that philosophy of hers of seeking the sublime despite the pain: “…everything that matters to you is fading, it is disappearing but in your eyes, so big so alive, festive; changes its color". and the other would be The light next to Gema Corredera. What a beautiful piece! What a way for this woman to assume every musical trance! 

Faithful to the principle that the music to accompany the image has its own rules, he manages to keep “the promises” somehow avoiding the Kelvis who filled clubs like Mr. Krabs almost noisily. That guarachero here is in the background.

Nine almost always love songs, recorded by Maykel Bárzagas Jr., in times of COVID-19, with each musician at one end of a computer, separated by a good piece of the world. The cover, or rather the visual emblem that accompanies the album and which is in charge of Alexandre Arrechea, is a mask with the number 50, which in the Cuban cabal is also joy, cunning, a heart in the mouth and bright colors of the singer. . 

With the soundtrack of Promises Kelvis Ochoa, perhaps one of the men who can best combine joy with the sad overtones of Victrola boleros, has once again shown that he knows how to compose. This is an album that is listened to with pleasure even though, in my case, I haven't quite gotten used to these extreme fusions —going from Pablo Milanés to El Chacal surprises me, although that's probably the way to go and I'm the one who should accept it— . C Tangana put it on the table, Vivanco has just recorded with Kola Loka, other curious mixes have been seen and will be seen, for sure. The world turns. In the end, as Kelvis himself says in his Sleep, "What you see is what it is; your earth, also your sky”.

Rogelio Ramos Domínguez Writer of verses and songs. Full-time journalist and especially father of Claudia Ramos. More posts

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  1. Rakel2271 says:

    A review that forces us to look for the album to delight us just as the "writer" has done. Thank you Rogelio Ramos for putting us on the map and for continuing to illuminate a path that is sometimes tortuous but essentially luminous, such as that of Cuban music.

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