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A Cuban playlist for a more diverse time

From that close relationship between music and feelings, Cuban people have organized a flow that accompanies us at any time of life. Passions, dislikes, losses, and joys, are mixed over and over again in that vast repertoire of themes, rhythms, melodies, that make up the musical heritage of the island, populated with wonders although the poverty of what is being disseminated seems to deny such a thing. The homoerotic desire has also been there, almost always between the lines and waiting for a listener who knows how to capture the codes of the secret that is sung; in a country where musicians and athletes follow, curiously, starring in the greatest mysteries of the national closet. If we know little of the latter, due to the prevailing taboo, at least among the first few have slipped clues that let us today select a playlist like this, in which there is only a handful of songs where it goes from the homosexual sentiment uncovered that Bola de Nieve always revealed, until reinterpretations that only now, with the sharp look of gender studies, seem to tell us of other sensibilities.

At the request of my dearest Darsi Fernández, here is this collection of topics that gays and lesbians on the island have had or can have as theirs. In some cases, the presence of the homoerotic is from the lyrics, at other times it is the figure that popularized them who induces that reading, and in others, despite that their creators deny such filiation, the popular imagination has been more powerful, raising hymns to themes that are not always of a firm quality, but that become manifestos of a community that for so long lived in that darkness that Amaury Pérez talks about in his  Amor difícil. "In Pedro's house yesterday / a refined guy came in / with a delicate gesture / he asked for something to drink": this was how Rita Montaner described a gay man of the 50s in his recording of ¡Ay, qué sospecha tengo! Mentioning famous figures of Cuban music as lesbians or homosexuals is still an arduous thing, even in these times when stereotypes, clichés, have given way to true songs of affirmation and challenge. Here is a little of everything, from that time to the present, in the selected topics, and in which, as a license queer, I take it when making a kind of bonus, which I hope will serve as a clue to those who are interested in knowing (and singing) more about it.

14. Tú me acostumbraste, Frank Domínguez, played by Olga Guillot.
"Music of the sick", they said of the feeling some of his enemies. And behind that accusation was the suspicion of desires not always "straight" that follows from the repertoire that several of its main composers induced. La Guillot, true queen of the Cuban drama, takes theatrics of the Frank Domínguez theme that manages secret codes to talk about that "strange world" and joins bolero and feeling in a recording that homosexuals of their time will have fully understood, as they will have done when they hear it sing Me contaron de ti, that other classic by René Touzet; Tú me niegas, by Juan Bruno Tarraza or Pruebo, by Julio Gutiérrez.

13. Un amigo se va, interpreted by Maggie Carlés.
It was the 90s and AIDS was raging among us. Maggie Carlés, already alone, tuned her voice to sing this song by Bebu Silvetti and Héctor Pineda that the dramatist José Milián used as the closing of his piece Las mariposas saltan al vacío, dedicated to the victims of the epidemic, in 1995. It was enough for the song, from the exile of Carlés, to become a requiem for many.

12. Lola, theme of Nassiry Lugo with Hard Currency.
In the brief moment of happiness that Cuban pop rock lived during the fervor of Moneda Dura, Nassiry sang about this transvestite who went out to show her without dissimulation, "when Havana sleeps". Joyful celebration that eludes the melodramatic representations, as it is seen in the video that directed for this subject Lester Hamlet, Lola told us that the transvestite was here to stay, serving as inspiration to others, like the Van Van The transvestite, Carlos Varela with his Hombre de silicona, and Frank Delgado with Travestis.

11. El hombre que yo amé, by George and Ira Gershwin, sung by Freddy.
The famous fat woman not only sang boleros, she also dared with a standard like this, that her unique voice turned into an androgynous claim, as the initial theme of her only LP. The man I love in the throat of a Camagüey woman of amazing dimensions: it was the voice of an era in which La Lupe or Doris de la Torre would sing in an unusual way, in that Havana night full of surprises.

10. Acorralada, in interpretation of its author, Tanya.
It was his presence as an indomitable rocker, with an androgynous charge, who embarked on a solo career after his presence at Monte de Espuma. That bizarre adventure that was among us the competition of the OTI allowed him to popularize this topic and Perdida en el tiempo, both resounding successes. Tanya put all of Cuba to sing that "my ardent lover / you make me feel full of you". And he let each one put a name and face to this lover so feverish.

9. Como cualquiera, by Lourdes Torres, in the interpretation of Annia Linares.
Hymn inevitable in many shows of transvestites, due to a composer who had an intense relationship with the gay public, is a mirror of the time in which that audience acclaimed Mirtha Medina or Linares as queens of popularity, filling the Karl Marx with cries that would have stunned the famous German. Hymn of affirmation, had in the Linares, owner of those Heridas that both lacerated us, a hyperteatral interpreter.

8. Qué manera de quererte, by Luis Ríos in interpretation by Albita Rodríguez.
It was already a well-known song in other voices, but when Albita chooses it as a single from his first production in exile, it reaches international success. The album was called, appropriately, No se parece a nada, and the video in which the singer was shown in masculine and feminine attire (a Latin lang kd, so they promoted it) became an erotic replay statement that seduced everyone.

7. Días como hoy, by Margot Saumell, in interpretation by Martha Strada.
A Cuban Anna Magnani, they said of her, that she moved her hands like no one, and made her voice hoarse an act of pure drama. Reinaldo Arenas celebrates her in her controversial memories, portraying the moment in which she was the most celebrated in Cuba. That time did not last long, but this recording remains to demonstrate why such an enduring impact.

6. Sin un reproche, by Meme Solís, in interpretation by Rosa Fornés.
Once I saw La Fornés sing this song accompanied in full by the chorus of its audience. Meme Solís, is like Marta Valdés and Adolfo Guzmán, among so many of our composers, a world apart. Survivor of misgivings and obstacles, created pages that Elena Burke, Moraima Secada, her own quartet, and many others, have made unforgettable. La Fornés is the ideal interpreter of a topic that makes us review the good and the bad, literally, without a single reproach.

5. Él tiene delirio, in interpretation of its author, Pedro Luis Ferrer.
The author of Como espuma y arena, has no hairs on the tongue, and this topic is one of its best and most lucid. Discussing the diverse visions of the homosexual in a society like ours, it does not stop pointing a tasty touch of humor that is so expensive, and achieves a theme of vindication that helps to think while remaining in memory.

4. Amor difícil, in interpretation of its author, Amaury Pérez Vidal.
There was a time when Amaury was crucified in the press for appearing on TV wearing an earring. Those who judged him a subject like this must have seemed highly suspicious. Small closet theory, speaks of a love of undefined sex that should continue in the shade, and despite that left very open readings about its true nature. Amaury's repertoire contains other themes that are no less ambiguous, such as Yo tengo un amigo, that I really prefer this one that nevertheless managed to be much more popular.

3. El pecado original, by Pablo Milanés, in interpretation by Xiomara Laugart.
The main leaders of the Nueva Trova have not been very explicit in dealing with these issues, but Milanés pointed a bit at addressing it on a topic that I prefer when he sings that privileged voice that is that of Xiomara Laugart, despite a bombastic arrangement that loses some subtleties. As a variation on this seat, I remember a more subtle theme, which has become the song of this battle to accept what is different:  Ámame como soy, that Milanés himself composed for the soundtrack of Una novia para David and that Elena Burke sang, as she used to do, irreproachably.

2.Ay, amor!, in interpretation of its author, Ignacio Villa, Bola de Nieve.
Bola de Nieve is a before and an after. Someone who surpassed everything he had as obstacles to bequeath us a repertoire and an irrefutable presence. Declared homosexual, it was won by hard work and sympathy to almost all audiences. He wrote songs like this one, undoubtedly filtered by the truth of his desire, which shows up in others that are no less clear, like Pobrecitos mis recuerdos, and Arroyito de mi casa, also of its authorship; or in its full versions of Alma mía, by María Greever; Tú no sospechas, by Marta Valdés; and of Vete de mí, of the Expósito Brothers.

1. Amigas, by Alberto Vera, in interpretation by Omara Portuondo, Moraima Secada and Elena Burke.
Hearing these three extraordinary women together raise a classic theme to a level that is musically not much. Three absolute queens of Cuban music sing, laugh, are twinned remembering the times of that glorious quartet imagined by Aida Diestro, and they do it apparently without effort, like someone who comes back from singing Lo material, Veinte años or Perdóname conciencia and again. Transvestites, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals and everyone who ever enters that space that mediates between nostalgia, drunkenness and joy, have sung some of their stanzas. Battle anthem, absolute emblem of the possible Cuban LGTBIQ community, in those voices we continue to listen and celebrate.

Bonus tracks:

Mariposa, by Ernesto Lecuona, in interpretation by María de los Ángeles Santana; Puro teatro, by Tite Curet, played by La Lupe; Como sea, by Meme Solís, by the Los Meme Quartet; Si me falta tu sonrisa, by Liuba María Hevia; No puede haber soledad para ti, by Teresita Fernández; Si cada cual, in interpretation of Mirtha Medina; Tú dominas, by Marta Valdés in interpretation by Doris de la Torre; Yo soy aquella, by Manuel Alejandro in interpretation by Martha Strada; El recuerdo de aquel largo viaje, by Raúl Gómez, by Farah María; El hombre que me gusta a mí, by Frank Domínguez by Elena Burke; Cavaste una tumba, by Cary del Río in the voice of Leonora Rega. And many more that I reserve ...

Norge Espinosa Mendoza Poet, playwright, critic and Gemini. Incurable cultural bipolarity. In another life he was a cabaretologist. More posts

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