Cover of the album <i>Básico, No Básico y Dirigido</i>
Cover of the album Básico, No Básico y Dirigido

Acústica, the sensitive popular music of Albita Rodríguez

9 minutos / Alejandro Aragón

29.04.2020 / Reviews

I don't know how, but after reading on the Internet about the dire fate of glaciers and other natural wonders, I ended up in Acústica, the latest album by Albita Rodríguez. Wonder too, human and predictable —that of Albita always shines; the only danger that haunts the album would be its insufficient diffusion.

I started listening to it on a Friday to add a danceable tone to the weekend. I was still listening to it on Sunday with the intention of adjusting to the proposal of an unpromising Monday. With Acústica, I broke my habit of hitting the shuffle button and allowing a whimsical algorithm to choose the order of the themes. I listened to it song after song, as it was in the distant 20th century. Then I thanked myself for the orthodoxy; the order of the factors improves the product here even though each theme, pleasing and sophisticated, seems unbeatable.

Albita begins the album a cappella in Yo tengo un ave blanca, a short trova song jazzed by the sweetest piano. In a couple of minutes, the artist's characteristic and carefree sensuality enters ―her sensuality is, in itself, an instrument― in the festive Décimas infieles. My ear only listens then to the accompaniment of the tres, the Peruvian cajon and, discreetly scattered, the cowbell that my soul longs for on a monthly basis. Albita reiterates without getting fed up "I love her because she is not mine, if she were mine I don't want her". It refers to a certain mouth, a certain skin, a certain soul or gender person that I think meticulously indeterminate, and who is gloating on the sidewalk opposite to the permissible. I am wrong about gender; I boast because the singer confuses, what a delight, with that of "it is not mine" and "if it were mine", which does not refer to a person but to mouth.

In any case, who does not identify with the attraction of the unattainable, of the alien so precious that Albita comes to compare with the legendary Guayabero's Marieta? "If you're wrong," Marieta ―or her mouth or her person, Albita, or some inaccessible Malanga― "teaches you the lyrics", reinvents the ordinary world and, like this song, presents it as an appetizing novelty. Invites, I say ―you don't have to believe me― by the ringing of the cowbell, to cross the street with the wrong light or, at least, to consider wanting to cross it.

In Vendo the album becomes transactional when the poetic of the lyrics deepens and penetrates. How daring Albita, in these times, when throwing metaphors and loading them with her personal philosophy "from when a song made sense". He shares with us an ambiguous ideology that she presents in a list of griefs and grievances that it sells and that, unfortunately, opposing groups could raise. It amuses me that she sells "a good way with his chair and the old troubadour sitting in his harvest." This almost irrefutable allusion to Silvio Rodríguez's Historia de las sillas is followed by "the left and the right", an impossible convoy, which also sells. He often releases endless metaphors as incomprehensible as they are essential. Among many, "I sell you the appropriate metaphor in the pain of childbirth of some verse", and "I sell you the commitment where it begins and the verb with hidden freedom" move me. These difficult verses are the necessary exercise toward sensitivity that is increasingly absent from the repertoires of popular music. Each item for sale ―"a lie", "a mutilated vagina", "original sin, thirsty flesh"― works as a more or less clear virtue signal. The one who signs these words proposes the virtuous and rarely defines it clearly. The lyrics suggest the author's membership in the club of the disillusioned who do not want to align themselves with the shame that (forever) plagues the world. Albita sins, like the old troubadour Silvio Rodríguez, because when she becomes a judge without naming accused and accomplices, they are well, she and Silvio, with each other. However, Albita and her lyrics comfort and, Marti speaking, "he who consoles, never errs."

How much love fits in our throats is a danzon, or so it seems, complaining about the absence of love in a city without a name because it is all the cities we love. The sweet flute of Song to sing reiterates the invitation to trade, this time without trade. "I change a verse for a little madness, and that a verse is my space, my habitat" asks the singer to her interlocutor. "Take me out of the everyday world," and hopefully this is not a first date request because it's easier to demand the extraordinary from tour operators, amusement parks, and drugs. She dares more in the verse it commands "violates all the rules and incidentally to me." In these times, the phrase is everything, except harmless and dangerous. In a kink poetic plan, I am excited by the idea of quoting it without quotes in a whisper while I dance this song that only the flute has in bucolic. While honoring them, Albita traffics with the contributions of her musical ancestors Benny Moré, Sindo Garay and Marta Valdés. Whoever subscribes the lyrics, remains in the sacred without mentioning a name of the generation of Albita. It involves "excessive kisses", a "dirty melee" "because a chord without lusts is not normal". The wise beauty of these constructions may be the first time that Marta Valdés and lust coexist in a song.

The enumeration of infinitives that have been tremendously used in universal musical lyric resonates as new in the ballad No quiero que me faltes nunca. In this lullaby to lull lovers, the piano accompanied by tres, guitar and cajón invent a future musical genre; for its part, the key - subtly - reminds us of the migrant identity of the song and of whoever sings it. Followed comes El resto de mis días, a fabulous sound seasoned with platitudes that sound fresh in the singer's powerful voice. I am not sure I understand what is the privilege that Albita enjoys in the song so titled; it matters little when a trumpet that almost speaks presents us, in a delicious verse, to those who "walk with our bones in balls and our hearts in our hands."

Behind Son sin concepto there is a painful story that Albita has narrated in several of the interviews that followed the album's release. This is the most peculiar song of Acústica. Albita recites, or rather declaims, some painful vignettes that stylistically connect with the poetics of Vendo. Albita monologues judiciously with her characters: "Your soul is a tattoo, a lie" "you have to give birth and annihilate yourself", "you have to give birth and be very strong for him", because "you are a son without concept". Alcoholism, machismo, sexism and other isms are discussed without being mentioned. She identifies himself with her interlocutors without telling them of her tragedy, "You and I have the pretext of life because we are a son without a concept." I want this game to remind me of the Antillean watercolorist of poetry, Luis Carbonell when he recited Motivos de Son by Nicolás Guillén. However, the sarcasm and security she puts into her tirade make Albite's voice unique, keep it unique. She ends the song without slowing down the sound, but puts a bravery and a sympathy that equates her to hope. She is appreciated.

The album closes with Soy una mujer y estoy aquí. As soon as one finishes reading such a long title, Yusa and Lena Burke appear, surprisingly. A city raises them and a very different one brings them together. This triumvirate would not have occurred to me insane but it was unfeasible, that is how different the artists are. However, they fit perfectly into a stylish and festive theme. Their lyrics are addressed to The Man in Charge of this World, and to his acolytes and acolytes; they challenge his limited expectations of what it is to be a woman. "I am much more than a kiss, I bet and I go to myself, I am a woman and I go to me." Yusa, Lena and Albita take over other people's art when they rap deliciously and respectfully get their way when they shout "because I am a woman, because I am a woman". They rap, yes, but not so much in the original style of African-Americans, but accompanied by the tumbao of the piano, as in the timba of the Special Period. They get rid of the legendary misogyny of timba, rather they challenge it because "everything changed and now you have to see how I do it".

With this fortunate federation of urban women doing their thing, the silence that follows the end of the album arrives unexpectedly. I want more, when does the other one come out? As it is again Tuesday or perhaps Friday, I feel like this gift from Albita is not a chance that I should waste. Without a doubt, I then add it to the playlist of my elite tracks. In doing so, I return to its first song because I know that in this album "I have a white bird that fluttering high above invades my heart."


Alejandro Aragón

Habanero ahora en Bklyn, en el “húrtase, se quiebra, gira”. Implicado con las feministas en lo social. Es el otro (ateo espiritual, gay, blanco de color). Escucha audiolibros de la biblioteca pública. Escribía poesía y contratos. Escribe misceláneas por encargo o necesidad. Se hace el bilingüe desde 2001.

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