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Art Bembé 20/ Gema and Pável

Gema and Pavel have reheated their album Art Bembe (Peer Music Publishing, 2003), taking advantage of the 20th anniversary of its publication. You can now listen to it at streaming Art Bembé 20remix by Javier Monteverde (Cezanne Producciones), a chance to revisit that tremendous double album that defined, perhaps along with the Boomerang of Habana Abierta (Calle 54, 2006), the Enjoy Pepillo of Interactivo (Bis Music, 2005), and one or two others that I can't think of now, the sound of Cuban alternative popular music of the early 2000s.

The production leaves out six themes, which are the ones I want to talk about first, starting with Elewa because, well, that's where you always start, contrary to what Gema and Pável thought at the time, by placing it at the end of the album, a curious decision in principle, but understandable when you listen to the song. Elewa is not a song in the strict sense. It is a state, a feeling. It is to make the little train through the theater seats at the end of the concert, with the lights on, get on stage to break it and then leave singing in the bus: "Elewa told you of course not to eat' the goat, to distribute it' among the four roads". Breast perfect, the opening of the album, has a similar nature. They are not songs, they are signs.

The versions of El bufón y el trágico (David Torrens) and Sé feliz (Descemer Bueno) were also not included in the remix. Don't miss them. At least I don't. But to whom the Art Bembe If you don't find it so close, you should get to the original album and listen, for the umpteenth time, to these two authentic songs, filtered by the sensibilities of Gema and Pável, which is not just any old thing.

I like singer-songwriters who perform. What's more, I distrust singer-songwriters who are not good interpreters. I have seen candid troubadours saying that they only sing their own songs. Luckily Pável Urquiza is not one of those. Pável is an author premiumHe is a totem, one of the best there is, and he is also a tremendous interpreter from the voice and the guitar, but also from the arrangement. At El bufón y el trágico Urquiza does not sing, but he plays and arranges an excellent guitar, clear, simple and just. I don't know if in some passages the cello is superfluous because of how good the guitar is or because of the cello itself, that is, because of the decision to increase the drama in an interpretation that is already dramatic from the lyrics, and from the voices of Haydeé Milanés and Gema Corredera.

For what is Gema Corredera to the music of Cuba, a woman who is undoubtedly at the height of the greatest, I must say that her voice does not dismantle my nervous system. Her timbre, I mean (vocal and interpretative virtues she has for herself and an army), the only attribute foreign to herself, to the great singer she is. It's really fucked up that perhaps the most definitive quality of the voice is the only one you can't control. Gema tends to colloquialize her voice in some moments, for example, when she says in BangánHe says: "Boy, you're not a candela...". It intentionally takes away her seriousness, it "popularizes" her, she is still a diva but with flip-flops. This resource is very good, and it is, I would say, part of her identity as a singer (let's just review a classic of her repertoire such as Smoking cessation), however, given the choice, his voice in those moments is not as attractive to me as when he sings, for example, Be happy or Bolero Filin.

The latter is among the remaining topics that did not make it into Art Bembé 20together with Partir and La puerta y el espejoand these are indeed missed. They are three intimate songs, but different from each other. Three ways of doing and an opportunity to read Pável Urquiza as a composer, to check his ability to move fluidly and naturally in atmospheres with different densities, his respect for the song as a higher state of poetry. 

La puerta y el espejo is a lyrical and harmonically daring, modern song. Here Urquiza is closer to Alejandro Frómeta than to José Antonio Méndez. At Bolero filin the opposite is true, although it doesn't amount to a classic filin either; it's an imposture, and possibly my favorite track in the Art Bembe. I love the songs made in codes that are our own, like that one. Tango by Charly García in 2003. Pável Urquiza was born in '63, he must have started making songs... I don't know, in '80? He is too young and too white (and, besides, he is not Formell) for filin to be his code. That's why this song certifies not only his technical knowledge of the morphology of the genre, but also his unconditional love for the song and his honesty as an author. Bolero filin is Pável Urquiza imagining himself, on purpose, in an unnatural way, just for love, in a canteen in Key West in 1950. And that is beautiful.

Does not stand out Bolero filin not only for its beauty as a song, but also for its staging, for the guitar which is new and the same as always, for Gema's interpretation, who gets involved and hurts richly, for Elena Burke saying that she loves as much as she can. Surely there is a reasonable explanation for not including her. I would leave out before Your lovea song that is fine, but the fifth time you listen to it, you get bored. Typical song that the artist will have to include in the concert, because people are going to ask for it, but that he is not very enthusiastic about singing.

Partir is something else, a song closer to the canon of the nueva trova, if such a thing exists. It has, as always, less happy lyrical moments than others, like this one: "Partir para quedarme en el espejo de su boca", a completely arbitrary metaphor. But everyone falls into that rut. Let's make no mistake. Partir is a great song. Every emigrant should listen to it on the plane on the way out, together with Other addressby Fernando Cabrera, and one by Leonardo García, whose name I do not want to remember, which says: "The last houses pass...".

Of course there is uprooting, departure and sparrow in this album. Everywhere, but expressly in No te vayas and De Nueva York a La Habana. In both cases the tres is almost the first thing you hear. Ever since I left Cuba I hear a tres and my legs buckle. Nothing is more secretly patriotic than the tres. Nothing destroys the weeping emigrant more. If you put a guaguancó march in front of it, you die. That is why with De Nueva York a La Habana You dance and cry at the same time. Who says they are different things? Rumba has that, especially when it is done outside Cuba. It is such a powerful form that seems to delight, when it is destroying you.

These people breathe and exhale palo and guaguancó. In any register, for any theme. Guaguancó for joy and dancing: yes. Guaguancó for death: also. At LocuraFor example, we hear: "He left, and that sunset turned into a storm". That person who left, did not go to Azúcar, he committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train, but this is said through the guaguancó, as if nothing, as if the body did not understand Spanish. To Gema and Pável, who have the rumba key in their genetic code, this apparent discordance does not cut it, as it also happens to so many people when interpreting A felicidadeThey sing a very rich samba, Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, who are telling you that sadness has no end, and that happiness does have an end. They talk like that, it's up to you if you don't understand them.

Although Gema and Pável should not be read from the purest (let's say) popular music, it is true that, of that generation, they are perhaps the closest to it. Boris Larramendi can put as many tumbaos as he wants in his songs, but the Silvio in him will always be noticed. With Gema and Pável this is not the case, or at least not in such an evident way. Theirs is not dance music, nor traditional, nor bolerón de vitrola or cabaret (if it were so, to put it quickly and badly, they would not have had to leave Cuba to record an album), but they can slip a rumba or a guaracha into the discotheque of any orthodox listener without raising suspicions. The best example of this in Art Bembe is La lenguaa perfect, rounded song, a true classic already, signed by Pável Urquiza and Descemer Bueno.

It is not the only one. The pair Urquiza-Descemer composes for this album a total of 5 songs, among which is another of my most beloved creations: Unas horas de másThe Gema and Pável universe. This song has what The afternoonof Sindo, which You seeof Paul, which Oh, love!of Bola, that is, mystery. The mystery is offered immediately, from the moment Gema says: "Words that wander looking for a way to escape...". Like the words, the melody also seems to wander, light, vaporous. It leaves, but does not return. It opens, but does not close. Gema is divine again here, at the height of the piece of song in front of her. Her voice completely appropriates what she is saying. She falsetto, sings low at times, with the microphone close like C. Tangana; superb this girl. Uncork your wine, my loves, turn down the light and turn up the volume.

The music I like most endures repetition. There are many exceptions, of course, but generally when I enjoy it the most is when it has already become hummable, when you know what's coming and you feel the event, always, a fraction of a second before. At Art Bembe there are songs that do not support, or that support worse the recidivism, such as Tu amorof which I have already spoken, or La zorra y el cuervoan anecdotal subject, which is everything and is nothing and lacks the legs to leave La Rampa. But this is not the rule. For the most part, the songs on this album get more interesting each time. This is the case with Copper Goddess, Flor de agua or Si te abrazo más.

In the latter case, if you are distracted, you don't realize it and you overlook the premise of the subject, which is there so clear and absolute, so universally beautiful, because the most important answers are almost always the ones that are offered first. The premise is this: "If I hold you any longer I won't leave". This line is beautiful, totally cosmic and totally telluric. Telluric because the one who embraces seems to know that, sooner or later, he will have to let go and leave, and cosmic because he also knows that, dangerously, if he embraces more he will become entangled. The image outlines the possibility, the accident, but it is located in the middle, in the present and living embrace.

Si te abrazo más is an indication of Gema and Pável's style and work. Simple and complex music, urban and guajira, sophisticated and popular, like that of the greats. Here it is. Listen to it.

Avatar photo Carlos M. Merida hearer. Collector without space. Lawyer. Afraid of bees and hurricane winds. More posts

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