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Songs about songs (and about the art of songwriting)

Creation often becomes self-referential. It is a sign of postmodernity, of increasing frequency in literature and audiovisuals: writers who write about the anxieties of the blank page or about their relationship with the characters in their novels; series and films that recreate the vicissitudes of screenwriting or what happens in the sets of filming.

Musicians have also spoken in their songs of the art of composing, of the elements that make up the musical work or of the extent to which their works are the support of their sensitive souls. In Magazine AM:PM We wanted to put together a group of Cuban music songs that, from different genres, formats and lyrical tools, speak with rhythm and melody about music as a phenomenon. We know there are many more, but sadly some are not accessible on Spotify or YouTube and others we simply hope that you, our readers and listeners, will be the ones to discover and comment on them.

Music / Comp. Descemer Bueno; int. Haydée Milanés) 

This song is that perfect romance that Haydée claims -through Descemer Bueno's composition- to have with music. Included in her debut album (HaydéeEMI Music, 2004), here we sing to that muse as if she were a friend, a mother, a palpable entity capable of breaking the silence and being born, a beautiful mixture of all the feelings together. The music (with the exquisite chorus of Kelvis Ochoa) that goes through laughter, tears, the peace of the temple, like an infinite melody that never ceases to accompany the artist.

They are to the son / Comp. César Portillo de la Luz ; int. Aragón Orchestra with Elena Burke.

Portillo de la Luz -we have already said it in this magazine- is one of the essential composers to explain that ineffable thing that is Cubanness. César had the soul of a philosopher and therefore his songs cover a wide thematic spectrum. In this particular work he uses the sonera rhythm to review the elements that, in his opinion, make up a good son: the dawn, the melody, the joy, the excellent performers (references to Chapotín, Miguelito Cuní), the lyrics (a nod to the poems of Nicolás Guillén). Whoever manages to remain still when this sounds, performed by the Orquesta Aragón with Elena Burke, has no blood in his veins.

Poor the singer / Comp. Pablo Milanés; int. Pablo Milanés & Silvio Rodríguez

In full "revolutionary effervescence", Pablo Milanés composed this song as part of that essential cycle in his definitive conformation as a musician that was the passage through the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC. In the spirit of the times, Milanés launches a diatribe against accommodation and vindicates the singer's role as an organic intellectual, in one of those curious cases of protest songs that did not criticize the reality of the Cuban environment at that time, but that resonated in the soul of Latin American youth, marked by the dictatorships that were going through the region in those years.

The song / Comp. Marta Valdés ; int. Gema Corredera

Blessed is the hour when Gema decided to sing to Marta Valdés on a whole album. And blessed is the fifth track by Feeling Marta (Gema Corredera Music, 2015) in which the art of composing a song is described in a sublime way. It is Marta writing the verses on a yellow paper with a pen full of ink, telling about the rain, the rivers, the light, the stars and the forests that run through her body while a new song blooms. An act of creation to which Gema adds the sweetness that only a pair of artists like them could wield at the same time without any effort.

I feel like rapping / Al2 El Aldeano, La Cueva Mokoya, Silvito El Libre

The third track of the disc The Kbayros (La Cueva Mokoya, 2009) is so sincere that it borders on the tender. Although at the beginning Silvito El Libre wants to sell the impulse to write with more importance than it really has, as a social and political commitment, at the end of the track the feeling that prevails is another one. That of a childish joy, of having that "something" that makes you so happy to the point of obsession, that you neither can nor want to stop doing, and that compulsively keeps you in suspense. A track that speaks of how captivating it is, not the song, not the fame, not the results, but the act itself: creation.

At this rate / Guaguancó Matancero Group

These are Los muñequitos de Matanzas before The little dollsthe homonymous piece that renamed them. Those were the times of Guaguancó matancero, back in the fifties. Florencio Calle, founding director and catá, star composer of the genre throughout its history, wanted to honor his city, "glorious cradle of poetry and art". Matanzas equates here the virtues of rumba, and by extension, of all music, with "its combined sound and measure", while Saldiguera and Virulilla are in charge of demonstrating the how and why of such a parallel. "Inayo a la teyeyé" ends in Yoruba -this time with Changó-, as usual in Los muñequitos, the final chorus of the piece; and in spite of the three-minute limit that the recording technology imposed on the arrangements, the reminiscence to the batá drums is inescapable in the final seconds. Africa, Spain and Matanzas, besides the music itself, are enclosed in "En este ritmo".

My music / Alexander Abreu and Habana de Primera

Master of the danceable and the popular that evokes, contained within the limits of the timba cadence, the spirituality of the musical creation process. Last track of Making history liveThe album, produced by Abdala, gives continuity to the style that Havana D'Primera has been working on since its beginnings, showing, of course, the path towards the consolidation of a sound product with a well-defined proposal. "It must be something natural that comes from the heart", Alexander Abreu gives reasons to continue making music and between choruses reminds that "his grave is transparent".

If I make you a song / Adrian Berazain

With the tenderness and boldness of young romance, this song by Adrián Berazaín, which was part of the soundtrack of the film Fableand also gives its name to his second album, creates a direct connection between the act of composing and the source of inspiration. He fantasizes about everything that can happen once that which has provoked the impulse to create is immortalized in the work: what happens when something we believe to be intimate becomes a song and ceases to be exclusive, to become part of the lives of those who listen to it? In the unmistakable accompaniment of the harmonica that characterizes Berazaín's sonority, the possible are intermingled.

The songs of Abakuá / comp. Ignacio Piñeiro; int. María Teresa Vera and Lorenzo Hierrezuelo

The African heritage in our music, beyond the drum, the ritual and the culture, has left its mark -and continues to do so- in that permanent need to find a socially transcendent art. However, it would be a mistake to try to understand this vocation of transcendence, even in today's light, by assimilating each of these elements separately. Because, as Walterio Carbonell reminded us, in Mother Africa, work, religion and music were one and the same thing, and some echo of this reached us. The abakuás games, as a reflection of this interweaving of liturgy, brotherhood and resistance, have influenced Cuban music with great coherence, despite their limitations of social representation. In 1923, a woman dared to sing to the ñáñigos, subverting all norms, leaving us a document that today has a historical character. The composer was Ignacio Piñeiro, and she was María Teresa Vera. The rest could have been material for a great novel.

What makes you tick / Maykel Blanco y su Salsa Mayor

For the machine to work well and run as it should, all the components have to be of quality. Through this amusing association Maykel Blanco reminds us that his band and his music continue to make dancers enjoy themselves thanks to a percussion-engine, a bass-transmission, a keyboard-cygnodrome and the key of some very powerful brass, that there is no one who can stop them. Of course, there is also the body of the voices and the direction of a piano, all with "its style and its thing", so that the timba will make you move until the clave lasts. If you still don't know what's up with his Salsa Mayor, wait for the tumba'o to arrive, it's here to find out for sure.

Companion / Silvio Rodriguez

Silvio, accompanied by his guitar, sings to his faithful friend and close companion who is the song that he makes, and that, in a way, makes him. Like a renewal of marriage vows in a relationship of many years, where the feelings remain intact in their ambiguity of being both the one who builds and the one who destroys, this song is a love/hate letter to that friend. partnerThe song, which already many years ago gives you everything.

tear out the song / White Noise

The world is tough, relationships are a roller coaster, but despite the leap of faith it is to ride them, the odds of actually dying are minimal (one in 750,000,000, if you want the stat). As its title suggests, this song -part of songs for shadowsRuido Blnco's debut album, is an invitation to let go in order to believe again. Through diffuse poetic images, the band reflects on that particular state of mind in which we put on our seatbelts and climb back on the journey of love, because that emotion can't be found anywhere else.

battles over me / Comp. Santiago Feliú; int. David Torrens & Kelvis Ochoa


And how can Santi be left out? battles over me brings us closer to the process we have so often imagined. "Arrows from me to me...", repeating the emotional conflict that comes with the composition. It brings us closer to the intimacy of a man loved by many. This time, the second track of the legendary Vida (Egrem, 1986), Santiago's first full-length album, is performed by David Torrens and Kelvis Ochoa on the tribute disc life to life (Bis Music, 2022). The symphonic flight of the version distances it from the original and gives it a sense of its own, just right for such particular voices.

My music / The Boy and The Truth

El Niño, in his search for the truth, makes a journey through the ingredients that, as if read from a recipe, constitute the representative sound of the music of our country: the melodies, lyrics and themes that make a song recognizably Cuban. All for the sake of defending our music and not letting it die.

The melody / Francis del Río

Rola number 10 of his first and best album as a protagonist (FeelingBis Music, 2004), here we have a minimalist Francis del Río in a state of grace. The Melody has a short text in which the author dreams of becoming a musical note, but it is just that the melody (…day, day, melody... ) the phrase that can be heard as a mantra, spiced up by the filigree trumpet playing of Julito Padrón and the beautiful vocalizations and improvisations of Yusa and Haydée Milanés. An "interactive" piece that you will love to listen to often on your playlist.

Breaks the horn / Dj Yus; El Micha and El Chacal

With a background El Chacal, El Micha and DJ Yus talk about the adrenaline that is generated when the music plays. We are immediately transported to a discotheque, when the DJ breaks the horn and the beat starts to pick up. Besides the wink to the old reggaeton, with that mythical phrase "los rompediscotecas", this song sometimes feels like a kind of call to the artists, who seek to spice up the song with a tasty "reguetón". dembowThe purpose? To dance with the flow of music which is, in the end, "the medicine".

Listen to her playlist complete in Spotify and Youtube

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