Fragmento de la portada del álbum Yusa.
Fragmento de la portada del álbum Yusa.

Pitching the note: Yusa

5 minutes / Jan Fairley

02.12.2020 / Reviews

Yusa is the confirmation that not everyone in Cuba only makes the music of their grandparents. Sure, in her work there are urban echoes of the songs of the traditional trova, but it is its ramifications such as the bolero —and most notably— the filin, which influence this authentic voice of the Cuban XXI century, whose songs do not fit.

As a modern singer-songwriter, she is influenced by Spanish and North American pop and jazz as she is by nueva trova and son. In any case, it is evident that Yusa has grown up with an ear stimulated both by what her own land has to offer her, as well as by an entire legion of musicians that includes Miles Davis and Sting, Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea and Jaco Pastorius. And she is part of a very attentive generation that is aware of the work of her Brazilian contemporaries (Lenine, Chico Science, Chico César, Carlinhos Brown) as well as the work of any good "house" musician.

She was born in the Havana neighborhood of Buena Vista and grew up in the Alamar community of buildings, on the northeast coast of Havana. Between those waters and music, she spent her childhood and adolescence, living with her economist mother who adores her and her sailor father who only knows how to tell her his love with eyes of looking at the sea. 

Yusa began with the guitar, continued with the study of tres, while developing her natural aptitudes for piano and bass. What essentially inspires this first album are those years of pure creativity, playing and sharing with his classmates in the classrooms and corridors of the “Amadeo Roldán” music conservatory, exchanging musical ideas and youth parties with students who today are musicians of immense value in the Cuban scene, like Roberto Carcassés, arranger of most of the songs on the album. Then, here is also the period of staying up late to improvise in the Quasi-Jazz female quintet, sharing the nights at the mythical and central Havana club La Zorra y el Cuervo, with what is best and shines from the national jazz scene. 

A key phenomenon of the 1990s in Cuba was the emergence of contemporary duos that revitalized in a totally unforeseen way the old way of singing with two voices and guitar. As years ago Tosca and Xiomara began to do, Marta Campos and José Antonio Quesada or Gema and Pável, Yusa and Domingo also left a trail in the urban panorama of Havana.

This woman and her accomplices (all excellent musicians) recorded at dawn during the sweltering summer of 2001, in a beautiful mansion on 11th Street in El Vedado. There, in the intimate setting of singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés' studio (except for a couple of songs recorded at the Amadeo Roldán Theater) they gave birth to an album that breaks all the schemes. The producer, Pável Urquiza, also spiced it up with “spontaneous sounds”, from the percussive traffic to the trains, from the clicks of cameras to the crying of children, from the melody of a music box to the noise of the waves of the sea responding to Yusa's call to Yemayá, orisha of the waters.

The enigma of Yusa's bittersweet lyrics has the precise setting in a music that is simple and sophisticated at the same time, at the same time Cuban and universal, which could well (finally!) Be classified as new Cuban music.

  1. Tomando el centro 2’32
  2. A las doce 5’04
  3. La fábula 3’35
  4. Tienta paredes 3’59
  5. Cuestión de ángulo 6’22
  6. La partida 3’20
  7. La número 2 4’14
  8. Mares de inocencia 3’39
  9. Todo o casi nada 3’35
  10. Canción en cuba para Freya 3’33
  11. En todas las esquinas 1’54
  12. Involución 4’27
  13. Momentos 4’51
  14. Chiquichaca 3’32
  15. Flash 1’33


Yusa: Voz en todos los temas; guitarra española en 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13 y 14; guitarra electroacústica en 4 y 13; piano en 8; bajo eléctrico en 15; coros en 1, 2 6, 12, 13; dedos en 14.

Roberto Carcassés: Fender Rhodes en 2, 3, 4, 5 11, 12 y 13; piano en 2, 7, 10; palo de lluvia en 6 y 9; dedos en 13.

Oliver Valdés: drums en 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 13 y 14; claves en 6; cajón en 9; dedos en 10; pandereta en 13.

Jorge Alexander Pérez (El Sagua): bajo acústico en 2, 3, 5, 911, 12 y 13.

Pável Urquiza: guitarra española y acústica en 12; coros en 2, 5, 6, 12 y 13; dedos en 14, cámara fotográfica en 14.

Daniel Stable: bajo eléctrico en 6.

Elmer Ferrer: guitarra electroacústica en 1 y 11.

Lucía Huergo: saxo soprano en 2, 3, 6, 8 y 12; teclados en 6.

Mario Félix Fernández (El Indio): Fliscorno en 3.

María Victoria Calero: Flauta en 3.

Alejandro Aparicio (El Pícaro): congas en 2, 3, 5 y 7.

Octavio Rodríguez: tambores batá en 6.

Elis Regina Ramos: cello en 8 y 10.

Ramsés Puente: primer violín en 7 y 12.

Jessie de Armas: segundo violín en 7 y 12.

Jenny Padrón: viola en 7 y 12.

Martín Meléndez: cello en 7 y 12.

Norberto Valdés: contrabajo en 7.

Domingo Candelario: voz en 14.

Grabado en Estudio PM Records, excepto 5 y 12, grabadas en Sala Caturla del Teatro Amadeo Roldán por Alfonso Peña.

Mezclado por David Revuelto y Pável Urquiza en Peermusic Estudio, Madrid, España.

Masterizado por Luca Germini en Studio D-Ley, Madrid, España.

Productor musical: Pável Urquiza.

Coordinación y Producción: Darsi Fernández.

Producción Ejecutiva: Mo Fini.

Asistentes de producción: Niurka Sánchez, Irán Hernández, Sandra Hernández.

Fotografías: Jeannie Ellis; Mo Fini.

(P) Tumi Music, 2002. 

Jan Fairley

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