Raul Ciro (III)
Surplus was an oddity and sometimes a contradiction. It began as an acoustic duo and ended up as a songwriting trio backed by an unusual format (three guitars, bass, violin, cello, drums and percussion). At first they signed their works as a pair, much like Lennon-McCartney, and later each one claimed their respective authorship. The themes had little bearing on the conventional discourse of the time, even with that of his own colleagues. They renounced the “trova” label, but until the end they continued “trovando por ti”. Nor did they make a strict rock, but a fusion so personal that it did not generate appreciable emulators in the country. A few handcrafted demos remained from its initial stage, and a single album (almost posthumous) that later became “cult”, above all due to its commercial inaccessibility.
Raúl Ciro and Alejandro Frómeta started the journey of Superávit as soon as the group of 13 and 8 finished, early in the 90's. Since then they developed their creative production, composing and recording at almost the same speed. They acted little, generating a tight circle of converts around them, where almost all of us knew each other. His songs grew, and the need for other sounds meant occasional guests for concerts and recordings. Later, Carlitos Santos and a group of friends joined in a stable way. The result was a hybrid of varied influences, which found its place on the CD Verde melón,. But the wear and tear of the years dynamited everything from below and, as soon as the album hit the streets, the group ceased to exist. After an ephemeral meeting in Spain of the two original members, at the end of the same decade, there was no turning back.
Today Surplus is just an occasional mention among connoisseurs. And it shouldn't have been that way. In what follows, Raúl collected memories, offering his vision of those times, the origin and evolution of that project whose music, in different ways, marked a few of us. Those songs and their voices are still missed. Worth once more, then, the memory. (Humberto Manduley).
Once I presented Vanito with my idea of uniting. I even drew a ridiculous logo on it, but it didn't make me swing. Nor did Carlitos Santos understand me then when I suggested doing things together. I'm sure they don't even remember that today.
When I met Frómeta I knew from the beginning that it would be very important for both of us to associate. Curiously, his brother bombarded me proposing to form a group; I answered him: “brother, don't mess around, we don't even have strings”. Alejandro Frómeta showed that he was a great musician, an academy boy, and that bothered many at times. Like his studies, for some, subtracted "street." Someone always said: “Oh, yes, the school…”. Especially when we get together and start showing the other topics like Éxito and 2×2, that we interpreted them in a different way, with those passages of Frómeta on the guitar a la Bach, harmonizing with mine, the playful voices and the harmonica. There was nothing like it, but perhaps better: Gema and Pável, Cachivache.
When I started working at Radio Rebelde, initially in the cleaning department, we were able to resume the recording project that Frómeta and I wanted to face one day in film school. Thanks to the fact that I met Roberto Yong Cong we recorded our first job (2×2) hidden in an editing room, using the Hungarian machines of the time and the technique of direct stereo and ping pong. That experience was unbeatable, I have never seen that face of Frómeta again when listening to the guitars and keyboard of the backgrounds that we created until adding the voices, singing both at the same time afterwards. We would have liked to put bass and guitars with electric timbres. Even Robertico Díaz (later with Anima Mundi) lent us his guitar and a pedal, but we couldn't use them. We made covers to the material, and several copies on small ORWO tapes. These copies were not demos, they were simply limited copies of unique material. So we assume it.
later we did playback on the tv show A Cappella. Guille Vilar was reluctant to put a sign “13 y 8 Records” on a corner while we were playing, and so it was done. Too bad I don't have that video copy. I also spoke with Jaime Almiral and he played the tape on his program on Radio Progreso, but he did not understand my explanations. He issued it in its entirety and said it was mine. I didn't know how to explain it to Xiomara and Ángel, Frómeta's parents, listening to her proudly with her son.
Meeting Frómeta and sharing so many beautiful things was a blessing for me. I learned a lot with him. I discovered that I could communicate by translating my musical ideas on the guitar and not by humming them. When we all agreed —at the stage of 13 and 8— to organize personal concerts, I was very impressed by its potential, and I was very clear that we could complement each other. As you know, I don't know how to read or write music (I have tried to improve myself in this sense, but without success). I thought then that our union would give good results (we initially wanted to mount a great farce, old idea of 13 and 8: at one point we decided to invest our efforts in building a character and unmasking him later). I consider that our union flowed little by little and it was not necessary more than to share dreams. Giving a good concert was always one of them.
If I'm not mistaken, after the frustrating but incredible experience of Canción Propuesta, we were able to prepare one at the Plaza's Casa de la Cultura. We wanted to develop our ideas a little more and so we did. Frómeta had Eduardo Espasande and Manuel Orza —former companions in the group Quetzaltcoalt—, also with the violinist Pedro Pablo Pedroso; and I provided contact with Isaac Capetillo, a trumpeter neighbor who had beat me to my concert at 13 and 8.
I can't forget how much it all cost us. I still see myself riding with Isis, my lovely companion from then, on the bike rack, carrying a keyboard that Arielito (Valdés) had lent us. We were never able to use it, but we did use the piano, masterfully executed by Carlos Puig, another friend of Frómeta from Quetzaltcoatl and from the Amadeo Roldán conservatory. I seem to recall that Isaac couldn't go. That night we left euphoric. It was a good concert: cymbal, electric bass, bongos, harmonica, violin, two guitars and voices… and Abelito González's Deck Akai recording everything as usual.
I met Espasande through Nacho (an officer who, one of those extremely boring days in the unit, while I was trying to get Stairway to Heaven of Led Zeppelin, appeared suddenly and with that look of a lieutenant he played the theme up and down). At that time, Espasande played in a group that rehearsed in the Almendares amphitheater. Along with Orza, he was the first to tell me about Frómeta, Alejandro Gutiérrez and Manuel Camejo, who made some impressive songs. Soon he learned several of my songs and played them on the piano somewhere, I don't know if to give me leather or because he liked them. I can see his laugh right now. I liked that guy, I miss him...
“El Pocho”, Manuel Orza, was the bassist of that strange group and we immediately began to get along. I didn't know what to think exactly, but I was flattered that people so prepared made me swing. This guy plays the bass in an impressive way; he has perfect taste to occupy his timbral function with elegance and every note that goes out of the expected is always right and round. He was also a very nice and loving guy. Sometimes I think that if it hadn't been for Frómeta's education and the path he's already walked in this world, I would never have been able to live with musicians of real stature. It was a luxury, a luck to know them. Just like Carlos Puig, trumpeter and impressive total musician. I still remember how he introduced those subtle yet cutting chords for great accompaniment in the live version of Menstrual regulation that Frometa arranged. And what about Quicksand! He always inspired a lot of respect in me; I'm sorry I haven't been more friends with all of them. At times I was self-conscious because it was very difficult for me to transmit my ideas.
Norberto Rodríguez appeared after several frustrated searches for collaborators. Frómeta and I always tried to involve each musician partner we met and we told them what we wanted to do and even the details of the passages they had to perform, but if we talk about a good electric guitarist, we could never specify anything with anyone. I think it was Osamu Menéndez who told Frómeta about a student of his father's who was working with AfroCuba. It was Norbert. When that boy “put his own”, I didn't know what to think, we were in heaven. He is unique, it is known.
Pedro Pablo, meanwhile, once commented to me that it seemed that we were milk brothers. I met him through a photo on the wall in the house of an ex, who told me, "this is a musician." I never imagined that we would have more of a relationship than that. And, unbelievably, every time we saw each other we had a lot of fun. I always thought that I was not at his level and, at times, I imagined that he was giving me leather or that he did not accept me. An impressive musician, he understood Frómeta right away and developed ideas in a transgressive and unorthodox way, but with efficient, perfect results. It made me very sad that he went to Chile and that we couldn't continue inventing. It would have been perfect if it produced the Verde melón,. I would have done great.
Isaac Capetillo was the typical trumpeter neighbor who is always fucking from the terrace of his house. He had the whole neighborhood crazy, and well, since we knew each other and got along well, I suggested that he help me by learning a tune with a flugelhorn, which we would add to my song. between 70 and 72, in my sole proprietorship at 13 and 8. He appeared that day in a surprising way playing what was agreed. Whenever he could, he did to help us. I have never seen it again.
Anyway, when I remember the things we did, I feel pleased. I know that every musician who collaborated on that dream simply did it because it suited them, despite their many other commitments. “If I look back…” I find respect, a lot of disinterested love and an exemplary discipline, almost of saints.
Hidden Havana, On the other hand, it was the name they unilaterally gave to a recording experience and compendium of various singer-songwriters. A very romantic idea at first, quite frustrating at the end, like the Verde melón,. Frómeta and I decided to choose some of our songs to include them in the anthology, among them in Villa de Paris, Almond tamarind pulp and the other two that finally appeared. We thought they were the strongest for the market. All the musicians who participated in the recording of our songs were the usual ones and Andrés Cuayo was finally able to help us, after so many failed opportunities. I think Frómeta's voice could have been improved, maybe I should have sung the Bolero, I dont know. But, in the end, everything turned out wonderfully, didn't it?
Interestingly, to the Surplus—after the CD Hidden Havana— Carlos Santos did not enter, but, as I recall, they formed a new project that they suggested I be a part of and then, due to the well-known name, they called it Surávit. I think everything was conceived while they collaborated on the recording of the album selling it all, from Lucha Almada. And, in regards to Verde melón,I have very hopeful and also very frustrating feelings. If we're playing as a team, I can't stand someone forgetting their role. Anyway, I think follow the rabbit It illustrates all of that pretty well.
As I tell you that it has been a luxury to work with such impressive, talented and virtuous musicians, I add now that I was always very concerned that we did not have them in a stable and unconditional way. Comparing Carlos Santos with Norberto Rodríguez as an instrumentalist, I can tell you, being unfair, that I prefer the former, but not because of his virtuosity, but because of a wider range of features. Due to his excellent way of playing the guitar in all its variants, he could have become a member of the group since its inception. I remember that I mentioned it to Frómeta, but he never agreed with me. It seems that he inevitably preferred to deal with the "polygamy" of others.
I think Frómeta and I complemented each other wonderfully, in a way that cannot be broken down. white mist is as mine as Éxito, urethral comfort and canned pearl his. We wrote something together, but I don't remember what. Our collaboration was more intimate and broad, we saw each other day by day and we told each other everything or almost everything. We talked a lot and we got ahead of each other, depending on what each one delivered. Cuba, Spain: You have no idea how great Alejandro Frómeta Morejón is as a musician! Today more than ever, I am proud to have known him, I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had so many experiences together.
To be continue…