The 2020 of Cuban music in nine moments
Hace un año en Magazine AM:PM nos lanzábamos a la aventura de pensar cuáles habían sido los 10 momentos de la música cubana en 2019. En aquel texto primigenio, nos preguntábamos por el futuro del ecosistema musical en la Isla en el año que se acercaba. No sabíamos entonces —cómo saberlo— que la COVID-19 llegaría para poner de cabeza nuestras vidas y que la industria sufriría también su impacto. Poco a poco vimos cómo se suspendían los principales festivales del mundo, los conciertos y las giras más anheladas, y cómo esa oleada de cancelaciones llegó a Cuba. De repente, nuestra manera de consumir música en vivo cambió, y del estadio nos fuimos al streaming, vía ETECSA y desde nuestras casas.
En ese escenario, hacemos hoy la retrospectiva hacia otros momentos, los de estos últimos 12 meses que, para bien o para mal, quedarán marcados a fuego en nuestra memoria colectiva.
New Orleans in La Habana
2020 was not yet gray when in early January we were able to attend what would be, without a doubt, the best concerts of the year. The Getting Funky in Havana —the island's first Cuban and New Orleans funk festival, organized by Cuba Educational Travel, Trombone Shorty Foundation and the International Jazz Plaza Festival— brought us the sound of the Big Easy, the one that comes from different musics and that comes from Africa, the Caribbean, America, but in the form of a great jam session. The Tank and The Bangas concert at the Cuban Art Factory, the Second Line Conga and the contagious flow of The Soul Rebels, together with thhose of the Trombone Shorty Foundation and Cimafunk in the Pink Room of La Tropical made, of those, our happy Days. End of the world days and we still didn't realize it.
A Grammy Award for the Nuviola
In addition to consolidate the international projection of Aymée Nuviola, this award is undoubtedly another sure step in the difficult career of positioning Cuban music and musicians on the great circuits. A Journey Through Cuban Music (Top Stop Music, 2019) seems to have been conceived, by the list of artists summoned, for its concept and repertoire, to say to the world: here we are. When an award of this nature does not remain within the scope of a specific record proposal, but is also a reflection and (re) creation of a heritage that has not yet been fully recognized, artists can say that both objectives were met. Such is the case.
Copyright for a controversy between Orishas and Silvio Rodríguez
The first month of the year that was to be known as COVID-19 had not passed, when social networks and the ecosystem of Cuban music became fiercely polarized as a result of the release of the song Ojalá pasa (Chancleta Records) by Orishas. On the subject, together with the Spanish Beatriz Luengo, they covered - without prior authorization from the original author - the classic Ojalá by Silvio Rodríguez, giving it an openly political reading against the current Cuban government. Beyond the extreme pronouncements of Tyrians and Trojans, the debate - which lasted until March, when Orishas was compelled to lower the subject of all digital platforms - helped us to learn a little more about copyright.
Music and coronavirus: initiatives online
Disease and death have undoubtedly been the great protagonists of 2020. In music, the list of relevant personalities from all latitudes who have left the world of the living is truly impressive. But for Cuban music, losing in the same year —with no apparent ties to the pandemic— active and vital people like DJ Dark, the forerunner of national electronics; to the young and very popular reggaeton artist El Dany (Yomil & El Dany) and to three scholars and obligatory references of wisdom in musical matters such as Sigfredo Ariel, Roberto Chorens and Liliana Casanella Cué, is too much for a single return from the Earth to the Sun. count the losses of others, long-lived but essential in our musical history such as Rosita Fornés, Orestes Macías, Cándido Camero, El Conde Negro and rumbero Israel Berrier.
La enfermedad y la muerte han sido sin dudas los grandes protagonistas de 2020. En la música, la lista de personalidades relevantes de todas las latitudes que han abandonado el mundo de lxs vivxs es verdaderamente impresionante. Pero para la música cubana, perder en el mismo año —sin vínculos aparentes con la pandemia— a gente activa y vital como DJ Dark, precursor de la electrónica nacional; al joven y popularísimo reguetonero El Dany (Yomil & El Dany) y a tres estudiosxs y referentes obligados de sabiduría en materias musicales como Sigfredo Ariel, Roberto Chorens y Liliana Casanella Cué, es demasiado para una sola vuelta de la Tierra al Sol. Eso, sin contar las pérdidas de otrxs, longevxs ya pero imprescindibles en nuestra historia musical como Rosita Fornés, Orestes Macías, Cándido Camero, El Conde Negro y el rumbero Israel Berrier.
The emergence of music channels on Telegram
Looking at the glass as half full, in this pandemic year the quarantine accelerated a series of processes related to the digital culture of Cubans. Telegram has won our hearts thanks to its (growing) multitude of functionalities that transcend the idea of a mere messaging platform. One of the uses that has gained the most popularity has been that of channels dedicated to music, a kind of asynchronous radios in which we have been able to check and explore the diversity of tastes that live in Cuba today. Channels like Yo perreo sola, La Nave Radio, 星 間 性交 (𝗅𝗈𝗌𝗍 𝗍𝗋𝖺𝖼𝗄𝗌), Radio Crisálida, Imperfecta, La Casetera or Rumor Tracks have functioned as expressive outlets for music lovers who found in this application a way of connecting with a community of anxious listeners, soundboards that confirm that they are not alone in this world. First the jubilation and then the reflection. Because it is never too late when it comes to the Aragón Orchestra. Skepticism and sour sweetness from being late need to open up little by little, without forgetting, to an equally harsh present but with new terms. "Everything has its moment," says its director. And that can be said because the Charanga Eterna today is not a group that lives on past glories or a museification of pre-established formulas. The majestic air of a danzón or the pounding and genuine pastiness of a cha cha cha, are not only obtained by turning the face, but by understanding the subtleties of music as virtues in themselves. Icon (Puntilla Music, 2020), the award-winning album, opts for a doubling in a logical attempt at evolution. Tension can be fertile. Aragon will always have to be talked about.
El primer Grammy Latino para la Aragón
First the jubilation and then the reflection. Because it is never too late when it comes to the Aragón Orchestra. Skepticism and sour sweetness from being late need to open up little by little, without forgetting, to an equally harsh present but with new terms. "Everything has its moment," says its director. And that can be said because the Charanga Eterna today is not a group that lives on past glories or a museification of pre-established formulas. The majestic air of a danzón or the pounding and genuine pastiness of a cha cha cha, are not only obtained by turning the face, but by understanding the subtleties of music as virtues in themselves. Icon (Puntilla Music, 2020), the award-winning album, opts for a doubling in a logical attempt at evolution. Tension can be fertile. Aragon will always have to be talked about
Inside , by X Alfonso, among the 50 albums of the year on NPR
What at the end of 2019 was announced as the return to the music of one of the most prolific artists of the Cuban scene, would become, months later, a phenomenon that would not go unnoticed by the gurus of the North American NPR. Inside (FACMusic, 2020), the album that X Alfonso has been releasing for more than a year, reached number 43 on the traditional list of the 50 best albums of the year according to the American media organization, which defined it as "a statement impeccable on contemporary music in Cuba, with equal parts electronic and Afro-Cuban influences ", later assuring that" choosing a favorite single would be like trying to represent a book for a single chapter "; or for a single butterfly, we would add.
The launch of the books Cuba: Music and Revolution: Original Album Cover Art of Cuban Music, The Record Sleeve Designs of Revolutionary Cuba 1959-1990 (Soul Jazz Books, UK) y Cha Cha Cha (Radio Gladys Palmera, España)
The Cuban designer Pepe Menéndez said it excellently in the Havana presentation of Cuba: Music and Revolution ... (and applies to Cha Cha Cha): his publication fills us with joy while leaving us (once again) the bittersweet flavor that It is something that we should have done in Cuba. These are two books that, from different angles, review fundamental moments of the universalization of Cuban music: the production between the years 1950 and 1990, from the covers of vinyl records released in the country; and the cha cha chá, not only as a musical genre but as a culture of an era. With these texts, Soul Jazz Books and Radio Gladys Palmera come to fill a void in the editorial production of our country, and we will be eternally grateful for that.
Cuban music magazine, without distinctions of genres or geographies.