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Oye cómo va Illustration: Nelson Ponce

Understanding timba on a Sunday

Sundays are so slow in Cuba that, at times, one does not know whether to give them an axe, tear them out of the almanac or dilute them in a coffee shop. Mine, the ones that I live in the incilio, are saved only by some verses of the boys, some readings, some hugs, friends.

Sometimes it happens that, when at nine o'clock you remember that you will never again be able to see Charlot narrated by Armando Calderon - what an old nostalgia - you call Alden Gonzalez and he answers that gentle voice, who goes around saying things where social democracy, Paez, chicharrones or Miguel Matamoros come up; because Gonzalez not only knows about son, but also knows deeply the Spanish league or the players of the Central Baltoni. The same happens, without you noticing it, to talk about how to set up a platform on the web, or about the Cuban economy (this topic has been boiling calmly for two Sundays and perhaps, so that they don't explode, use as Serrat, firewood of Cupid's arrows).

And since I know that you have worked with both Alain Pérez and Alexander Abreu, and that you know the work of NG La Banda or La Ritmo Oriental inside out, I talk to you about timba on a Sunday, one of those with stew. Because, in the end, what happened for that movement not to reach where we thought it would?

"Timba is like the catharsis of the contemporary Cuban musician, a powerful fusion of the essence of the Cuban son that was popularized especially in the 70s, which was more aggressive, closer to the expectations that were generated around the son", Alden tells me on the phone and then Sunday becomes another matter: a timba Sunday. I brought up the subject for a simple reason: the way in which Alexander Abreu has managed to propose and install himself in such a large audience.

We must remember that in the 1960s," Gonzalez says, "there was a quite drastic rupture. The emotional memory of the Cuban stopped having a lot of important music prior to the 60s among its referents. With that son of the 70s, fusions began to be created that harmonically contained a lot of influence from jazz and other North American genres, especially funk".

Everything is understandable, however, I call Alden to understand what is going on, how El Médico de la Salsa achieved so much and then there was no timba that made it very far in the international markets.

"Timba is accentuated in favor of the clave de guaguancó. People do not understand that within Cuba itself, there are those who do not feel comfortable with the clave de guaguancó, in addition to the fact that the Cuban musical guild has not sought adequate promotion mechanisms.

"I hope the timberos understand that they can approach the international public. I have the impression that they are losing communication with the dancer by complicating the montuno".

From there we move on to the Abreu case, or the way to show that it is not over.

"Alexander Abreu has, above all, an understanding of flavor and communication with the public that surpasses the rest of the timbero movement; [fundamentally] in the first part of his discography.

"Today, both Abreu and the other timberos have a hard time with the cast, because the genre has come to replace timba in a good part of the Cuban public and in many Peruvian audiences. Unfortunately, Cuban music does not have strategists' guilds; those exist in other music scenes, based mainly on the management. That does not exist in Cuba, but Alexander Abreu is the most likely to survive, because he is in a good moment. Above all, to understand that he can access another level without losing his essence.

"Abreu is very well positioned in Peru, Ecuador and parts of Colombia. I speak of areas because Colombia works like that, and Alexander, with his team, can propose to reach all of Latin America. We have worked together, and when we talk about bringing tradition to young audiences, they understand it.

He's a very flat guy, very normal. Hopefully a structure will be created that will allow him to jump that level. Fortunately, the music that Alexander Abreu has managed to hit outside Cuba has a harmonic pattern of communication with that public.

"El Noro is emotional as he leaves an Alexander Abreu concert". "Colombian singer Camilo says he is a fan of Havana D'Primera". "They publish images of Colombian public excited before the performance of singer Alexander Abreu". These are headlines I drew when on Sunday I was watching a first half that we beat to death, or vice versa. The truth is that the composer and singer, who has no boys with their hands in their fly in his singers' bar, no gossip, no tiraderas and who has a reputation for treating his musicians as family, continues to go uphill and giving hits where no one expects him. I wanted to remember him gratefully. Now that the machines are still working and I give value to a Sunday with the words of Alden Gonzalez, that friend I call to understand more about the son, the potajes, the way to put together a web, social democracy or the myth of Sam Altman. Fortunately, he always says yes.

Rogelio Ramos Domínguez Writer of verses and songs. Full-time journalist and especially father of Claudia Ramos. More posts

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