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Interviews Fito del Río and La Granja. Photos: Courtesy of the artist

Fito del Río, the task of reinventing himself

"...there are still reasons left for this tree to make itself at home."

Fito del Rio

In times when commercial and serialized music takes an almost hegemonic protagonism, and lyrics and poetry are left in the background before rhythms that make the body move even if they do not touch the soul, independent artists strive to conceive a more original art.

One of these creators is the young singer-songwriter Adolfo del Río Vega, known as Fito del Río. An architect by studies, but a musician by vocation, he and his band La Granja have found a place among Cuban youth.

I discovered Fito in a presentation at La Madriguera a couple of years ago; his songs were almost overshadowed by a group of college students who left their vocal cords in the chorus, songs with a rock base and well thought out lyrics, derived from an early incursion into trova.

I spoke with him at the end of April, after his most recent concert at La Casa de la Bombilla Verde in El Vedado, a place for trova lovers.

Fito defines his music as sincere, for lack of other adjectives or genres to pigeonhole it. The only thing that seems to matter to him is to share his experiences through his lyrics.

Fito del Río and La Granja. Photos: Courtesy of the artist

What made you make the decision to bring music to the forefront?

I never saw it as a hobby. Since I started writing songs about anything at Lenin, I enjoyed it, I discovered a world; then, when I showed it to my friends and saw that they liked what I was doing, I said to myself: "this is what I want to be, this is what fulfills me".

The family always asks you to put those "artistic things" aside, but for me it was the opposite: school, career, those were my hobbies. My main focus was and is music.

How were the first steps for Fito del Río?

It amazes me sometimes how these things happen. In 2019 I graduate and do my first concert as Fito del Río, still without La Granja. It was small, at Cujae and with friends from the school itself. We recorded everything on a cell phone, there was very good energy, and the presentation began to be shared on a small scale. 

I did another concert at the tattoo studio La Marca, and it was also documented; this one had more quality and those audios were the first experience I had of my music reaching people; there were already people who, without knowing me, were humming my songs.

Then I came up with the idea of doing a concert in Canasi, taking the sound equipment there, creating a stage design and offering something of quality. From the first moment I knew that doing this presentation was going to have logistical difficulties; there I experienced for the first time the experience of producing. We made a very rustic scenography, with wood, lights and sound equipment.

We gave it very little promotion (just a WhatsApp status) and even so, it was a "firecracker". There were about 80 people; that was the biggest thing I had done artistically. They didn't know me there, they went because they were around and then they discovered the energy that flowed between all the partners who were trying to make it something special.

Those I met in Canasi, still go to my concerts. After that event we kept in touch, we made a WhatsApp group and started to build a very nice community that kept us alive in the quarantine for COVID-19. 

How did you deal with the confinement, knowing that presentations were going to be impossible?

Music and friends were key to get out of the rut; being in contact by WhatsApp with partners started to give me strength to record those songs I was singing and upload them to Telegram. 

They told me, "asere, we need to get out of this monotony, to change the routine a little, and maybe your music will help us". Then I started to upload songs, poems, reflections; those days also helped me to be more productive, and gave me back the desire to compose, which at that time had declined.

What they may not know is that they helped me more than I could help them, they gave me the push I needed to focus on creating, to discover new music, to discover myself a little more and ask myself the questions "Where do I want to go, how much do I owe to these people who are supporting me, how consistent should I be with them and with my art?". 

They made me go back to the beginning, to the feeling of the Lenin, but multiplied by a hundred. No matter what scale you are on, the important thing is always to feel again what made you fall in love with music. For me it is that people feel the same as I felt when I composed: to connect, to give the most sincere feeling, that union of souls is what I always look for in my songs. I believe that art is to connect, to transmit; when that is fulfilled your heart starts to accelerate.

And when the pandemic ended, what did you do?

When my forties began to loosen up, we made La Granja official, a band that was the result of a community of recent friendships and those that had been with me since school. I had only one goal: to release an album. The problem was that to do it I needed money, and I started contacting people who could help me with that.

We came up with the idea of crowdfundingBut the availability we had of networks, of the Internet, was not optimal. So we said: "let's do it the Cuban way, let's create a drink, and sell it very cheaply in the place where we go the most: La Bombilla Verde".". We talked to the owner, launched the Isla Adentro drink, and spent a month in that place, doing concerts and selling drinks, with the album in mind. 

Then he left En VivoThe EP, a five-song EP that had the essence of what I had been living, of the songs that I sang the most in concerts; now finally people could listen to me with the quality they deserved. The EP is available on my Telegram (@fitodelriomusic) and on Spotify.

Fito del Río and La Granja. Photos: Courtesy of the artist

In your last presentation you announced that a new album would be released, what can you say about it?

Yes, I just recorded an album with ten songs based on progressive rock, instrumental, very loaded, and [with] a tendency to be long. Normally the market asks for short songs, but my thing is to express what I have, musically and lyrically. I'm not interested in sacrificing what I want to say for a synthesis that promises me more plays.

It will have dark letters, because the process of creation and composition (2020-2024) has been a complicated stage, due to events that have occurred in the country and in my life.

Your name will be Sacrificeand it has been for everyone involved. A couple of members left La Granja, including Bryan, the bass player, who had been with me the longest: from Lenin, then in Cujae, and in all the craziness of the band after that.

The goal is to make it feel like a total delivery album. With Sacrifice we want to go to the social, to introspection - "who am I? where am I going?" - these are things that we have put our heads together to create.

Lacking a number of things and looking forward to many more, Sacrifice will be released in the next few months. We suffered and that feeling is captured in the album.

You started your career with the guitar and your voice, but you have evolved taking those songs to the band, how has that transition been?

Over the years I have been molding myself to what I have wanted to be and to what my time has asked me to be. Circumstances have led me to separate myself from the established trova, from its canons, because that's fine, I like that, but sometimes I feel that it's not what takes my time.

I discovered myself then mixing that strong discourse of the trova and the singer-songwriter's song with a mellow and strict poetry, and even adding to it a music that perhaps little reaches Cuba. I began to add progressive rock, psychedelic rock, a bit of traditional Latin American song, of the grungyI have given identity to my music, my seal.

Sometimes ideas come to me and I find myself doing things in a certain way, I write them down, I record them and they stay there for years. At the end of the time I see those projects and I remember what I was at that moment; that way I keep the record of the different facets of who I am. 

For me it is an achievement to look back and see differences between what I was and what I am; if I do not see them, I understand that it is because something has gone wrong.

Diego Deulofeu Salgado More posts

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  1. Héctor Valdoquín says:

    Excellent article. I was unaware of the existence of the singer but looking for his content on Spotify I discovered that I love it. A salute to the artist and hopefully the journalist will continue to bring us this kind of content.

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