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Reviews Roly Berrio. Photo: Jorge Bonet / Design: Evelyn Batista. Roly Berrio. Photo: Jorge Bonet / Design: Evelyn Batista.

Flies of Fire (the concert) / Roly Berrío

There is a type of artist who is not famous, popular, well-known, but who has a public that follows him with special devotion. That's the cult artist. Roly Berrío is a cult artist. That's why fire flies, the DVD published by the label of the Cuban record company Colibrí, has been one of the most long-awaited materials of recent times.

During his 19-year career as a solo artist, Roly had only obtained two recording materials: the first self-released (In concert, 2009), and the second as a result of the recording of one of the concerts clean guitar from the Paul Centerthey just go out, 2011).

In Roly's poetry, in his music, and in his many voices, the tender and the fierce, the sad and the happy converge. And the sincere. Anyone who has seen him for more than half a minute on stage will agree with me that his stage projection and histrionics make him a tremendous showman. Idolatry aside, Flies of Fire (the concert) it becomes the first of his productions that reflects all that, with all the irons.

The original idea was to make a studio album. But Roly's work team understood that cloistering that energy in a recording room would mean cutting off an important part of the phenomenon that this artist is and proposed to record a live album, excellent material from its first frames to the last. fade to black 

Here I must again complain about the absence of an audio CD that accompanies the audiovisual product, because Flies of Fire (the concert) it's just a DVD. It is not a mere collector's and fan's whim. I say it and I repeat it: it is not enough to peck the audio with some little program, nor that the music is on Spotify. You need the fucking disk.

The first thing that delighted me was discovering in the track list the-same-old-songs. It is very common —and even understandable— that, in these cases of delayed albums, the artist wants to include his greatest hits. This may respond to a desire to condense all those years of career at the first opportunity, or to play it safe with already proven topics. It happens many times that no one takes away the whiff of a compilation, because you can tell that the songs come from different creative stages, even though they have a similar sound. In that sense, most of the themes of this production were composed during the last five years, so Flies of Fire (the concert) it is an updated portrait of its author. And that is very good. 

One cannot expect less than excellent work if it is Alain Pérez who is in charge of musical production and, although his addition is evident, these songs are still essentially Roly, and the arrangements, just right: here there is not a surplus or lack of a note . Much of the credit also deserves the band that accompanies the troubadour in the material. Dayron Oney on wind instruments, Andy García on keyboards, Rainer Pérez on bass and Roberto Vizcaíno on percussion, all musicians who usually accompany Alain. Les Invitades are not far behind, and I highlight the bestial solo of three that Maikel Elizarde does in the hot bread —seriously, and as Roly says: “what is it that man has on his fingers?”.

And yes, in the previous paragraph I said that Roly was a troubadour. I already know that trova died long before Fito sang that… The protest singers lost all bets..., that Gema and Pável were dissolved, and that Santiago Feliú died. I know that it lacks originality, it has too many exponents and it suffers from audience anemia. However, in addition to the dinosaurs, two or three interesting, authentic and attractive artists still survive. At the head of that small group is Rolando Berrío. 

Fire Flies… seems to me something so exquisite that it does not need a text, and choosing highlights I find it quite difficult, if not impossible. But I try. From the first song Bernabeu, a phrase emerges that becomes recurrent throughout the material, and that it would be good if we repeated it every day as a mantra: "It's already good as guapería, that in Cuba what is needed is affection". With an opening like that, you know you're going to get through an hour and a quarter of love and feeling total.

In Lion teeth Roly's all-terrainism became very evident to me: how much the outdated rockers from “La Bana” would like to make a blues half as good and sanguine! I really think this guy is capable of breaking all the codes of all genres.

Right in the middle of the concert there is a beautiful moment where Roly is left alone with his guitar for two pieces: the cute comic chinese tales, and the bittersweet Oldies. This last one, a lesson on political song, sincerity and consequence. 

Bean is a waste of swing, of euphoria, of laughter: Andy García on keyboards and Tato Vizcaíno on percussion lead us to a state of grace. How can an eight-minute track be made so short? The emotional phrasing of Dayron Oney's flugelhorn, and the flow low rev marked on fire flies, turn this beautiful reggaeton into the most sensual theme of the work. 

Finally, I cannot fail to highlight three songs that break my life, where Roly's poetry and heart shine more brightly: crags of illusion, the smell of roses and life is a necklace. Tears — of happiness, sadness or nostalgia — are guaranteed.

The design is one of the few defects that I find in the material: it is not related to the art of credits and titles of the audiovisual, nor to the set design of the concert. The idea of the afro, the pose, and the cover art treatment are too hackneyed devices to portray such an authentic musician. In fact, it quite reminded me of Natty Dread (1974) by Bob Marley. I do not find harmony between the fonts used and the image, something unfortunately common in Cuban records, which usually give the impression that the texts are intended as an informative label and not as another design element. In short, I see there more the intention of generating a “lethal” image than that of portraying the artist or the work. 

Nelson Ponce is a good designer, there is no doubt. However, sometimes he doesn't seem to handle the codes of record design well —I remember the disastrous cover of the 4 Decades of Synthesis. So, why choose him over and over again to work on a support in which he doesn't perform so well? Perhaps a happier choice would have been Evelyn Batista, responsible for the graphic design of the launch campaign, who has shown, in addition to talent, that she is the owner of an angel consistent with Roly's sensitivity. By God, you just have to see the beautiful covers of the singles from the album, in which the puncture of a “monster” like Javier Mariscal resonates!

It's hard not to bite your liver with rage for not having been on the set of Fire flies... Luckily, another of the virtues of this work is that of the effective audiovisual recording, by Marc Campà and Igor Cortadellas (who, by the way, is competing in Cannes this year with his immersive virtual reality film symphony). With the minimal resources that a place with the spatial characteristics of El Mejunje allows, these Catalan filmmakers are capable of deceiving us and making us feel that seeing this audiovisual is (almost) the same as having been there. 

I said, Fire Flies… It is an almost impeccable job, capable of looking face to face at international projects. It is surprising that a material like this, meticulous from the mix to the executive production —respects for Marihué Fong and Gisela Sais—, has only been nominated for Cubadisco in the section of making-of. But hey, you should already be used to such nonsense from that little premiere.

With how terrible a 2021 has been marked by the ferocious ubiquity of COVID-19, the wear and tear of more than a year of this exasperating situation, the erratic behavior of the Cuban government, or the escalation of hatred that the world has experienced, few companies will be better than that of these songs. And how great are our record companies that didn't take even 20 years to discover it! 

This is very timely material because it serves as a showcase of what Roly's genius can be when he has the resources at his disposal. Hopefully it will serve to place it beyond the musical environment underground, so to speak. And I only think of this as a possibility because, the way the world works, that level of detail, depth and quality is not enough to make that leap. I also hope that your next projects don't take so long. Because Roly deserves it. And we need it.

Ivan Eged Iván Egüed collector music lover Auto engineer and other nonsense. Inveterate child. Soursop addict. Always Happy, never unFeliúz. Sometimes with my feet on the ground... More posts

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  1. Darío. says:


  2. Omara, says:

    Excellent article! The great Roly deserves to be promoted intensely for the good of the Cuban public.

  3. Anais says:

    Excellent review, agree with everything except for the "inclusive" language. Roly is an ARTIST.

  4. Raul berrio cabrera says:

    Hard brother I am very close but I very much agree with you I have lived everything very closely and I know of your total dedication to your passion greetings

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