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Reviews The Cuban Pipers. Standing, from left to right: Tony Suárez Rocabruna and Regino Tellechea. Seated, from left to right: Hermes Goicochea, Virgilio "Yiyo" López and Gilberto Valdés Zequeira. (Photo taken from the blog www.desmemoriados.com). The Cuban Pipers. Standing, from left to right: Tony Suarez Rocabruna and Regino Tellechea. Seated, from left to right: Hermes Goicochea, Virgilio "Yiyo" López and Gilberto Valdés Zequeira. (Photo taken from the blog www.desmemoriados.com).

Memory and poetic justice

In the midst of the turbulence of the call blogosphere –a universe where the human, the divine, responsibility and frivolity dance and shake hands in the digital age– it is possible to find jewels. I myself found one that I wouldn't part with for the world. It's about the blog forgetful. Cuban music stories (www.desmemoriados.com). All entries, dating from 2014 to date, have been written by Rosa Marquetti, who defines herself as a person “privileged to work on something that I really like. I live music, cinema and visual arts. I work on copyright issues, although I am also passionate about delving into the history of Cuban music and musicians, which is why I investigate and write about them.”

I would say more: Rosa, who works as a specialist of the Cuban delegation to the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), in an intellectually rigorous researcher and stubbornly tenacious because of the writer that she is, combining analysis and documentation, hypotheses and sureness, objectivity and passion.

From the blog pages it has gone to the old but still tremendously current and effective printed page – who says that the Gutenberg galaxy is extinct? –, and this was possible due to the interest of the Colombian publisher La Iguana Ciega and the Fundación Cultural Nueva Música, responsible for publishing the book forgetful, selection of some of the texts initially disseminated in the author's digital blog.

Cover of the book Desmemoriados. Historias de la música cubana [“Forgetful/Histories of Cuban music”], of Rosa Marquetti Torres.

Cover of the book Desmemoriados. Historias de la música cubana [“Forgetful/Histories of Cuban music”], of Rosa Marquetti Torres.

The book, like a suite, is structured in 16 movements, each one of them devoted to shedding light on processes, episodes or biographical aspects — sometimes very specific, and not necessarily all-encompassing — and artistic contributions of Cuban music figures who, in diverse periods, have marked milestones in the island’s world of music and its international projection.

Some are more well-known — who doesn’t remember Dámaso Pérez Prado or Celeste Mendoza, or the ineffable voice of son and rumba, Carlos Embale, or the Cuban influence of Nat King Cole, the deeply-rooted piano of Bebo Valdés, or his legacy, made larger and multiplied by his son Chucho. Others are less known: it is the moment for rediscovering Armando Peraza and Carlos Vidal Bolado, Guapachá and Maggie Prior. All of them, however, the greatest and the great, are subjected to a review of their origins and influences, where speculations are cleared up, mysteries are solved, things are put in their place, and balanced hierarchies are established.

Although all the stories and arguments of the book are equally fascinating, there is one that, due to its demystifying and restorative sense, I would like to highlight in a particular way: Deconstructing the Chori.

Shedding light on and trying to set straight the saga of a legendary character like Silvano Schueg Hechavarría, better known as El Chori, is not just a question of drawing the line between myth and reality in the dense wilds of nocturnal Havana, at times fodder for nostalgia and at others, for damnation.

A timbalero-turned-showman, star attraction of Playa de Marianao night spots visited by celebrities, extolled by writers and chroniclers, his image dimmed with the onset of the radical revolutionary transformations of the 1960s, and for many he became a simple scribble on walls of Havana’s streets and plazas, or at the most, a folkloric reference, if not a mere shadow in the past.

Rosa, however, is not hindered by myths or tall tales. She sounds things out, demands answers, weighs both lights and shadows, confronts sources in a constant dialogue, and leaves us with an image of El Chori that is as close as possible to what he represented, both sociologically and artistically, a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.

Her essay/memoir about El Chori demonstrates the methods and tools Rosa uses to closely examine the protagonists of her stories, such as her new book on Chano Pozo, to be issued by the Cuban publishing house Editorial Oriente.

It is desirable that sooner rather than later forgetful have an issue on the island. And that other stories that are part of the blog, and those that are weaving now and tomorrow, continue to have a printed expression. Book by book, Rosa Marquetti contributes to Cuban musicography.

Pedro de la Hoz More posts

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