Mike Porcel, a lost sheep, a little older
It is impossible to leave unscathed from Sueños al pairo. Either because you lived the Cuba of the time that portrays and makes you review all the traumatic events that are shown there, or because you are part of a generation that has been stolen an essential portion of its history, and begins to recognize it and get serious talk with it. The documentary that José Luis Aparicio and Fernando Fraguela have built around the life of Mike Porcel gathers how the intolerance of a government and a society can break a person's life.
In a mirrors game full of irony, the Cuban censorship machinery, instrumentalized in this case through the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, has been activated to prohibit the display of Sueños al pairo , alleging that there was an inappropriate use of images on which it holds the right, in a spiral of confrontations from irreconcilable positions that has ended with the postponement of the Muestra Joven and the dismissal of its director, Carla Valdés León.
This is a documentary that all Cubans should have the opportunity to access, not with the revenge spirit that increasingly seizes social networks, but as a learning exercise of collective construction as a nation, which can not claim ignore our darkest hours.
But after the irremediable question of how many thousands of stories like this we will never access because they are not that of Mike Porcel, I began to think that one of the best ways to heal our wounds as a country, at least in this particular case, it is approaching the work of this musician who tried to spoil, rediscovering his past pieces and connecting with all his production after his departure from Cuba, more than 30 years ago.
I hadn't approached Mike Porcel's work before. For me it was another name in the pantheon of the Cuban song, the founder of Síntesis, the author of Diario, that piece that Santiago Feliú beautifully interpreted, and the theme of the '78 Youth Festival that Algeria Fragoso defended, and little else; in general, his solo discography, meager and powerful, had gone unnoticed for me. For the obvious reasons, because in Cuba their creations were blacklisted by the mass media —fortunately some survived in the voices of singers like Elena Burke and, more recently, Ivette Cepeda— because in the local press references to his work is practically non-existent —blessed Joaquín Borges-Triana and Caimán Barbudo —, because his work is not part of the epic of the Nueva Trova nor is it forged in a cursed speech that makes him the standard bearer of the fight against the Cuban government. So through my personal discovery I propose an exercise of collective (re)discovery.
Mike Porcel is an author in which comes together a solid formation as a classical guitarist (with an evident taste for the harmonies of European classical music and Anglo-Saxon rock), and a unique poetic sensibility, in which a polished handling of the word, with simple and intimate images, that manage to overcome the black hole of colloquialism, so expensive to the environment of the time in which this artist was formed.
This distinctive brand of his work left a mark on the groups and projects in which he became involved in Cuba until the late '70s - the first LP of Amaury Pérez, the En busca de una flor of Synthesis—, but not it is possible to fully appreciate it until the late arrival of his debut album, Intactvs (MusicMP.Inc, 2008). In this album, which includes several of the songs that Porcel wrote to date, the arrangements and the somewhat anachronistic mix (intentionally or not, sounds like it was a work recorded in the 80s) they are forgiven, as that fragile voice of his is forgiven, because they save (and us with him) some letters and melodies that should have always accompanied us.
It is embarrassing that the Cuban government wanted to put out the voice that wrote things like: “Violating distances protects you yellow, / the closed heart, the mystery of wine and the year it went”( Ana María ); “A song does not save what is lost / nor can it give encouragement to what dies / Sadder or more serene, it saves its grief / knowing simply that it only flies / and that love sooner or later / will leave its hiding place flower in hand ”( Song to wait for dawn ); “Between the seaweed and the snails I became a faithful lover in my own way / without more defense than the illusions or the flight that a dove brought me. / I left my body in the drizzle and felt the lack of your kiss / but the rain gave me a richness that your breath and your kiss did not give me ”( Diario ).
How good it would have made us go through the last 40 years accompanied by Mike's songs.
To our fortune, the insile of the 80s to which Porcel was subjected did not end the artist. “Music has always been with me,” he replies via email, “that could not be taken away from me. I started working in a church (San Antonio de Padua) as an organist and then also in others. I had no job and was (fortunately) the only one I found related to music. I continued composing. Many of the themes on my CD Personal daten from that time. ”
From Intactvs to date Porcel has produced other two own albums - Personal (MusicMP.Inc , 2013) and Echoes (MusicMP.Inc , 2017-, an album in collaboration with singer Ivette Cepeda and actor Daniel García Rangel ( Versos del alma, Juan Primito Productions, 2016), in addition to continuing his collaboration with theatrical groups such as Avante, an old vice that never left him after his days at Teatro Estudio and the unique experience what the show meant Que hablen los poetas .
Putting aside the difficulties for independent production that Porcel may face, and of all the chords that were left on the road for the social death penalty to which he was sentenced, Mike Porcel should do more to promote his work. In times when virtually no one lives from the sale of their music, but they are their best promotional mechanism, it is unforgivable that their latest productions cannot be consumed on the digital platforms of the moment (YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music) and are only accessible through The CDBaby platform, a small dinosaur in danger of extinction (when asked about it, he clarified that these materials will soon reach the main music platforms).
If someone rummages a lot they can find fragments of Echoes on a YouTube channel, a kind of suite "for orchestra and rock band" in which Porcel conjures up his influences and delivers a vigorous piece of vibrant eclecticism, not suitable for all ears, but that progressive rock lovers can appreciate. If someone rummages further, he will find instrumental compositions on his personal website (Church; Five arrangements for wind quintet ) that dispense with the word (progressively the words disappear from Porcel's work), something we don't miss when we realize that the strength of these orchestrations is eloquent enough.
"At the moment I don't dedicate as much time to my work as a singer-songwriter as years ago," he says. “I do concerts and it is what keeps me most in touch with my songs. From time to time I make a song, but I am more focused on orchestral music, the music I compose for theater, and musical projects that go through other paths. ”
We will never know how much music was choked in Mike's throat or not (the artist, the man we know that too much, just do the reading to which we invite the filmmakers of Sueños al pairo , when they close the documentary with Porcel singing Diario and leaving us with certainty that speaks to that diffuse thing that we call home country).
Speculating about it is entering the field of fiction, but the life of Mike Porcel, his absolute defense that the spirit of a song is not negotiated, his example that a song can have complex harmonies without sacrificing simple beauty, are more than enough reasons for us to learn to value his work.
In an interview available on YouTube, he says: “ I keep fighting to stabilize my career, because when you lose nine years and come to light later (...) I was surprised that on the Internet they say 'ah, but I thought that you were dead '… Do you realize? Thanks to all this new technology (Facebook, YouTube, computers) an independent artist can show up and keep in touch with the public, but many years passed in which all this there not existed, and there was a great void, like a great silence around me".
To survive as unharmed as possible, Porcel has had to shed nostalgic feelings. In his memory there are only tatters of a Havana that has the certainty that he will not see again (his parents' house, some other street).
In the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Music in Cuba the entry corresponding to Mike Porcel reaches the founding of Síntesis, his work with Teatro Estudio in the first part of the 70s, and closes with the brief reference "He settled in Spain." According to this canon he died when he was silenced from the official culture. I would like the shameful episode of censorship of Sueños al pairo it could result in us hearing more about Porcel, that his name be restored, not only in official history, but especially in the collective memory of our nation.
From all this unfortunate stir, Mike Porcel draws some happy conclusions: “I have been contacted on my Facebook page by young people of a generation who were not even born in those days. Chronicles have been written, very beautiful comments (…) to all from my heart THANK YOU! ”
Echoes (MusicMP.Inc, 2018)
Personal (MusicMP.Inc, 2013)
Intactvs (MusicMP.Inc, 2008)
Rafa G. Escalona
Certified Journalist. Father of a music magazine.