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Reviews Album cover: Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Alpízar / Design: Pepe Menéndez. Album cover: Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Alpízar / Design: Pepe Menéndez.

Heritage drink / Echoes of Tivolí

Le Tivolí was a café created by the French in the Santiago neighborhood that today bears that name. In the area of the famous Padre Pico staircase and houses on high, facing the Caribbean Sea, in those streets lives a tradition that adds the sones of Matamoros, the songs of Sindo Garay and, more than a century later, even troubadours and soneros that in times of electronic sound still support life based on pristine sounds. 

That is the case of Ecos del Tivolí, an ensemble that emerged in March 1992, four years before the sonero-tourist fever that cornered the son between the tempting ubiquities of the dollar and a nostalgia “created” by aged and essential musicians. grouped in the Buena Vista Social Club.

Ecos del Tivolí summarizes in itself part of the Cuban essence, its repertoire is based on son, bolero, rumba, guaracha and conga and they interpret the same compositions of their own as those of established authors such as Miguel Matamoros, Ñico Saquito, Francisco Repilado, Rafael Hernández or Joe Arroyo. His works have been heard in Switzerland, Spain, Colombia or Venezuela; At his side, always great artists who corroborate the talent of these creators.

After eight albums with Egrem and Bis Music, Ecos del Tivolí launches into an independent production, patrimonial drink, a sum of 10 themes in which, to a large extent, life experiences from deep Santiago (fights of roosters, misfortunes in love in the style of jukeboxes of the 40s or even experiences about the relationship with money). All the works are by Jorge Javier González with arrangements by Esteban Blanco, who assumes the production.

A patrimonial drink, which could have a better sound, the wisdom of its singers is enough to tell the stories written by Javier González. In the guides you can hear soneros who know how to move through the bass and treble, and say timely quatrains of opportune grace, heirs to the essence of the best septets that exist in the land of Emiliano Blez and Tiburón Morales.

If not, listen to the homonymous theme of the album; where the singer, José Antonio Rosabal, assumes with proverbial power the roots of the Cuban son. What could be another affirmation of the deliciousness of a coffee from these mountains is made new by the way of speaking of these musicians in whose veins Santiago de Cuba becomes vital. 

However, I insist on the need to talk about the current problems of the people and the linguistic norms of music lovers, a fact that has been achieved by creators as disparate as Gamba (this one worthy of study) or the most transcendental of all: Cándido Fabre. Both artists, each in their scene and possibility, have shown the value of speaking directly to their people.

Now in the fence, Ecos del Tivolí deals with an illegal phenomenon that occurs mainly in the interior of the country, where cockfights are combined with music and the sale of illicit substances and goods on weekends. With money and in love, an approach to the changüí, addresses the issue of money humorously, alluding to the "misfortune" of not having money. Perhaps an eternal issue, but one that is close to the life of today's man or woman, something that makes the group more enjoyable, since many septets lose audiences by tacitly refusing to dialogue with the present.

This fact makes the subsistence of these groups complicated, not all of them manage to insert themselves in international circuits such as El Septeto Santiaguero; however, there are those who, from the defense of the national, play the current as Sierra Maestra or the Young Classics of Son did, each one at its time.

Polo Montañez was, perhaps, one of those atypical cases; its friction with the ranchera and the ballad gave international flight to a "sonero sound" format and, therefore, without losing attachment to its audience, the commercial impulse came from abroad, as happened with the Buena Vista.

Playing son in times of electronic music, reggaeton and timba carries those fearsome risks; the dancer has many options, both in the music itself and in the modes and platforms to consume it, and therefore, the septets are obliged to agree with their audiences, live off tourism (impossible today) or close doors. 

In patrimonial drink there is a combination of pros and cons. Some songs speak to their listeners about current issues, however —I suspect— they should go more directly to people's lives and in their way of saying.

I think that Ecos del Tivolí, with the quality of its singers and the sonority that it has achieved after two decades, could connect better with the people of its neighborhood: the pain, the anger or the joy of those who have to deal with it on a daily basis. with darkness and despair. Let us remember that Matamoros himself entered the ring with questions from Santiago de Cuba so immediately, such as the sudden disappearance of a street vendor sentenced for a common crime. “Where is it, Major?” Matamoros asked in a song that would sell thousands of copies and would continue on its way a century later, already as a classic of international music.

Although it sounds pretentious, being born in the eastern part of Cuba comes with a cultural torrent that has transcended and can continue to do so. Those of the Septeto Ecos del Tivolí go, like others, against the current, although when there is a production and strategy of management consistent, there is the possibility of achieving what seemed impossible. There is enough potential in the group for this.

With jobs like patrimonial drink Ecos del Tivolí goes out into the ring alone, it is the first time that they do not have a backing label, but the world has already turned in favor of almost personal promotion possibilities and ecosystems continue to be reinvented where even the great prizes see their standards dismembered .

In any case, it is worth listening to this proposal in which 10 songs try to pan through the music of the Cuban East with nods to contemporary sounds. The eighth phonogram of Ecos del Tivolí, recorded independently at Natural Music studios, brings us back the essence of a fundamental Cuban culture.

Le Tivoli was a cafe concert created in the neighborhood that today bears that name, the echo of that aroma now arrives on this album with the flavor of a heritage drink and with hints of life in this time in which beauty has, like Bacardi rums, the possibility to mix, until achieving perfection.

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

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