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playlists Illustration: Alejandro Cuervo. Illustration: Alejandro Cuervo.

playlist: once upon a time

Literature, cinema, television, videogames, even popular legends, leave a trail of fictional characters that cohabit nostalgia and, also, songs. Many times these beings, created by brilliant minds full of exquisite universes, travel through our lives and transform into something else. In music, perhaps.

Today in Magazine AM:PM we have dressed in cutesy and put together a playlist where those childhood stories —others not so much— that taught us to love fiction, or what is more important: to dream, pop up every so often. Cuban musicians embrace their favorite characters and make them romp to the beat of the music, sometimes reconfiguring their narratives, meanings, their future. There are some classics here; Also other surprises. But let's not delay it any longer, let's dedicate ourselves to listening. 

Superman's girlfriend / Composer: José Luis Medina; Interpreter: Open Havana 

The beast of the rock, the one who dreams of Central Park and dreams of illusions on the coast, her. Is the third track by Boomerang (Calle54 Records, 2006), in which José Luis Medina and the rest of the band add flavor to a story that is also one of nostalgia and separation. Superman's girlfriend dances to forget all that, and maybe we should all imitate her. Let her reign, please, let's see if the laws change. 

The dolls  / Ignacio Cervantes; Ernán López-Nussa version 

Probably one of the best versions that has been made and played of this cheerful dance by Ignacio Cervantes is the one arranged by Ernán and that his nephew Harold frequently performs in his concerts. Apparently simple, it has some interesting rhythmic elements and counterpoints with which it manages to be one of the works that speak in your ear of that elusive category that is Cubanness. There are those who say that, when they listen to any of the López-Nussa pianists, they “see” those dancing dolls, moved by the invisible strings of a puppeteer.

Ali Baba / Composer: Ernesto Lecuona; Performer: Rita Montaner

of the comic operetta The Muslim Guaracha —premiered in the 1930s at the Teatro Principal de la Comedia de La Habana, with lyrics by Gustavo Sánchez Galarraga and music by Ernesto Lecuona—, Rita sings here to a “criollo” Alí Babá to whom she says: “your black She is crazy about your loves, my beautiful Moor of the heart”. The apocryphal chief of the 40 thieves refuses to take her to the East, because he does not want to leave Cuba. 

Scheherazade cha cha cha / Pilot and Vera 

The most prolific and successful duo of Cuban composition wrote this song that opens the album Grupo Cubano de Música Moderna (Panart —nationalized—, 1962), one of the all-stars put together by pianist Frank Emilio Flynn together with Tata Güines (tumbadoras), Papito Hernández (bass), Gustavo Tamayo (güiro), Guillermo Barreto (drums) and Roberto Valdés (bongo). More than the mythical princess of Arabian Nights, Scheherazade… It is a tasty discharge in allegorical chachachá time to the also mythical club located in the Focsa building, one of the many clubs that made the Havana night legendary.

Aladdin / Aragon Orchestra 

With lyrics by the poet and tango composer Julio Camilloni and music by Rafael Farías Cabanillas, this version by the Orquesta Aragón, as expected, sounds in chachachá time. A boy dreams of having Aladdin's lamp to solve all those fantasies and problems that come his way, from having a little brother to doing well in an exam, saving a friend's sick mother or getting into a movie theater without paying.

flying to the moon / Gerard Alfonso 

A short essay on the dark side of the moon and souls; a vampire who "seems noble by the way he looks at you and talks to you"; a song with a poetics that at first glance could feel dark and ghostly but that actually results in an amazing clarity. An author with a very deep dart, a sociological vocation through poetry, a guitar and a voice that know how to draw the night and the cold. Vampires are everywhere.

Pinocchio / José Fajardo and His Cuban All Stars 

Another of the children's songs by Julio Camilloni and Rafael Farías Cabanillas that traveled the world, here versioned by another charanga, that of José Antonio Fajardo and also in chachachá time. Badly injured Pinocchio arrives at the dolls' hospital and to make matters worse, his survival depends on being given a heart. A protective fairy always has the solution.

ugly duckling / Composer: Vanito Brown; Cast: Gema and Pavel 

As luck would have it, the Gema and Pavel duo found one of their essential composers in Vanito Brown. They say that this is the best version of this song that has been made, that Gema's voice is —once again— to fall in love with. The truth is that when the singer says: "I must be happy and I'm crying", the outside world disappears. There is only his voice, Pavel's guitar and the story of this peculiar Ugly Duckling and his Cinderella.  

Sinuhe / Silvio Rodriguez 

Even when he sings about the war, Silvio is beautiful. In Sinuhe, album song date with angels (Ojalá, 2003) not only refers to the protagonist of the popular novel Sinuhe, the Egyptian of the Finnish Mika Waltari, but to characters from Arabian Nights to denounce in his verses the atrocities of the war: "Something should bewitch the missiles / Someone should blow up / The fungus of civil rights / Of the ghosts that populate Baghdad". 

come on heart (Ballad for Mario Conde) / Good Faith 

from his album omens (Egrem, 2006), the song is inspired, as its subtitle indicates, in the most recurrent character in the literary work of the writer Leonardo Padura. Israel Rojas has confessed: "Mario Conde once lived inside me and from time to time he appears". Probably in those moments when his usual optimism and security abandon him, the composer “remembers that strange piece of advice: change the floor every ten years”.

momo / Miguel de la Rosa 

The gray men, who endlessly smoke cigars made from hour flowers, steal time. The time of humanity. There, in that surreal metaphor where life becomes sterile, Momo has the gift of listening. The hours return, inevitably, thanks to her. That is the story that once consumed us when we entered the wonderful universe created by the German Michael Ende and now comes in the form of music. There are songs that know how to transport us to the books we love; this is one of them. Because when Migue sings: “Momo: the flowers of the place called him / Momo: what magic has the world where you go / Momo, how will it get there, my dream”, one feels that he is devouring those pages again. We are going to die today, here. Like in Ende's novel, but in this song. 

Letter from a Cuban boy to Harry Potter / Frank Delgado 

Look, Harry Potter - Frank-child writes to him -, if you want to know what real magic is, come to Havana, forget about Hogwarts and meet the emerging masters ("who don't know anything, but count"), and step bring JK Rowling with you, to write about the magical act of surviving. That leaves no sequels. 

Matojo has already grown / Adrian Berazain 

Matojo, the mythical character of Manuel Lamar Cuervo, Lillo, who jumped from cartoons to animated films, is the protagonist of this song by Adrián Berazaín that appears on his album like the crazy (BisMusic, 2010). The child of the well-known phrase “a swimmer, we need a swimmer” appears here as the pretext that the singer-songwriter uses to talk about past childhood and the challenges and frustrations of life —sometimes unpleasant— that appear with maturity.  

Don Quixote / Raul Torres 

Dedicated to the most universal of the fictional characters that the Spanish language has produced —with mentions for Sancho Panza, Rocinante and a featuring quite free of Mickey Mouse—, the song speaks, as it could not be otherwise, of the strings that seem crazy and fight tirelessly where others abandon and settle. “The more mills and giants, the more Quixotes heading for the Sun”, Torres sang in this track of the disk Platinum Mockup (2006), the last one he recorded in Spain.

Mickey and Mallory / Santiago Feliu 

For this album song Immediate future (Bis Music, 1999), Santiago was inspired by the characters in the film Natural Born Killers, by Oliver Stone, two ruthless murderers who are nothing more than a product of the corrupt and violent society. Mickey and Mallory look for options at the end of the 90s, where nobody is innocent, where nobody has solutions or defined heroes. Death and love, nothing else is worth them. 

William Tell / Carlos Varela 

Using the legend of William Tell as a premise, Carlos Varela moved the focus of attention from the Swiss warrior to his son, who thinks that it is time for the crossbow and the heroic gesture to change hands. With this theme, the first of the B-side of the album Jalisco Park (Eligeme Discos, 1989), the Cuban singer-songwriter had several successes: the synthesis and the fact that he moves away from any type of localism or temporal reference allow it to be not only an excellent metaphor of the generational change in Cuban politics and society of the time, but has become a hymn for young people of any time. 

Ballad of Elpidio Valdés / Silvio Rodriguez 

There is not (and probably there will not be) a fictional character as charismatic and loved by the Cuban people as Elpidio Valdés. Juan Padrón gave us a figure that we love big and small, an endearing guy with whom we carry for the rest of our lives. This song is dedicated to that peerless patriot, a song that Silvio Rodríguez wrote in his days with the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del Icaic, at the request of Padrón. There is hardly a Cuban born after the 70s who listens to this song without something being awakened in him. (Fun fact: it's not a ballad, it's a son, serene but brave, and Silvio recorded it with a marimbulero from Key West).

I left my house one day / Composer: Francis del Río; Performer: Interactive 

All the mischief of Francis del Río overflows in this song that appears on the album Cubans around the World (Bis Music, 2010), from Interactive. Jana—the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his series tarzan of the apes— moved from the jungle to Havana and appears to the composer over and over again through the streets of the city. He, immersed in a strange dream, feels like King Kong, an African prince; while the unmistakable sound of Roberto Carcassés' les chiques makes us dance. 

Cinderella / Eddie K. feat. He rules 

In this theme of his album cuban-style (Portraits Inc., 2011)  Eddy K appropriates, in collaboration with El Mola, the fable of Cinderella to celebrate that girl who in all her splendor takes over the night and disappears without a trace. A careful listening to the song (something that almost no one would do, being a song for perreo) allows us to suspect that behind that sarcastic and macho celebration, what there is is a mixture of frustration and admiration for how free that is. woman. Ivy Queen would be proud of her.

Little Red Riding Hood / Clan 537 

Baby Lores and Insurrecto drew a second part of the story of Little Red Riding Hood and decided that —since the second parts are not good— it should be told by the wolf. The wolf that survived the hunter and decided to leave the forest takes revenge on an already less innocent and more reckless Little Red Riding Hood. What seems to constitute a vulgarization of the legendary tale is resignified here, however, to the starkness of the message and the change of narrator. Definitely, Little Red Riding Hood ended up being sweetened to be told to children, but the message of erotic-sexual content, puberty and even pederasty, will hardly abandon this story, no matter how hard society tries.

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