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Reviews Telmary. Photo: Marcela Joya. Telmary. Photo: Marcela Joya.

Look like this

She, so high up, with her Santiago rum in hand; me, so low, with my camera ready to steal a little piece of something from her. My ability to adore her, in that instant, amplified by our positions. At times I thought about this as I fixed my gaze on her pale face, her yellow glasses, her red turban; I wondered how much my -our- perception could be affected by that physical, material place, from which an artist is seen and heard. I have the impression that the stage at Drom, the New York club in the East Village where Cuban artist Telmary Diaz was performing a few nights ago, is too high in relation to the place occupied by the audience, seated at tables in pairs. So we are left looking at the musicians as if they were saints. So they stare at us as if they were preaching from a pulpit. I had seen Telmary twice before, always standing. The second - the memorable one - was in 2018, in Havana, with her Cuban audience and in a small square at sunset. I remember that last sunlight flooding her mouth, I remember she was not drinking rum but scotch Black & White. And what I remember best is that the place was packed with women of many ages and sizes and colors and that they sang it all with a devotion that sent shivers down my spine. In that context, I was the one who had to struggle to understand certain codes, certain lines of Cuban slang and experience that were not completely ingrained or obvious to me. It was a delightful job not knowing and wanting to know but not needing to know at all in order to feel the energy of the music. Because that is one of Telmary's strengths: in her voice the language may escape you, it may barely slip through your ears like a drizzle, but in your body it pierces your intention.

It is not an instrument that you learn -the voice- but one that you can enhance or not. Telmary enhances it with what she thinks and says, she sees herself as a communicator -she once wanted to be a journalist, like her mother-, as a rapper of the people for whom her lyrics are the most important thing, and I guess that's why here, in New York, she tries to explain everything. In her New York audience there are -there usually are- very few Cubans. To sing take it as it burnsFor example, he told us: "In Havana we have some old cars that we keep fixing forever and we use as cabs, they are the almendrones". And I have no doubt that someone suddenly found out something, or wondered why such a device seems so curious, but finding out is not enough to know. Just as it is nothing like dancing because you need to dance because Telmary tells you about the importance of dancing and then asks you to dance. Or celebrating the nerve of that music that shoots poetry at you like life-giving lightning, to celebrating Telmary's birthday after she tells you that she is turning, that day, 38 -plus eight-. Certain New York audiences can seem robotic, needing direct orders from the artist to drive their behavior. Or they don't need it, but they do it all as a command. So is this particular group of thirty-something, thirty-something, middle class, mostly white and whose first language is not Spanish. But so is the power of Telmary, whom - when she does, looks and speaks - you tend to obey. "No, no, stop there, it's like this, again...", she said on several occasions to her musicians to order them to start again, and they would smile -who knows why- and start again. While he sang to us and repeated force will plow, force will plow, I thought that her presence alone exemplified the words. Telmary is a poet of feminine rage, a storyteller who with her language nibbles at the love and heartbreak, the joy and pain of the Cuban woman. Her music fights with machismo and the patriarchal order. It fights with all orders.

That you want me to wash, that you prefer me to wait, to cook, to do the dishes, that's what women are for / I was your rapper babe, your blue, your spell / and you with your partner, mistreating the body / and you with your partner, mistreating the body / and you with your partner, spending the money / what a mistake / what a mistake you are about life, my love, what a mistake.... 

 His music is rupture and the musical arrangements obey that same concept. The songs are broken and recomposed without obvious transitions, rap becomes timba, son, guaracha, bolero, and again rap, and again son and then changüí. She says that she tries a Yoruba improvisation, that she seeks freedom without losing her origins. And I have the feeling that Telmary is one of those few women artists who are being able to do what they say, to be truly consistent with what they believe in. In every sense. Listening to her you feel with more intensity -repulsion? - the softness of those vocalists who still need to avenge their heartbreaks by offending the others, so lacking in poetry and sensitivity. You feel that in her mouth the word free loses a bit of utopia and gains some reality.

Telmary at Drom, a New York club in the East Village. Photo: Marcela Joya.

Telmary at Drom, a New York club in the East Village. Photo: Marcela Joya.

Libre is called the song that I have probably listened to the most times in my life. It's on their first album, Dailyfrom 2007. It's a love poem - though not only romantic - with a sensuality that is unsettling, and I thought I was in love with the man who discovered it for me. At first I thought that's why I repeated it so much. They can't stop, stoppin us... But no: the magnet was in that voice, whose cadence is also poetry. That is why it serves to remind me that it is worth being awake when it is difficult to remember. He did not sing it this last time, but the fiber of his voice was enough to convince me, for an instant, that the man I had not remembered - nor wanted to remember - for many years was there, close to me. 

I never cease to be intrigued by that magnificent bounce of music on memory, what it is capable of doing to it. I associate Telmary with a horrible time in Miami but also with my happiest days in Havana. Two opposite emotions that through music cease to be so, they almost become one of fullness. But I listen to her mainly for the musical richness of her albums, for what surprises. Her first album is my favorite and her time in Interactivo, the group led by pianist Roberto Carcassés, which creates sonorities from Afro-Cuban and Cuban intuitions. beats of jazz, soul, rap and funk, is for me the best moment of Interactivo. The one with Yusa and William Vivanco as well.

In insidetheir most recent production (2022), there is a song titled in loveI am curious because I thought that I would not be able to hear Torroja's tone in any other way, that is to say, if it were not for what Telmary builds there, I would be able to hear Torroja's tone with pleasure. It is an album with powerful voices that Telmary enhances and also gives a lot of freedom. With Pedrito Martínez and with Alexander Abreu and with Omara Portuondo. It is also an album of evolution, of a wiser and, of course, stronger Telmary.

But there is something in that force that can lose a bit of verve when you look at it from below. It's a strange thing, it's strange to look at musicians like that, like looking at musicians who hit you in the body from a chair where you can barely move; look up, clap, smile, shut up. It happens here very often. More than a few times I have found myself questioning what I am doing there, looking like that, and trying to draw conclusions instead of inhabiting the moment. I'm not going to say that with Telmary my mind wandered more towards questions than towards pleasure and memories, but I will say that the sensation of looking at her from the wrong place accompanied me throughout the concert. I don't know. Maybe it's also because you always have to look a woman like that in the eyes, to look at her to believe again that being what you believe in is possible.

Marcela Jewel Marcela Jewel He knows how to do useful things, like cut other people's hair and get others drunk, but he prefers to listen to music, write and take pictures. In that order. More posts

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