The Inside era
a year ago i heard Change and immediately asked about the other topics of Inside. If that was the new X Alfonso album after a decade, then I didn't need a singleI needed them all. Speaking with the arrogant euphoria of a historical fan and with the double haste of a young mother who wanted to dominate domestic tedium, seek respite in intellectual work and shoot together with the mainstream culture, I told a friend: “This is a scam”. My friend was working on the album launch campaign and also knew me well, so she looked at me the way you look at someone who doesn't understand anything. Someone who is not in tune, but who still passes for incorrigible.
A year ago I did not understand what it was Inside. I found out some time later, when the process of conceiving the album showed me that it had nothing like a conventional phonogram. That's why we had to wait a month between one topic and another, that's why we saw the city full of graffiti, or some other mural, that's why X Alfonso had moved to social networks and a powerful communication campaign accompanied him in that new collective and multimedia adventure. Precisely, the artistic transversality of what we initially thought of as an album and that was its best gain. We confirm it now, a year on the way and almost about to close a magnificent cycle next December with its volume II. The first also had nine themes and of the latter we still have six to discover.
A symbol has guided this entire journey: the butterfly created by Nelson Ponce as the official image and that varies with the release of each new theme. As X Alfonso explains, it is based on the famous butterfly effect: “a tiny event can alter a sequence of events of immense magnitude in the long term. In addition, it is also associated with chaos theory, since small variations in the initial conditions of a process can imply large differences in its future behavior and make long-term prediction impossible”. In keeping with that philosophy, the team behind Inside assumed total freedom of creation and improvisation throughout the project and that, among other things, has kept it interesting and active, even during a pandemic.
Thus, at this point the butterfly is already overflowing its purposes, some have even tattooed it, and continues to travel the world. We were moved, for example, by the one used by a Cuban doctor in Spain after making this music be heard even in hospital rooms, an event that we would have to share a thousand times on the networks as an emblem of love, hope and resistance. When I sent him some questions to put together this text, X himself summed up the whole project as a “wonderful journey on the wings of this butterfly”.
I didn't get to tell him that at first I had to misunderstand everything myself. I was embarrassed, and I didn't think it was worth it at this point. Inside he took it upon himself to justify himself amply, at least to me. The basis of everything, X confirmed to me, lies in the experience gained at Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) and in the trust in teamwork: “listening, learning from each other and reaching a common result among all. Music is the engine for ideas, both when designing and when considering the promotion strategy for each song, that's why I think the great challenge is to reinvent yourself every month with the release of a song accompanied by audiovisuals, designs, various ways of promoting, strategies… We knew from the beginning that it would be a risky project, but that still motivates us much more”.
Work in progress
I have no memory of anything like Inside within Cuban music. The difference was assuming it from the beginning as a living organism, the result of the efforts of many professionals and protected by the attentive and demanding gaze of each one of them. That, and the strong presence in the virtual world have placed a post Inside. In a society where if you don't move you get crushed, where events and cultural consumption happen as fast as we can move our finger on a screen, the author of the unforgettable from heart, holy, Civilization, Havana, Switch to and many others throughout his 30-year career understood that the time to listen to a musical theme is probably a hundred times shorter than it was in the analog era. Starting from his particular link with the industry, he understood that it is no longer the most recommended album for many authors, but that the path becomes more bearable through singles. Inside it can never be seen as a fortuitous event, everything that is experimental and transgressive is based on the detailed study of the context where it intended to be launched. It comes to be the resurgence of an "X Alfonso 2.0" who has not stopped doing what he always did; compose, make his own video clips (and everything else that comes to mind), but this time he decided to break the inertia of the years with something that surely very few expected and that at the height of 12 months is already a natural, diverse and necessary.
Sandra Lopes knows the process better than anyone Inside. He is X's manager and accompanies him in life, so he fully understands the transformation that it meant for him and, according to him, the biggest challenge was controlling his own nature as an artist. “He has always been the one man show in his record productions, he has always done everything practically alone, and it has been quite a challenge (a beautiful challenge) to get him to let himself go and guide him in everything that the project has involved. The new promotion strategies, social networks, opening up a little more to the world, because there is a great shyness and humility associated with the earthly person that is X. One of the biggest challenges was keeping the campaign active and attractive, conquering and reconquering the public. I think the most important lesson for those of us who made it possible was to always think openly and elastically, adapting each month to the new situations that arose and to the expectations both mine and those of a hyperactive artist like X. It is a constant work in progress album"
part of the force of Inside It also lies in the alliance with Bonus Track, a creative agency that was in charge of thinking, from the point of view of communication and musical production, how that new music was going to look that would return to the stage all the powerful art-making machine called X Alfonso. Yoana Grass is a producer, leader of that team, and confirms Sandra's idea: "We assumed it from the beginning as a work in progress album flexible and dynamic, with the ability to adapt to new challenges and contexts. That has possibly been our best tool to face the new reality that the pandemic brought, being willing to react spontaneously. In addition, we had the facility to make monthly cuts, even when we had outlined general objectives, in a timely manner, we projected and coordinated mini campaigns for each launch; therefore, that has given us the possibility of rethinking something that has not worked before, proposing a new action in tune with the theme that the song addresses, etc.”.
Although the videos of Reflection and I feel that, for example, they presented themselves with the usual magic that is born to X Alfonso in each audiovisual, the way he has of pointing to where it moves the most, where hardly anyone would look and making visual and musical poetry; the video of tell me what to do appeared with a new charm. A challenge turned trending in the networks and the same strangers as celebrities, adults, children and even the members of Inside they sent their interpretations of what is —I think— the most enjoyable theme of the first volume. Before that, there was a Q&A at Fábrica de Arte, which was broadcast on streaming, and it was undoubtedly one of the best moments, full of public. Those actions and the powerful website where the X Files —a review of the three decades of creations traveled by the eldest son of the Alfonsos—, make up the new digital machinery of the new X in the era Inside.
In the initial plans, a great concert was agreed in December 2020. There, perhaps X would use his old hobbies and obsessions with scenery, visual effects and, surely, the event would make those who have been enrolled in the adventure lose sleep for weeks. or months. But in the initial plans, obviously, the scourge of a pandemic was never counted on. The first meetings with the public promoted by Inside they were free of masks, physical distancing and antibacterial gel. It is logical then that the idyll of the great concert is postponed as long as COVID-19 decides. Meanwhile, the road continues. “Giving up nothing”, remarks X.
The team has had to mutate into new decisions during these more than six months, yes, but the pause was never handled as a possibility. “Embrace telecommuting, do brainstorming by WhatsApp for the first time, etc. Facing the campaign, we lost the spaces that were intended for physical actions (exchanges in art schools, murals in public spaces, meetings with the press)”, says Yoana. And he adds that "it has been a challenge to sustain the attention of the public and the media for such a long time, hence the need to be in constant search of creative paths."
Sandra comments that this has been a new awakening, because although the FAC occupied X's time and dedication in recent years, by consolidating its maturity as an institution, the artist decided it was time to return to the fray. He felt that “the musical world, its messages and the new generations were about to enter a frantic spiral and quite far removed from current social realities. That is why his messages range from the rescue of the ancestors, to the human essence and its values. All this accompanied by new sounds and technology in tune with the times. In the Cuban context, once again, X establishes a guideline, raises the bar and makes no one in the sector feel comfortable, but instead begins to rejuvenate and update itself. There is a before and an after Inside in this context”, he highlights.
X Alfonso's music, we already know, is a mixture of many things, and he himself has always underlined it. If we go to the records we first find jazz and fusion, then electronica and hip hop, then African drums with a symphony orchestra, then rumba with funky and so on... At this point I can imagine very few genres that have resisted it. That's why Inside It sounds to me like an anthology in sonorities of all that past/present. I feel that could perfectly have been heard in Reverseor tell me what to do could have been included in Revolution and Something is not right in Civilization. The age Inside It is not marked by the music of each volume, but by the transgression of the closed concept of the album itself, that beyond where the project and its adventure in general are included. Because music doesn't have a fixed time or moment —I must have heard this from X himself at some point. Looking at the songs of Inside an involuntary introspection exercise is done, the music takes you to that and at the same time you find hope and fear, passion and frustration, consolation and restlessness, suffering and love, you finally find the world as we know it. I don't know genres, I know little or nothing about arrangements and accompaniments, but I know a little about what is good and bad. And since what is good and bad is defined only by the filter of individual sensitivity, I assure you that the themes of Inside they are an oasis of beauty. Let the experts rate Cuban music, and let them save it, if it needs it. To X's, let's take it to the limit. The first time I heard Solo eIt's time to give love I wanted to hug my daughter, write to my husband. Those songs save us.
I asked X himself what had inspired him while composing Inside, though actually the song titles and lyrics return the answer itself and present it in some obvious way. But X rounded it off with “everything around me”. Although later he was detailing it a little more: “The bad, with which I do not agree. What is consumed as 'art' in Cuba. The disagreement with what the media and society want to impose, the lack of values, the lack of vision about the future and the apathy of a parallel universe about the reality we live in”.
Will there be an end to Inside?
More than a project, more than an album, even more than a temporary mark, agreed by a new type of artistic creation, Inside it is an ideology. At least X Alfonso showed that "it is possible to make dreams come true" and that is enough to assume it as a lifestyle as well. “It has been a total learning experience for everyone and I think that at some point we will have to study and return to Inside”, Sandra notes. Meanwhile, Yoana points out that it will be necessary to take into account its updating character, "of impact on the Cuban music industry, and also in view of the importance of communication in any artistic project." According to her, a greater future impact in Latin America would be well deserved, where we know there is a great potential audience for X Alfonso's music. Or perhaps a collaboration with a musician from the region. Thinking that these and other objectives will be fulfilled, I return to Sandra Lopes and ask her if there will be an end to this project.. She answers me without further ado: “I want to believe that not…”.
Inside It will not end, because music does not end, just as art does not end, nor life, nor love, nor feeling. Everything changes and goes on.