The Puerto Rican singer Gilberto Santa Rosa and his group play for the first time for a Cuban audience at the Varadero Josone Festival. Photo: Kako Escalona / Magazine AM: PM.
The Puerto Rican singer Gilberto Santa Rosa and his group play for the first time for a Cuban audience at the Varadero Josone Festival. Photo: Kako Escalona / Magazine AM: PM.

Varadero Josone Jazz & Son: The best is yet to come

8 minutos / Raúl Medina Orama

20.07.2018 / Reviews

Above flamboyan trees and bamboo poles, smoke billowed from the food and beer stalls. Below, the spirals were formed by people falling little by little on the grass of Josone Park, a nine-hectare green space in the middle of Varadero resort, Cuba's tourist mecca.

The first half of July was received with the first edition of the Varadero festival Josone Jazz & Son, an event that between the 12th and the 15th of this month brought together some stars of Latin music, emerging and talented Cuban artists, and who also had the pleasure of including Nicholas Payton on his roster, a strange and great guy who blow some of the best jazz airs right now.    

Issac Delgado had the idea, after coming and going through various countries and musical styles, to gather in one place genres such as son, rumba, timba, pop, reggaetón and even the ballads of Salvadorian Álvaro Torres. Cuba is still, to some extent, a fashionable and attractive place for foreign artists who have not recorded a concert here, despite the fact that the Island is one of the great rhythm generating centers in the world and its publics are famous for demanding and knowledgeable.

Finally, the Ministries of Culture and Tourism saw the vein of place in the agenda of the vacationers the famous spa, also as a cultural option, beyond its traditional attraction as the main sun and beach destination in Cuba. And it was done.

The inauguration started later than expected after the rain left the ground slightly muddy and the audio tests were delayed. There, far from a blessing, the downpour was a curse, a constant trick of the weather during the rest of the four days of the concert.

The rumba opened the presentations, with the performance of the historical Muñequitos de Matanzas. Since then, the night would be a coming and going between the two stages in which the pianist Alejandro Falcón - accompanied by the drummer Ruy López-Nussa - and the XX Band, alternated. A dream team of women who comfortably dominate a sound continent where hip-hop is the same as jazz and timba.

Anyone who doubts the female bomb that now animates Cuban music would do well to approach the XX Band, integrated among others by the percussionists Yissy García and Mary Paz, and the pianist Leyanis Valdés. The voices were put by rapper Telmary and the fireproof Vania Borges, who remembered the best times of Bamboleo with It is no longer necessary. Yissy would return, the next day with his Bandancha, the group that keeps alternative Havana surprised with its mix between the jazz tradition and more urban and contemporary sounds, hip-hop and electronic music.

Josone also received more jazz from saxophonist Michel Herrera, piano teacher Ernán López Nussa, the exceptional drummer Horacio The black Hernández, and Daymé Arocena, an emergent genius of the Cuban song that gives us back our faith in music as a space to dream.

Yissy García and Bandancha at the Varadero Josone Festival. Photo: Kako Escalona / Magazine AM: PM.

Yissy García and Bandancha at the Varadero Josone Festival. Photo: Kako Escalona / Magazine AM: PM.

As is evident, both the name of the event and what has been counted so far, the backbone of this first date in Varadero was the Jazz, a territory for free spirits in which one of its contemporary rulers bears the name of Nicholas Payton. In Varadero, the American trumpeter demonstrated why he was the godson of Wynton Marsalis, and today he consolidates himself as an instrumentalist in which they live without conflict the tradition and the most experimental modernity. It was a luxury to have it live, although many of those who roamed the park, rather than pay attention, awaited the closure of the first day with Gente de Zona.

The prodigal sons of the reggaetón made in Cuba attacked the dawn with a scenic projection very close to the performance of the Charanga Habanera, the group where Randy Malcom came from. The metal section started a show of more than two hours full of adrenaline, in which the showman is Alexander, with his deep voice and joviality made person on stage.

Much of timba and rumba has the current proposal of Gente de Zona, who have become ambassadors of Cuban music -those who care- and in Josone announced the culmination of their next album with collaborations together with Franco de Vita, Marc Anthony, and Gilberto Santa Rosa.

Precisely Santa Rosa also arrived in Varadero, and his concert on July 14 was one of the main trump cards of Issac Delgado, responsible for the visit of the Caballero de la Salsa. He conducted his live debut before Cubans with grace and charisma, establishing that solid complicity with audiences known by great artists. He gave away more than two hours and twenty love songs, on a trip that included son, salsa and bolero.

Gilberto Santa Rosa with Cuban musician Tony Ávila and his group at the Varadero Josone Festival. Photo: Kako Escalona / Magazine AM: PM.

Gilberto Santa Rosa with Cuban musician Tony Ávila and his group at the Varadero Josone Festival. Photo: Kako Escalona / Magazine AM: PM.

The Caballero de la Salsa has managed to stay on the crest of the wave without compromising on quality. He is a tireless guy, heir to the best popular tradition in the Caribbean. The interpreter formed his repertoire -to public delirium- with many songs by Cuban composers, among them Lluvia (Adalberto Álvarez), A bunch of stars (Polo Montañez), Qué manera de quererte (Emilio Ríos Mendoza), Start and end of a green tomorrow (Pablo Milanés), Let yourself be loved (Donato Poveda) and Puppet, singer Tony Ávila, who took the stage invited by the Puerto Rican. Both undertook a hand-to-hand of improvisations ingeniously celebrating the friendship of the two nations and the artists.

When he closed the show with his success I take it down, the frenzy was general in Josone. Without exception, each song sung by the great performer was accompanied by the multitudinous chorus of Cubans who saw live, for the first time, one of the icons of recent Latin music. This communion would be repeated a couple of days later at his concert on the Malecon in Havana.

The most sone notes were given by El Septeto Santiaguero, the tresero Pancho Amat and his group, as well as by Issac Delgado himself, who shared the scene with the Dominican José Alberto, The Canary. The diverse poster of the event was completed with groups such as Los Van Van, the pop-rock band DeCuba, Rumberos de Cuba and Rumbatá, the latter a group that is at the forefront of rumba, a seminal genre for popular Cuban dance music.

However, a recurring note was a crowd below the expected in some concerts. Maybe it's because the promotional products created since the event -spots, capsules with interviews with artists ...- did not circulate widely on national television, not even on the specialized channel Clave. It is also necessary that tourist reception agencies carry out serious market studies, that they estimate reasonable prices of the tickets, and thus they will not have to reduce tickets at the last minute to prevent a notable artist from being listened to by only a handful. of lucky people

In addition, it is necessary a better coordination between the technical elements involved in the show so as not to affect the programming of the concerts.  Varadero Josone Jazz & Son evidenced that there is still a lack of coherence between the interests of the Cuban culture and tourism system, and also some experience in organizing large events with simultaneous scenarios.

The main success was to achieve -through the prestigious of Issac Delgado - the participation of a heterogeneous group of Cuban and international musicians and place them in the same space where sonorities converged that from the Caribbean have conquered the whole world. That alone deserves support and congratulations to the editions that are to come.

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Raúl Medina Orama

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