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Reportages Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro. Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

The return of Zammys Jimenez

-But I don't like to treat crazy people," Alicia protested.

-Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. We're all crazy here.

Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

That September 14, on her 28th birthday, Zammys Jiménez Denis knew that dying was not worth it. Maybe before, when she was 27, it would have been romantic to be found lying face down and not breathing, with her eyes gone forever and a bottle of pills at her feet. But she had already reached 28, which is a boring, bland, inconsequential number of years... a fucked-up age to die. Because, the truth is, nobody remembers the musicians who die at 28; everybody knows that the rock stars, the ones who shine the brightest, extinguish their light at 27.

Zammys problem was that, when she was just the right age, she was too busy to waste time dying. 2018 had been a year of cleaning floors, sneaking "coffees," taking care of her pets, getting tattoos, getting alone time... and singing. Lots and lots of singing. Because Zammys, the same one who walks on stage in the dark and places behind her a knob of water next to a disposable glass of rum, the same one who in a few minutes will give away her music to a bunch of geeks, hasn't stopped singing since she discovered that homemade rock and roll can relieve sadness, that writing a song is better than taking a hundred pills, and that the 27 Club is fine as it is.

***

It's May 24 in Havana; Friday, moreover, and Zammys is impatiently waiting for the lights to come on at Maxim Rock, the only place in the city where nostalgia for rock and roll and the power of heavy metal converge. It's Friday, and "non-metal rock" is the protagonist, and Los Locos Tristes, a new band from Santa Clara, are performing in front of an audience they have to conquer. Because every concert is, for them, an act of conquest, an attempt at persuasion, a "hello, we are Los Locos Tristes, we have a Facebook page and a YouTube channel", and a "go online and listen to our music; and don't worry, the money you spend on ETECSA is reinvested in health, sports and education". 

They are Los Locos Tristes, and Zammys is their frontwomanhis secret weapon, his mother of all bombs. Up on stage, before it all begins, a fragile figure, with a Janis Joplin thinness inside a pink flowered dress, a gray lycra and black boots; with the red lipstick that will soon spread to her chin; and with an air of psychedelia in her eyes. But once there are lights, the riff and she grabs the microphone between her Zammys claws - possessed by the demons of rock and roll -, she screams and laughs, she purrs and kneels, and lies down on the floor and crawls, and soaks her reddish hair with bottled water and stirs it, and wets her lips with the rum from the disposable glass, and then - without stopping singing - she gets fat and gets up again, and walks with parsimony towards the edge of the stage -where the step and the fence that separate her from the Maxim Rock audience are- and gives an open mouth and an endless howl that were not in the script, and the three cats that still listen to rock in Cuba, answer her by getting up from the tables, shouting and applauding. Loreta and Laurent encourage him with a chorus of "Azúcaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!", Edu nods several times as if to say "she's the one", and Alejandro gets a photo before Zammys stops dead in his tracks.

-Why is it," he crosses his arms and squints his feline eyes, "that people like the high notes so much? -And he smiles with his mouth a mess, and the musical background, the laughter and the applause return in unison. And he continues singing as if nothing had happened, with the same brazenness with which a group of drunks assail the silence of the night.

ZAMMYS WRITES ITSELF (I)

WAYS TO SAY IT'S MY MOM'S BIRTHDAY TODAY

1- Like a reggaetonero: Hoy vino al mundo una estrella, HOY VINO AL MUNDO MI PURA!!!!

2- As in CDR assembly: Well gentlemen, let's congratulate Zammys' mom... for being the first to finish the chains for the CDR party and well, because besides being an outstanding cederista, today is her birthday... Clap your hands gentlemen...

OWN LOVE

Hello, Zammys. I'm Zammys. You're gorgeous, beautiful. I've always loved you, but I didn't have the courage to tell you... until they invented Facebook.

Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Why is Zammys a nutcase? Who knows? Maybe she was like that since she was a child: restless, restless, with a screw loose. She tells me that at the age of fifteen she began studying accounting in her native Santa Clara, more out of inertia than vocation. Unlike the other girls, she wears a backpack instead of a purse, paints her nails when she remembers they exist, and listens to music that no one is able to understand. She's the weird one, the freak, the eccentric one. She knows she doesn't fit in anywhere. And she loves it. 

-To be an accountant, she had to wear gold chains. And gold rings. And be blonde. And I didn't even look good with streaks in my hair," she jokes. 

After two years of not studying much, she gets tired and tries her luck in the world of theater - "joy for my accounting teachers" - but the new classes don't quite fulfill her either. She understands that some teachers teach life lessons more than anything else, but she never feels like she is in an art academy. Sometimes she leaves the classroom to avoid saying, "I don't care about this," when she is called out for living in the shrews. She prefers to hide on the roof of the school, where no one will bother her and she can disconnect from the world. There she plugs in her headphones, settles on the floor and watches the clouds. Sometimes she falls asleep and dreams of sad chords, the same ones that, since she was a little girl, have given her a "tickle" in her body. Around that time, with the bands Evenfall and November Charlie, she met Daniel Lezcano -future bass player of Los Locos and her longtime boyfriend- and she rediscovered her desire to sing. 

But he prefers to change the subject, because he feels me as a stalker, and tells me that in the end he graduates, that he is still in the theater and that one day, when he is 24 years old, they talk to him about Rentthe first Broadway musical to come to Cuba in fifty years. And they advise her: "Go girl, go. Try your luck, you never know. And she says: "well, let's see what happens", and she goes because she is bored, because she is not really an enthusiast of musicals. But she goes, and does the casting, and ends up playing Maureen - who was just a fictitious version of herself - and she gets more applause than she had ever heard before.

-It changed my life, so to speak, because it was something... - he can't find the word - the first really big thing I did. Most of all, I realized that I could sing, and that I would never stop performing, because those are two things that go hand in hand. At least in my mind. 

During the three-month period RentZammys pays for rented rooms, sleeps in the homes of friends and acquaintances, and learns to live in Havana. But soon she says goodbye, because another city is waiting to meet her. The day he boards the plane, looks out the window, and catches a glimpse of the stain that once was Havana, he understands that there may be no turning back. Better not to think about it now... Breathe in the moment... The plane rises until the clouds cover the sky. Behind it, Havana; in front of it, New York.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RX_ErZ9v-mw

If one of these days, love,

you decide to leave,

you could take with you

with you the sun.

Zammys' voice inflames the room. It sounds of sadness, of longing, of loneliness. He sings slowly, almost in whispers, and moves his arms to the rhythm of the blues. He walks towards Adrian, who is called Pucho, and rests his head on the guitarist's shoulder; then he takes it off, ruffles his hair and continues singing. Zammys' voice gets bigger and his gestures are no longer so delicate. Zammys' voice widens and his body loses control, and Zammys leans closer to the microphone and leans his back against Daniel. And Zammys sounds euphoric in this sad song, because Don't forget me not Nirvana, not The Beatles, not The White Stripes, but them, Los Locos Tristes.. And Zammys, like the others, has chosen his own flaw over the excellence of others.

Once, at Fábrica de Arte, Zammys sang Whole lotta love, from Led Zeppelinand it didn't take long for a forty-something Mexican to ask her to marry him. But for covers there is CO4, another band parallel to Los Locos with which he works in the tourist poles of Jardines del Rey. Also, once, when BandEra Studio and the Lucas project organized a tribute to Nirvana -The return of the gods- The Sad Ones covered Cobain songs, and Zammys herself played Polly, a young patient in a mental clinic, and sang and shouted a couple of bad words in front of the five thousand or so spectators at the Karl Marx Theater. 

But whenever they can, Los Locos Tristes stick to their few songs, those that are born when Zammys feels blue and starts doodling and humming melodies, which he then explains to everyone, with signs, moans and onomatopoeias. Each member always contributes his own thing: sometimes they improvise as they go along; or once in a while Pucho arrives a little drunk, records a solo out of nowhere, and the next day he can't even remember how to repeat it. They sprout like that, one at a time, Nostalgia, Alone, Shipwreck, When you die, Don't forget me ... Bolero with distortion, rock and roll of bars and cantinas, Zammys is accustomed to say. For the time being, no happy lyrics come out of his mind:

And you are not convinced

that your destiny is written on my skin,

that in our graves forever

flowers will grow

of forget-me-not love

of forget-me-not love

de nooooooooooooo....

ZAMMYS WRITES ITSELF (II)

To my former friends never, former Cubans less, to them who live in the enemy, to those who live here in the monster... and to those who simply are no longer on the island... in a few days I return to communism, to socialism (...) and of course, why not, to RESINGANISM!!!!!! And nothing, I say goodbye to all (...) Thanks for putting up with me, thanks for the rides... and for paying me... but, above all, thanks for BEING...!!!!!!

Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

No one, not even she, knows why she is returning to Cuba. The visa she was granted lasts for five years, but Zammys returns from New York after just one year. The company that brought Rent a Cuba offers the main cast a tour of Broadway, and Zammys walks the Big Apple and visits theaters, and dines in restaurants and walks through Times Square, and notices the parade of cabs and the hurried people hopping along, and sees neon signs and dimly lit neighborhoods. 

But he returns to Cuba and doesn't know why, and once in Cuba, he still doesn't know why. And he doesn't know what he has done, or what to do next, and everything turns gray, and nothing makes sense. And he looks in the mirror and regrets at times; and sometimes he doesn't, and wonders if he has done the right thing, and if he ever decides that yes, it was the right thing to do, he then wonders how to return to the sleepiness of today when yesterday he lived in a world where people don't have time to sleep.

-Today I know it was what I wanted to do, but not at that moment... I was more than sorry... But it's not worth it... Staying is foolish. My home is the world and I throw it in a backpack... That was a necessary sadness, as I like to say... Then I started to take pills... 

-On your own?

-No, no, I went to a psychiatrist. -I don't self-medicate, hehehe... I can see. The exact dose... At that time I had an almanac where I wrote down the schedules, and I wrote in it "pills for the crazy sad", and Daniel, my boyfriend, read it once and told me: "Boy! If we have another band someday that should be the name". And so it was.

The other Zammys therapy comes spontaneously, the day he tries to let off steam and comes up with three songs, but in the end, he only gets one:

Yellow flowers I would give you

for your last smile.

Paper flowers I will leave 

in the tomb of yesterday. 

Flowers that I will keep 

among my verses. 

Yellow flowersthat first song, is the reason why Los Locos Tristes have recorded a demo: Your face in the crowd. Yudith Vargas, the short, short-haired girl to whom Zammys always dedicates its Flowers...He runs to Alejandro Menéndez, one of the main creators of the BandEra Studio project, and from that "yes", the dream of Zammys and his group begins to take shape. "All thanks to that song".

Write Yellow flowers is a confidence booster for the recovering Zammys. That time she understands that it's not worth getting depressed about being sad, because, if that sadness helps to bring out the best in oneself, to create something that can help others, maybe it's not so bad.

-Now I know that everyone is as he/she is. And yes, I consider myself a depressive person, but I'm not going to change, nor do I want to medicate myself. I talk about it, I laugh at myself, and that's my best therapy... Everyone is something and I think it's good to understand a part of that something. Not everything, because we will never understand each other completely, but a little bit of what we are is good to understand and manage. And that was my cure in those moments. That, and the yellow flowers.

Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

Zammys Jiménez at a Los Locos Tristes concert. Photo: Junior Hernández Castro.

It's almost 12 o'clock at night and Los Locos are about to end. But first, Zammys approaches the audience and addresses some last words to them:

-It is always comforting for Los Locos Tristes, a band from Santa Clara, to come here to Havana and see five or six familiar faces in the audience that repeat at every concert. This song is called Your face in the crowd. And it's for you," he points to a bearded guy in the front row, who knows every song as if he had written it himself. It's for you, Edu.

I look for your face among the people 

although you may not find. 

I look for your face in the crowd,

but no one is like you.

-And since this is a reggae..." he interrupts on the bridge, and sings an alternative lyric:

Give me paper and the sting, I want to twist.

I want to twist, I want to smoke, I want to fly. 

Who said it hurt to smoke a cigarette?

Popular is much worse and more harmful! 

It is Popular and the government sells it by the bucketload.

Why is there no solution?

There is no reason for prohibition. legalization!!!!!

Then it turns to the public:

-What do they say? Should we legalize or not?

-Yessssss...

-No way, I can't hear! Should we legalize or not?

-Yesiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii....

-But are you guys freaks or what? -He protests, and asks louder: "Should we legalize or not?

-Yesiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii....

-Eeeeesooooooooooo.... 

And Zammys, drenched in sweat, with her hair disheveled, and already without traces of lipstick, places the microphone on its tripod, says goodbye to the public and goes down the stage, while the lights finish turning off and another band, Foxxy, prepares for a new recital. Downstairs, in the front row, wait the usual, Loreta, Laurent, Edu, Alejandro, Yudith and the Nirvana guy, whose name nobody remembers. Many wonder where those apparently improvised lyrics came from. "I didn't write it, but I wish I did," he tells me weeks later, "it's by Eskoria, a legendary punk band from Santa Clara. And no... -he clarifies before the question-, that day I hadn't smoked... I don't like to work stoned".

Junior Hernández Castro Junior Hernández Castro Freak and journalist. Reader and sleepyhead. Loves the sound of the keys, but finds it hard to write on demand. More posts

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