By Alfredo Fernandez
HAVANA TIMES – Santiago de Cuba, my hometown, is one of Latin America’s most musical cities, alongside Bahia in Brazil. In the small city of Santiago, at least two musical styles were born that are played in most of Latin America and the world: bolero and son. If that wasn’t enough, it is also where the Trova Cubana comes from.
A well-established santiaguero (person from Santiago de Cuba), I am not only proud of my city’s vast contribution to Latin American music, but I also enjoy any of these styles, to the point that I can listen to them for hours on end without any problem.
I studied some music as a teenager, but I didn’t have any real talent for it, so I was never able to dedicate myself to music, like I wanted. However, my determination to study it left me with an excellent taste for music at least. I remember breaking off from commercial music when I was about 15 years old. I remember the exact moment I bid farewell to the balladeers of the hour: in 1990, with Eros Ramazotti.
When I was 15 years old, I began to devour jazz and Brazilian music. Those were tough times, we didn’t have the Internet and I had an old Russian tape player, which would normally chew up cassettes. So, around that age, I discovered US saxophonist Stan Getz and his tribute album to Brazilian music. It was like being transported to a new world; I remember.
I also remember, in my teenage years, the radio shows that were pivotal in my cultural formation. There were many, but I would like to highlight “Esto no tiene nombre” by Jaime Almiral Suarez on Radio Progreso on Sunday nights. It couldn’t be missed, Jaime played real gems on his show. I tried not to go out on Sundays in the end so as not to miss a single minute of the show that lasted some 4 hours.
Then, in 1996, I moved to Havana and the Jazz Plaza festivals were like the gates to another planet. You could see Irakere and Ng la Banda live playing jazz. It was incredible, and there were also other top-level international jazz players. I remember seeing trumpet player Wiston Marsalis and his legendary trumpet solos. But rock never interested me. I always thought, up until a few years ago, that while rock was good music, it was still below Jazz, with great musicians, but they lacked the virtuosity of the musicians’ music, I thought.
However, I have seen throughout my life how great writers, playwrights, painters and intellectuals adore rock, putting it above salsa, bolersos and even jazz, when it comes to having a few drinks. I never knew how to tell one rock band from another, or one rock singer from another, but I decided to put an end to this once and for all, so I’ve only been listening to rock for a month now.
Pink Floyd and its album Dark Side Of The Moon, a classic of the genre that has influenced music in general with its dynamic, is incredible. What can I say about the guys from Seattle with these groups who revived rock; Soundgarden, Nirvana and Audioslave. What I can say about singers such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Freddy Mercury, Joe Crocker and Chris Cornell. Not to mention the memorable guitars of Allen Collins and Gary Rossington on Free Bird, from the tragically lost Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In short, after a couple of days listening to rock with real interest, I began to find real classics of the genre, much against my will. A real and comforting new sensory experience for me.
Long live rock, as well as rock in Spanish, which has Argentinian Gustavo Cerati as its leader. Long live Cuban rock, whose best group is perhaps Sintesis, in my opinion.
Long live the chance to always renew sensory tastes. Long live our 40s, as it is still life and will always be worth living.