Leo Brouwer and His Grand Human Voice

Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES — Over the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to attend several concerts held as part of the Les Voix Humaines, a festival conceived by Cuban maestro Leo Brouwer in close collaboration with Isabelle Hernandez, who produced and coordinated the event, and other friends and institutions.

The festival performances are a must-see for people eager to experience other cultures up close, and they stand out for affording us something other than the bad music that surrounds us on a daily basis.

The island has been treated to the beautiful voices of women such as Mexican singer Jaramar, who performed pieces from the 18th century, as well as a poem set to music by her compatriot Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. We also saw Dulce Pontes, who sings fados, a genre unknown to many which prompted different reactions in listeners, from joy to the most profound melancholy.

Spanish artist Mayte Martin exposed us to the best of her country’s flamenco, in addition to proving herself a passionate singer of boleros, offering us such pieces as Roberto Cantoral’s Regalame esta noche, Consuelo Velazquez’ Consuelo and Agustin Lara’s Piensa en mi. She also sang Hacia donde and Palabras by Marta Valdes, who was present at the Mella Theater.

Another marvelous performance was offered at the Vedado Parish, where Brazilian countertenor Rodrigo Ferreira took the stage and the French ancient music band Ensemble Damarest treated us to pieces by composer Henry Purcell.

The band Sampling gave an eminently Cuban performance with Benny More’s Dolor y perdon and Jose Maria Vitier’s En la aldea. They also played international music pieces such as Hotel California and the third movement of Henry Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, part of the score of the Italian director Paolo Zorrentino’s The Great Beauty, a kind of lullaby that captures the love and separation of parents by war.

The most memorable performance was offered by the US vocal band Take Six, which involved the public at Havana’s Karl Marx theater in a surprising way, speaking in English the entire time and prompting a reply in that language from the Cuban audience. The music, the connection, cast a spell on us all as we recalled songs by Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder, before being edified by the gospel song Family of Love, sung a Capella. It was a truly magical moment that brought our peoples together, beyond our differences and politics.

We can’t fail to mention the film screenings at this cultural festivity, particularly the Edoardo Ponti’s Voce Umana, based on a stage play by French writer Jean Cocteau. Sophia Loren was the renowned actress who played the lead this time around, earning a David Di Donatello Award from the Italian Cinema Academy in 1967 for her performance. The film tells the story of the conflict prompted by a couple’s breakup over the phone, delving into the fragility and love of a mature woman, her fear of loneliness and the second chances love brings us.

After so many beautiful experiences, we cannot help but ask whether Leo Brower will be able to organize this event every year. It would be good to begin rallying the sponsors, so as to defend ourselves from reggaeton and other terrible music genres that assail our ears every day, as well as the trivial music programs aired on TV.

Thank you Leo Brower, for your good taste, your ideas and your grand human voice.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.