HAVANA TIMES —It’s true what they say: sooner or later, we all find what we need. Some days ago, I had what I consider to be one of the most important experiences of my life.
I heard an album by the band Quidam Pilgrim for the first time. In the pieces, luminous English lyrics rush through a Celtic soundscape resonating with angels and wandering souls.
The songwriters and performers, however, are Cuban! Two incredibly talented young artists whose music artfully combines and interweaves elements of New Age, alternative rock and even the unmistakable percussion we inherited from our African ancestors.
I’ve had their music in my MP3 player, and have been sharing it with everyone I run into, ever since discovering the duo. To my surprise, no one knows them! Some have asked me: where are these people? Others have said they want to hear them on the radio, go to their concerts, own their music.
I tell them what little I know and dug up on Wikipedia. The band was put together in 2005. Its members are vocalist Adela Rivas Cruz (1988) and pianist Felix Muñiz Penedo (1985), both from Cuba’s province of Santiago de Cuba.
They made their debut on the Cuban television show Cuerda Viva in 2006. They were nominated for a Cuerda Viva award in the category of Best Emerging Band and Best Alternative Music Demo. In March 2007, they performed at Havana’s National Theatre.
When I run out of answers, my own questions come up: why isn’t art of this quality being divulged throughout Cuba? No political arguments could be used in this case. It may be because this music breaks through the barriers of our immediate heritage, transcends stereotyped depictions of our culture and identity, because it is a spiritual, worldly art.
Are we then condemned to consume, exhibit and export such an incomplete image of Cuba?
We Cubans do have a soul. A soul that responds to beauty, to longing, a soul that expresses such longing that identifies itself with the light and isn’t confined to any one country or language.
If we listen attentively, we will note that, in the album The Pilgrim’s Progress, beyond the unquestionably Celtic reminiscences, another force makes itself known: something that tugs us along, on a journey of frustrated longing, a harrowing flight that culminates with an expansive gesture, with freedom.
Transcending everyday materialism is a rewarding experience. A bird that spreads its wings, that has grown the ligaments fiber upon fiber, expresses both its ability to fly and the pain it entails. Pain as such is a great power: we value what we have achieved, and are much more conscious of what we have, when it has involved pain.
Quidam is a Latin pronoun meaning “any”. “Any Pilgrim”…where are they now? Do they still live in Cuba? Have they recorded other albums?
We are in dear need of the kind of music in The Pilgrim’s Progress, of an art that is not confined by tradition, geography or ideology…an art as free as the soul of humankind, which transcends even the limits of life and death.
We have every right to ask for such an art, not only because of its greatness, but also because it awakens the memories of our inner self and, with it, the aspiration of being better human beings.