Musical Bridge from Cuba (*)

Osmel Almaguer

Noel Nicola. Photo: jiribilla.cu

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 7 — Noel Nicola (1946 – 2005), was an important Cuban musician and songwriter who — along with Pablo Milanes and Silvio Rodriguez — was one of the three main founders of the Nueva Trova Movement, which he directed between 1972 and 1977.

He was also a member of the Grupo de Experimentacion Sonora (Sound Experimentation Group) of the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC), where he received guitar lessons from outstanding teachers such as Leo Brouwer. Though he was self-taught, he’s considered one of the “pillars of the Cuban School of Guitar” – where he became one of its professors.

Nicola emerged from a family of musicians, where he grew up between guitars and verses, which may have explained his astounding ability to compose music and write poetry.

Within the troubadour spirit, he worked with influences ranging from waltz, rock, flamenco, conga, rumba and “filin.”

His lyrics are characterized by profound and lucid criticism, speaking out against various social ills such as bureaucracy, convention and hypocrisy. Yet in his songs he didn’t avoid notions of love, perhaps his most universal theme.

His works have been performed by Carlos Diaz, Daniel Viglietti, Elena Burke, Guadalupe Pineda, Issac Delgado, Jesus del Valle, Joan Manuel Serrat, Manuel Argudin, Miriam Ramos, Conjunto Roberto Faz, Raquel Zozaya, Santiago Feliu, Sonia Silvestre and Xiomara Laugart.

His extensive discography includes albums such as “Comienzo el dia” (1977), “Asi como soy” (1980), “Lejanias” (1985), “Noel Nicola canta a Cesar Vallejo” (1986), “Tricolor” (1987), “Animo, trovador” (1989), “Soy y no soy el mismo” (1998), “Dame mi voz” (2000) and “Entre otros” (con Santiago Feliu, 2002].

He appeared on stages around the world before he died in Havana on August 7, 2005 from lung cancer.

Love Me as I Am (Amame asi como soy)  CD: Asi como soy

A wrinkled man who moves along / ragged / sticking out wherever he is / walking, pleading / extending his hand / trembling and asks: / Love me as I am.

Every man has / something of a king deep within / he has his throne and his staff
of command and control. / Today this blow / from his scepter says: / Love me as I am.

I carry on my back / an old heavy sack / that has inside it / an accumulation / my troubles. / If you’re going to love my body / you add your weight to it, / so love me as I am.

I pray, I pray, I take, I steal, / I beg, I offer myself, I love / and I must be loved / the way I am.

Every man has / his innate selfishness / of a sponge or an octopus / that absorbs everything.

Open up and let me wrap / your body: / ??Love me as I am.

Sometimes I have / so much love in me / that I have to go / and share myself in kisses.

I do not want to feel / guilty, ever. / Love me as I am.

And when I give myself / to travel the world / with my anxiety / to caress / cities. / Put yourself behind / every open door / so love me as I am.

Noel Nicola. photo: juventudrebelde.cu

It’s good that these types of songs were written. They really say something different, and they did so without sleight of hand or posturing, without a haughty voice or platitudes.

If every person in the world is different, and therefore if each one lives their own stories in their own way, then why do most love songs seem so similar? …a lack of sincerity?

This isn’t the case of Amame asi como soy, which is an ode to authenticity. To acknowledge our faults and to fall in love with a person is a position quite spiritual, and you should know that by “spiritual” I’m not referring to those empty molds used by some to manipulate others, be they religious cults, esotericists or whatever.

Here, what is spiritual lies in the encounter between the person and themselves.  Why it’s clear that the Enlightenment gave us our own perception of us as the center of the universe, to the detriment of God, even though they still tend to deify or idealize the human being a great deal, polarizing the individual along lines of one’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is precisely this essential human being — devoid of any social disguises or poses — that brings us back to Noel, asking that they accept him, as if he himself were asking for acceptance.
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(*) A Musical Bridge from Cuba: This is an effort to find new bridges that promote communication between peoples of the diverse regions of the planet.    I will be using simple narration in a series of articles to connect with those who are interested in the messages transmitted by Cuban songs, which due to their limited commercial potential and the difficulties posed by their translation, languish in a state of communicational stagnation – despite their being true jewels of Cuban culture.

 


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