Cuban Folk Musician Alito Abad’s Green Musings

By Osmel Almaguer

Alito Abad.  Foto:
Alito Abad.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Alito Abad (Holguin, 1982) is one of Cuba’s youngest contemporary folk musicians today. The lyrics of his songs reflect a penetrating gaze. It is as though the country, the historic drama of Cuban identity and the most pressing issues of our reality today were singing in his pieces. His Despues de la conquista (“After the Conquest”) and No son lagrimas (“These aren’t tears”) are good examples of this.

Abad’s concerns as an artist and human being, however, do not revolve around the socio-political reality of his country alone. He also sings about love, the utopias we live with, death and music itself.

In June of 2010, he recorded his first live album, Trovesando, sponsored by the Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS) and the Centro Hisponoamericano de Cultura (“Spanish-American Culture Center), as part of the Verdadero Complot (“True Plot”) project. In addition, he is one of the young Cuban singer-songwriters included in an anthology produced by the EGREM label, titled Raspadura con Ajonjoli (“Sesame Sweet”).

He has received numerous awards in Cuba and taken part in important music events around the country. He is the host of a cultural get-together named Un,dos, tres…trovando (“One, Two, Three, Folk Music”), held at the Casa de la Trova El Guayabero, a space where young folk musicians from around the country have performed over the past eight years. He has been a member of the AHS since 2002.

These Aren’t Tears

In my eyes, you think you saw / a moist crystal / no, these aren’t tears / it is the water the city needs / so thirsty / so thirsty, so full of salt, and within me, the spring water flows.

In my eyes, you think you saw / a supernatural glow / no, these aren’t tears / they are the lights the city needs / so much to see / so much you see and so much darkness / and within you, that green way of walking. / No, these aren’t tears / it is the water the city needs.

No, these aren’t tears / they are the lights the city needs. / So much thirst, so much to see, so much salt and so much darkness / and, within you, that green way of walking.

This is a curious way of connecting human kind’s spiritual and social dimensions. The poem he puts together is beautiful because it manages to speak elegantly of those issues that, though pressing for the average Cuban, are also part of his ordinary existence.

The lyrics juxtapose two realities that, though different, tend to complement one another, contributing to the irony with which the lack of water in the city is treated, helping the poetry not sound pathetic. The poetic, in turn, contributes to giving the everyday value and to making it less mundane.

The result is a story that is pleasing to the ears and manages to move us, because it avoids the whiny tone with which some poets and folk musicians tend to address such problems. The lyrics’ optimistic spirit is interesting. Let us have a look at it.

If the singer has a spring (of tears) flowing inside him, it could be used to overcome the city’s water shortage. If his eyes glisten because of this inner moisture, that glow could also be used to light up the city.

It is also interesting how he links the darkness (power cuts) to the image of “lights the city needs,” that is, to the people who inhabit and manage the city. Like the tears over water shortages and the “supernatural glow” that could give the city light, it stems from the sensory organ responsible for sight.

What I don’t understand completely from the semantic point of view– and I say this sincerely, at the risk of sounding unobservant – is how the “green way of walking” is connected to the rest of the song. Yes, green is suggestive of hope and it is also the color of the uniform of certain leaders.

From the point of view of the singer’s inner world, of the laws that govern this text, this element seems to be left hanging. That, at least, is my opinion. The merits pointed out above, however, more than makes up for this.