Cuban Folk Musician Nelson Valdes and the Anger of the 1980s

Osmel Almaguer

Nelson Valdes
Nelson Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — Nelson Valdes is a young folk musician from Cienfuegos. His albums include A la mitad del mundo (“To Half of the World”, recorded live and produced by the Hermanos Saiz Association in 2008) and Besitos de escalera (“Stairwell Kisses”, produced by the label Colibri).

The musician is also one of the artists featured by Una cancion para Frida y Diego (“A Song for Frida and Diego”, 2008) and Una canción para Miguel (“A Song for Miguel”, produced by the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center).

Valdes has taken his music across the country: Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Ciego de Avila, Holguin, La Habana and other provinces.

Ha compartido escenarios con Vicente Feliú, Augusto Blanca, Pepe Ordaz y Raúl Torres, entre otros. Pertenece a la Asociación Hermanos Saiz desde el año 2006.

In 2007, he was a finalist in the Una cancion para Frida y Diego competition and, in 2009, he was awarded the second prize for Una cancion para Miguel. In 2010, he traveled to Spain as part of a Cuban music delegation, to take part in a tribute to Miguel Hernandez.

The 1980s

I have the anger of the 1980s…

The weight of your light was saved, I had death / lying beside me in bed, and I wasn’t a good lover./ Everything hides itself, ends up on the path / before there was a sun, your eyes were shining / my sweat curdles over the ruins / and I deliver myself in one piece to you./ I come out of the sea announcing the departure / black dots appear on my skin / I slowly unburden myself of memories / dreams up in the air like the breasts of a woman.

I have the anger of the 1980s / I know it hurts you, but it refreshes me. / I have the anger of the 1980s / when Carlitos, Gerardo and Frank / began to speak their mind. / I have the anger of the 1980s / I am still on the alert.

I’m going to wait for everything to precipitate / hurry to be true to your song / I have silent streets to hide in / the sea flows over the murmur of shadows / the world has arrived at its beginning / no one waits for what comes next without crying / many leaves have blown away from this island / an island burnt by the fire of my age. / I come out of the sea announcing the departure / black dots appear on my skin / I slowly unburden myself of memories / dreams up in the air like the breasts of a woman.

I have the anger of the 1980s / I know it hurts you, but it refreshes me. / I have the anger of the 1980s / when Carlitos, Gerardo and Frank / began to speak their mind. / I have the anger of the 1980s / be careful, the train of fools’ arriving / I have the anger of the 1980s / and I am still on the alert.

There is indeed a lot of anger in these lyrics. However, there where clear expression is needed, the author obscures the issues with metaphors which, in the best of cases, give the song a certain degree of beauty, without clarifying the underlying thesis.

The weight of your light was saved, I had death / lying beside me in bed, and I wasn’t a good lover./ Everything hides itself, ends up on the path (…)

As the beginning of the song, these lyrics do not offer us much information and do not help orient the listener. We have the valuable referent of knowing we are being told about the 1980s, and we are able to clear a path through the thick brushes of metaphor that dominate the first verse, until a new, faint light breaks through:

I come out of the sea announcing the departure

Immediately, other elements that do not contribute anything to the song get in the way:

black dots appear on my skin / (…) dreams up in the air like the breasts of a woman.

Then, the chorus brings about another change in linguistic register and the poorly developed metaphors give way to banal directness:

I have the anger of the 1980s / I know it hurts you, but it refreshes me. / I have the anger of the 1980s / when Carlitos, Gerardo and Frank / began to speak their mind.

The next verse is where the author seems to finally find his voice, maintaining a certain degree of balance between what he says and how he says it, and we find out these lyrics are talking to us about exile and how it affects the people of this country.

The song closes with the same chorus, slightly distorted by a visceral and aggressive expression (“fools”) that does not make the piece more beautiful or meaningful (only angrier).

We should add that the 1980s were Cuba’s golden age, at least from the economic point of view, and the threshold of the great rupture caused by the collapse of the socialist bloc.


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