Cuban Musician Descemer Bueno’s Latest Album

Cuba’s Musical Bridge*

Osmel Almaguer

Descemer Bueno. Photo: islarte.cult.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban musician Descemer Bueno’s second album differs from his first in several ways. While Siete Rayos (“Seven Rays”) is an attempt to combine the hip-hop genre with other rhythms, both Cuban and international, Bueno (the musician’s last name, meaning “good” in Spanish) – a title that could well describe the project as a whole – uses the ballad genre as a rhythmical base for several, experimental fusions, attesting to the insatiable creative search that often impels the artist.

The albums can also be said to be different in the way they entered the market. The first did so somewhat discretely, aimed at a specific public, perhaps, while the more recent record invaded the music markets of several continents.

For his second production, Descemer avails himself of a number of commercial strategies. The most noteworthy – and typical of the artist – are his songs featuring renowned figures of Cuban music: Baby Lores, Buena Fe, Haila, Alain Daniel and others.

A more romantic or “nostalgic” tone colors the songs of this new album, contrasting rather starkly with the playful and sensual feeling of Siete Rayos. Without a doubt, Bueno has attained great maturity as an artist and is experiencing a moment of intense creativity. This is what we see in the way he combines profound, poetic verse with everyday wisdom – a mix which, if prepared with the right doses of these ingredients, often appeals to broad and varied publics.

Quisiera Volver (“I Want to Go Back”), featuring Cuban raeggeton star Baby Lores, has been one of the most popular pieces in the album. I will focus, however, on Tus Luces Sobre Mi (“Your Lights upon Me”), a highly emotive piece whose stylistic peculiarities I would like to comment on.

The piece is doubtless the most personal song in the album, born, perhaps, of an intense experience and inspired by the feeling of a divine human or supernatural presence.

Your Lights upon Me

There’s a freshness to her, you feel it when you kiss her / Her games amuse me / her worries keep me up at night / A rose that hangs from her hair / waving in the wind / what tender touch winter has / So much adventure in her eyes / her pupils brimming with longing / and a thirst for love and tenderness drove bitterness to the ends / of shadows and moon eclipses / a fog that hides her face and, oh Lord, shine your lights upon me / I need to know what’s happening here / She’s carved out a path in my heart / and I feel that her dreams touch the truest part of me / and one by one her nights begin to meet inside me / filling me with light and hope and / finally / my heart finds such relief / and sometimes, when I think about it, I realize it’s the same dream / which fills me from the inside / as though all feelings burned up, as over a slow fire / freeing me from doubt and torment and bad dreams

Chorus: It’s the warmth of your lights upon me / destroying my shadows / erasing my shadows with light / It’s the coolness of your tears upon me / like falling rain / that freshens my shadows / Your lights upon me / your tears upon me / your hands upon me / Your lights upon me / your tears upon me / your hands upon me

I know you wanted to hide in a past / that at once resembles and is different from my present / I don’t know whether I can give you the future you long for / I don’t know whether I’ll be by your side forever, though I know I’ll try / I think / I can no longer live without you / and I see everything inside me changing / She’s carved out a path in my heart / and I feel her dreams touch the truest part of me / filling me from the inside / as though all feelings burned up, as over a slow fire / freeing me from doubt and torment and bad dreams

Chorus: It’s the warmth of your lights upon me / destroying my shadows / erasing my shadows with light / It’s the coolness of your tears upon me / like falling rain / that freshens my shadows / Your lights upon me / your tears upon me / your hands upon me / Your lights upon me / your tears upon me / your hands upon me

Your lights upon me

The lyrics of the song, and the passionate way in which Bueno sings it, caught my attention, more than any of the other pieces in the album did. When I heard it for the first time, before I even began to pay attention to the lyrics as such, I felt a sense of wellbeing. After the song had drawn me in, I wanted more. I wanted to decipher it completely. This is when I discovered how difficult this is. Even after you’ve heard it many times, its message does not reveal itself with absolute clarity.

Understanding certain pieces completely is a challenge. Provided the many readings of the piece contribute to our overall understanding, provided they help us access the different semantic levels of the work, this can be a virtue, no doubt.

Descemer Bueno. Photo: cubarte.cult.cu

For this to happen, the object of reference in the piece, in this case the reality to which the lyrics of the song allude to directly, must be clearly portrayed, allowing us to read the work at different levels.

“Your Lights upon Me” does not achieve such expressive clarity (which is something ironic for a song with such a title). Some grammatical and expressive shortcomings confuse the listener some, making them lose their way at the beginning and keeping the underlying message out of reach.

The story (or fable) narrated by the lyrics loses direction several times. The artist indulges in lively descriptions, to maintain the rhythm (or perhaps out of a personal, aesthetic conception), managing to lose the listener’s attention.

A number of contradictions in the song conspire against our understanding of the piece as well. This happens, for instance, when the lyrical subject (or protagonist) asks the Lord to shine his lights upon him, so as to help him understand what is happening around him, and then categorically affirms that “she” (the woman who has confused him thus) has “carved out a path” in his heart.

This works against the message of the song, which is, in part, about the mind’s need for divine inspiration, for clarity.

The same kind of contradiction comes up later in the song: “I don’t know whether I’ll be by your side forever, though I know I’ll try. I think I can no longer live without you.”

The fact the singer sometimes refers to a “her”, and sometimes addresses this “her” directly (sometimes she is addressed as “her”, and sometimes she is addressed as “you”), in addition to some rather unfortunate adjectival choices, such as “intense relief”, also conspire against the clarity a piece of this nature dearly needs.

Beyond these minor problems, we find straightforward but profound lyrics loaded with feeling which everyone can understand, a song that reveals to us its meaning, even those hidden in its darkest shadows.

(*) Cuba’s Musical Bridge: This post is part of a series aimed at encouraging exchanges between people from all corners of the planet. I intend to write using simple, straightforward language to have news about Cuban songs – songs that, owing to commercial limitations and the difficulties involved in their translation, sometimes remain in the shadows, even though they are true gems of Cuban culture – reach anyone who’s interested.



One thought on “Cuban Musician Descemer Bueno’s Latest Album

  • thank you very much for this translation of this masterpiece, its a highly emotional song, my first time to hear it,even though i do not understand Spanish;the song spoke to me, much love from Botswana

    Reply

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