Cuban Musician Diego Gutierrez’s “A Taste of Salt”

Osmel Almaguer*

Cuban folk singer Diego Gutierrez
Cuban folk singer Diego Gutierrez

HAVANA TIMES — Diego Gutierrez belongs to a group of Cuban folk musicians that some refer to as the “lost generation.” So called, perhaps, because of the unfair neglect of the media or the consequences of internal situations decided by the country’s cultural policies, their music, undeniably rewarding, has nevertheless treated us to some of the most important moments in recent Cuban music history.

Born in Cuba’s central province of Ciego de Avila in 1974, Guitierrez produced an album  – titled De Cero (“From Scratch”) –  which earned him Cubadisco’s best folk-pop-rock album award in 2007. One of the album pieces, En la luna de Valencia (“Moon Over Valencia”), earned him the best music video award.

Throughout his music career, Gutierrez has maintained close ties to the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Centre, the venue of his first concert Demasiado Diego (“Too Much of Diego”). His first album (of the same name), produced at the close of 2007, came out of this concert.

This same cultural center also welcomed Gutierrez and a group of other young musicians, on the occasion of another concert, held to celebrate renowned Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez’ 60th birthday. The album Te doy una cancion (“Take My Song”) gathers pieces performed at that concert.

In Cuba and abroad, Guitierrez has shared the stage with such important Cuban folk musicians and singers as Santiago Feliu, Gerardo Alfonso, Frank Delgado, Polito Ibañez, Carlos Varela, Luis Eduardo Aute and others.

“Sabor Salado”

Sabor Salado (“A Taste of Salt”)

I saw you pass by me last night, like a light / shattered by yesterday’s stones / leaving behind a trail of water and carnations / without stirring up the wind. / I saw you pale against the light / or perhaps my eyes deceived me once again / because I swear you saw me or pretended that you did.

Hell, I’d like to be mistaken / but I had a taste of salt / the taste of lips / nicked while shaving.

You sat down at a bench / as though the night had not changed / after the world came to a standstill / and I deluded myself / My mask of laughter followed you / the step of happy woman / who knows no other pain / other than the pain of living.

Hell, I’d like to be mistaken / but I had a taste of salt / the taste of lips / nicked while shaving.

Diego Gutierrez, foto: la jiribilla.cu
Diego Gutierrez, foto: la jiribilla.cu

Again, we see the appearance of an ideal, crystallized and shattered by the ruthless elements of this fleeting, temporal dimension in which we live. As an ideal, it is the fruit of a person’s imagination and, as such, belongs to the realm of creation. What word could evoke creation as intimately as the word “woman”?

The poet is perhaps raving about his condition as a being of the senses. The pain of rubbing up against the world has the same effect on him as an opiate and extends this dream-like state into the realm of the everyday.

The very experience of coming into contact and withdrawing from creation, embodied by the image of the woman, is ultimately traumatic, and the trace it leaves behind are the tears, the salt of tears flowing unhindered towards the lips – the same lips with which he once kissed creation.

However, this woman, “shattered by yesterday’s stones”, as the song tells us, is also a flesh-and-blood person whose existence is also subject to temporal changes. The seed of doubt is planted in the poet/creator: “Do I exist? Am I perceived? Is she merely an object I have created, or something more?”

The ideal-woman / flesh-and-blood woman dichotomy splits the identity of the poet, who assumes different disguises and chases her. The dichotomy of his own existence (transcendental being / short-lived man) manages, at the most, to save him from oblivion. His own pain, that feeling of “cut lips”, is merely the most visible signal, that which defines and reaffirms him in his existence.

(*) 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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(*) 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. – See more at: http://havanatimes.org/?p=37299#sthash.FEg04soI.dpuf

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