Cuba’s “Duo Karma” and their Longing

Duo Karma.  Foto:
Duo Karma. Foto:

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — Since 1999, Xochitl Galan and Fito Hernandez’ of Duo Karma have aimed to “fuse different genres as part of a search of ethnic sounds from different cultures.” Their work for children, where they have collaborated regularly with singer-songwriter Rita del Prado, is also noteworthy.

En Guarandinga por toda Cuba (“Partying Around Cuba”) is an itinerant project they have been involved in with Rita del Prado since 2006, “touring places and exploring customs and traditions through different genres of Cuban music.”

The duo has taken their music to several European and Latin American countries and shared the stage with renowned folk and Spanish-language musicians.

They have received different awards, such as the 2004 Lucas awards for first album, art direction and visual effects. In 2008, they received the same award for their song La Añoranza (“Longing”).

Both musicians were born in Havana and completed formal academic training- Galan at the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Music Conservatory (guitar and singing) and Hernandez at the Felix Varela Music Institute (guitar).


I don’t know how to forget the spring, / how it filled the entire sidewalk with flowers. / The sun playing over new skins, / I know that light is not the same as yesterday’s.

The times of the open notebook have passed. / The laughter and mischievous ways remain./ As you see, time does not stand still. / I know, sometimes it hurts to grow up.

The sea continued to be too big for us. / The taste of sugar and almonds in the afternoon. / I kept with me the lullaby / that erased the fear and gray days of the past.

The times of the open notebook have passed. / The laughter and mischievous ways remain./ As you see, time does not stand still. / I know, sometimes it hurts to grow up.

Our longing returns like a bird of prey. / It has the freedom of the air.

The title of the song encompasses the feelings captured in the song, but also alerts us to these, as the idea of longing is not clearly expressed in the piece. What does the singer long for? Childhood, a concept the author directly associated with the spring.

This schematization becomes a constant in all of the ideas that follow in a kind of labored procession, from the cliché of the open notebook and the mischievousness of a child, representing the time of our games at school, to the pain involved in growing up, when one reaches adolescence.

This reliance on so many different issues prevents us from accessing the inner world of the individual and results in the suppression of subjectivity and unique experience through the generalization of a concept, depriving us of human richness, of the unrepeatable.

Commonplaces also conspire against other possible readings, such a social, anthropological or political interpretation of the song, because the images used are unable to suggest, alluding merely to preconceived and limited ideas.

The lack of clarity also conspires against the attractiveness of the lyrics, despite the rather “beautiful” words used and the musical accompaniment, which always masks such lyrics.

To be clear: those who would defend the song by saying it is aimed at children must be aware that the aesthetic requirements for such pieces are being stricter, as the forms of expression used must be in step with the ability of the young audience to assimilate such messages. What’s more, one should not opt for dazzling and beautiful words if that means sacrificing clarity, which makes the work of interpretation all the more difficult.

Duo Karma and Ayudame a mirar / Help me see

Duo Karma and their children’s song: Del camino lo que ví / What I saw on the road