Musical Bridge from Cuba (*)

Osmel Almaguer

Pepe Ordaz, center. Photo: juventudrebelde.cu

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 27 — An exponent of Nueva Trova, Pepe Ordaz has played and recorded with artists that include Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, Joan Manuel Serrat, Victor Jara, Isabel and Angel Parra, Noel Nicola, Santiago and Vicente Feliu.

His full name is Andres Ordaz Aerie, who was born in Havana on January 30, 1959.  He began his musical studies at the Guillermo Tomas Musical Elementary School in the Guanabacoa neighborhood, and he graduated in percussion from the National School of Art in 1973.

Along with other young musicians, in 1975 Pepe founded the group Guaican, and he became integrated into the Cuban Nueva Trova Movement as a composer.  With the group Guaican, he went on tours to more than 20 countries throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas.  From 1980 to 2000, he worked as the musical director of Guaican accompanying the outstanding singer Sara Gonzalez.  Pepe is considered by experts and critics to be one of the good composers of “Cuban trova.”  His songs are a part of the Cuban musical memory of today.

In March 2003 he began his project as a soloist trova musician, going on tour to Peru, Argentina and Mexico, while also constantly maintaining a presence in concerts and artistic programs in Cuba.

His versatility as a musician and a performer transform him into an indispensable figure of all musical and trova events.  He has represented Cuba as a musician in diverse countries of the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.  The song “Cantar, cantar,” which immortalized by Juan Carlos Baglietto and Silvina Garre, was written by Pepe, who has also composed songs performed by recognized singers such as Liuba Maria Hevia, with her version of “Alex.”

Although he has not achieved the same level of acclaim as that of his contemporaries Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes, some of his songs appear within the most beautiful of Cuban trova.  Below is one such song, which I cannot listen to without being deeply moved for its beauty and depth, and for that torrent of feelings that allows the poet to flow in his words.

Son para ti (They are for you)

I recently began to understand / that I have carried within me / since I knew how to distinguish / between love and a woman / since I could place value / on my childhood baseball / and a kiss

And after having kissed others / I find myself / sharing in the middle of my youth / with the end of your childhood / these are two stages that randomly / are united to defeat / time

Teach me / black magic woman / to navigate / the path that takes me to your body / and make me feel / with the soft contact of your skin / that our love knew to conquer / time

And look for me / when the afternoon loses its splendor / when I have the night in my arms / and in the place / that yesterday the darkness hid from us / you will sigh / from the first / hug

(it repeats)

It is a beautiful way of singing to one’s first love.  And with it are all forms of innocent affection and naive and wild passion.  The main character of this beloved story recalls (and discovers) how that tie was born between himself and the woman he would love, without either realizing it.

It is this idyll of first youth, the unconscious fever.  In the light of many years and many kisses I discovered its value.  And in an incomparable chill we clamored for our love again.  It is the sole safe place from mundane miseries; the sole one able to give us refuge.

But nothing is comparable to Pepe Ordaz’s interpretation of this song, not even my more feverish delivery of the sense of its words.  It is precisely in listening to it that we can reach the maximum degree of ecstasy.  It is when we can feel that only with her it would have been enough to make our lives more beautiful.

(*) 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.


One thought on “Cuba’s Pepe Ordaz on HT Musical Bridge

  • thank you for your translation of “son para ti”. Naci en Cuba pero he vivido casi toda mi vida en Canada. I first heard this song on tibira tabara by sierra maestra about 2000 but I just found out today that Ordaz is the composer. I must say I love the way Luis sings it on the SM recording and Maceito’s (RIP) incredible high harmonies. It’s a shame SM haven’t gotten the international recognition they deserve. I’m glad to see they’re still touring. Hope they come to vancouver.

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