A Musical Bridge from Cuba*

Osmel Almaguer 

Eric Mendez. Photo: ahs.cu

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 20 — Eric Mendez is a trova musician who has recently come to light and whose popularity is currently on the rise in Cuban music.  Like many of his contemporaries, his restless creativity has led him to explore a fusion of sounds and rhythms.  This is why in his songs one can find the imprints of reggae, bossa nova, ballads and flamenco all blended with Cuban rhythms.

He channels his work toward an encounter with his religious faith, which is why the lyrics of his songs combine sermonizing and searching along with questioning and protest.

“CANTO A JESUS”

CD Canto a Jesus

I roamed with my friends submerged in an unreal world, which confused all of us, mixing pot with stimulants and women with wine.  At times I was king. I was sometimes the mime of banal life.   

There, among songs, we grew wings, I lived every day as if tomorrow would never exist, it was effective medicine for curing the illness of hunger and problems.  I had to steal, but what was important was to look for more money before it got dark.  And to fly again.  

A while later: One day I was cheating, lying, things got lost all around me, in order to consume. I don’t know what you dream about: the classic drama that they put on the soap opera, only that there, the people are always good, and they don’t reject you, and no one ends up in prison.  

Three years later, back on the streets, I thought everything was going to be OK, but it wasn’t.  And you already know what medicine solved my problems, so once again I was behind bars, on my knees I found love, and He lifted me up.  

I sing to Jesus, with my voice and my heart, because he paid, so that this song doesn’t have an unhappy ending.    

I sing to Jesus, with my voice and my heart, because he gave me new strength and another chance, how can I not sing? 

I sing to Jesus, with my voice and my heart, because he paid, so that this song doesn’t have an unhappy ending.    

I sing to Jesus, with my voice and my heart, because he gave me, new strength and another chance, how can I not sing? 

Chorus: How can I not sing?  (repeated twice).   

If he gave me life, if he gave me my voice.  Chorus: How can I not sing?  

If he gave me the strength, if he lifted me up.  Chorus: How can I not sing?  

How can I not sing?   Chorus: How can I not sing?  

How can’t I, how can’t I.  Chorus: How can I not sing to him?  

If with a breath of his encouragement he gave me rebirth.  Chorus: How can I not sing?  

And with a touch of his hand he took away my darkness.  Chorus: How can I not sing?  

How can I not sing?    Chorus: How can I not sing?  

He sings with me to the beat of this celebration.   Chorus: How can I not sing?  

How can I not sing?   Chorus: How can I not sing?  

Eric Mendez. Photo: caimanbarbudo.cu

Canto a Jesus,” undoubtedly is the soul of this recording to which its title is lent.  The words are remarkable in this transparent expression of sincerity and immense emotion that the author composed.  But the next rung toward the “sky of the enjoyment” is perhaps reached when you hear Erick sing and play this story to the beat of reggae.

This involves the classic anecdote of religious salvation.  The difference is in the perceptible greatness.  Only an authentic experience would be able to inspire the poetry.  A poetry sprouted from the most ordinary and painful reality.

I have recognized a coldly constructed seduction behind the voices of many preachers; however with Erick I don’t perceive the same thing.  When he reaffirms the reasons why he sings to Jesus, I can identify with him, despite my rigid atheistic education.

On the other hand, from a slightly less emotional optic, the musical theme contributes to the updating of the religious myth with a tone that is close and warm, though equally activist – at least this is the way I feel it.

It is the voice of a man who has found the accommodating place for him to deposit his faith, and that’s fine, because through his song we also receive that hope so necessary to support and overcome the problems of mundane life.

The problems of modern day life — consumerism, loneliness, alienation, drugs — these are placed to the other extreme of a dogma that, since its begging, has guided its struggle against those and other evils.

It’s certain that in the course of that journey there have been outrages that have much to do with “sheep disguised as wolves,” but there have also existed virtuous and honest people who have wanted to share their faith with humanity in a sincere and humble manner.

  (*) 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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