Musical Bridge from Cuba: Gerardo Alfonso

A Musical Bridge from Cuba (*)

Osmel Almaguer

Gerardo Alfonso. Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 16 — Gerardo Alfonso was born in Havana in 1958.  He began as a trova musician under the influence of the Cuban form of nueva canción (new song).

He joined the Brigada Hermanos Saiz with the great hope of being able to visit other countries.  In 1982, yet to fulfill his dream and while performing first on a street corner in the Vedado district and later at the la Casa del Joven Creador (Creative Youth Center), he met Donato Poveda, Alberto Tosca, Santiago Feliu and others.

He subsequently shared the stage with Maria Bethania, Pablo Milanes, Silvio Rodriguez, Carlos Verela, Frank Delgado and many others.

His work, which developed starting in the 1980s, is maintained in the present as an unavoidable reference of Cuban trova.  Since his beginning he has been able to insert songs spanning all epochs (“Yo te queria Maria,” “Paranoico,” “Sabanas blancas” and “Son los sueños todavia demonstrate this).

His lyrics have assured him a place in the hearts of all Cubans, just as his fusion work has won him high marks among specialized critics.  His songs incorporate elements of Latin American music —basically Brazilian and Caribbean— but he has also understood how to take advantage of his urban and popular roots in a range of mixtures that span from rock and reggae to rap and guaguanco, though never abandoning his trova essence.

Alfonso prefers to explore the depths of themes such as love, humanity, society and life.  His songs have been performed by Grupo Moncada, Santiago Feliu and Ireno Garcia, among other Cuban musical figures and groups.

His discography includes Volando hacia la luna (1990), Los lobos se reunen (1993), Diviertete un poco (1994) and Sabanas blancas (1996).   He also appears on several productions and anthologies of nueva trova and general Cuban music.  In addition, he has composed soundtracks for several films and documentaries.


CD Volando hacia la luna (1990)

“There never lacks the time to begin / the risk never runs greater / though everything now seems senseless / now I don’t know if we will love again / I never know when you will come by / I’m living in an unknown world / if I cannot see you more along the way / if no solution remains / I would like for this song and this love to reach you / make the walls of what is forbidden fall / that all your good health and your kindness have a nest / I would like that .

“Distance will separate us / the distance will separate us / because it has definitive powers / and to believe that one can wait / it is to be kissed through a glass / where one only feels the silence and the cold / if I cannot see you more along the way / if no solution remains / I would like for this song and this love to reach you / make the walls of what is forbidden fall / that all your health and your kindness have a nest / I would like that.”

The words of trova songs almost always, in a first reading, bring us closer to the relationship between the trova musician and an important being in their life: either a loved one, an idyll or —focused from different angles— the cause of their grief or the object of their hatred.

In the context of the Cuban nueva trova and novisima trova, their exponents are characterized by social and political commitment that can be either for or against the Revolution, and this is reflected in most of the songs.

In this way, as we listen to these lyrics and we prefer to think of issues so seemingly unimportant as a lost or yearned for love, their authors speak to us of themes of greater interest to society as a whole.

“Quisiera” is one of those songs in which we find the desire for a better society —which is after all universal— intertwined with a definitive freedom.  In other words, hope for a better world is fused with many human ideals.

The theme of this song seems to be the separation of two people who love each other.  It is like they are kept apart by an invisible wall, which could suggest to us the issue of exile or internationalist missions so common for Cubans in recent decades.

It doesn’t seem that Gerardo has an interest in leaving things tied down, and I say this in terms of the senses that he can embrace in the lyrics of his songs.  These are, from this point of view, genuine poems that unfold their wings leaving us with the limits our own thoughts and interpretations.

And like poetry always aims to reach the infinite, we could continue delving into these poems indefinitely until reaching unsuspected limits, but also filling our pages with confused interpretations.  I prefer though to recommend that you listen to the song, and then tell me what you discover.

(*) 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.