The Wanderings of Cuban Musician Leonardo García

Osmel Almaguer

Leonardo Garcia
Leonardo Garcia

HAVANA TIMES — Born in Santa Clara in 1975, Leonardo Garcia is among the most talented musicians of his generation. A skillful guitarist and lyricist, Garcia addresses Cuban and universal issues with both charm and intensity.

His poetry-laden lyrics take apart and reassemble Cuban society and prompt questions about the human condition and existence in general. When I say “poetry”, I don’t only mean it in an aesthetic sense, I am not only referring to the suggestiveness of the language or the ideal of beauty that informs it, but also to the literary rigor of the lyrics, the fact this author conceives each line with moderation and tenacity.

Leonardo Garcia is also a talented musician whose virtues have been acknowledged on numerous occasions. The honorary mention and Orchestration Award he received as the author of Sombras Desiertas (“Deserted Shadows”) at the OTI Festival in 2001, the Cuban Adolfo Guzman contest Orchestration Award secured in 2003 for Entre la luna y yo (“Between the Moon and I”), the Folk Music award for the album De paso por el sol (“Passing Through the Sun”) at Cubadisco 2008, produced by the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center, are some of the more noteworthy acknowledgements he has earned for himself.

To date, he has produced one independent album, Dias corriendo (“Days on the Fly”). His works have also been included in several anthologies.

Emigration

I get in the car, I’m almost done, I hold the photos of some friends, / I start to move, confidence blows through the open window

The last houses go by and the town is lost behind me, behind the dogs the fences bark at me / my eyes explode, my broken pupils betray me.

The times are tough. / Running aimlessly is trying one’s hand at the dream of living, / I carry my soul as a coat, I mustn’t stop to think, / I won’t turn around, / I don’t want to look back.

A hereon is flying above me to my left, its shadow and mine intersect and play / they soar together over the valley, leave behind the river and fly away. / The fields say that, in neighboring fields, the deer are fleeing, rubbing against the noise, / the heavy burdens of time make our steps stray from the path.

The world shall be my witness, this road feeds my serenity. / Running aimlessly is trying one’s hand at the dream of living, / I carry my soul as a coat, I mustn’t stop to think, / I won’t turn around, / I don’t want to look back.

The lights twinkle awake as night falls, fear refreshes my calm face, / winter grows colder and the dead fog is all I see. / Running aimlessly is trying one’s hand at the dream of living, / I carry my soul as a coat, I mustn’t stop to think, / I won’t turn around, / I don’t want to look back.

It isn’t hard to assume that the author of the song has gone through the experience of emigrating (though, needless to say, poets also allude to fictitious situations).

The story told by the song takes place on the road. It begins at point A, from where the singer emigrates, and concludes at point B, where he becomes an immigrant. The road is all that separates these two extremes, and, for the person emigrating, for the duration of their displacement, it is also a kind of provisional universe.

Traveling down this road, the subject of the song enters into intimate contact with the elements: the wind that strikes his face fills him with confidence becomes that which he finds as he moves and that which nourishes him. He also experiences that strange sensation awakened by the new and the unknown, which, though it is something we aspire to, is also frightening.

A superficial reading of the lyrics affords us the following information: someone leaves from his native town in a car, leaving behind his home and his friends, sacrificing what he loves chasing a dream. They travel down a long road until arriving at their destination, a large and unfamiliar city, where the wintry weather evokes melancholy and heightens their feelings of nostalgia.

This road, which begins at point A and ends at point B, could, however, can also be interpreted metaphorically, as something more than a mere, paved thoroughfare. It could be interpreted as a road to exile and as a universal statement on the issue of emigration.

This road could thus become a river, a dirt road or an air passage, and Leonardo (or the person emigrating) could be a peasant who leaves for Havana, or a Cuban who leaves Cuba, headed anywhere in the world.

Whatever their specific condition, this person suffers and admits perplexity before life’s complexity, where only his soul affords him a measure of warmth.

After a third reading, the road strikes me rather as one’s wandering through life, where what’s in store for us is old age, that preamble to death which, for the most part, is sad and cold.

No debo detenerme al pensar, dice el autor antes de terminar con esa visión que, sin lugar a dudas, es poco optimista. No debo detenerme a pensar, no volveré la cabeza, no quiero mirar.

I mustn’t stop to think, says the author before concluding the song, which is not exactly optimistic. I mustn’t stop to think, I won’t turn around, I don’t want to look back.


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