Interview by Helson Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES, July 15 — The band Qva Libra took home an award in the fusion category at the recently concluded annual music industry event “Cubadisco.” We were able to speak with Carlos Diaz Soto, who is the manager of this group that plays alternative Cuban music with shades of many musical styles.
HT: When did this musical project begin?
CARLOS DIAZ SOTO: It started 10 years ago, organized sometime around 2000. At the beginning there were four of us musicians, no one else. Its director and lead singer back then was Frank Montejo. We’ve been transforming and transforming with several members having gone through the group at different stages until today there are twelve of us.
HT: Has the group maintained the musical aesthetics that it had when it began or has the band made any kind of interesting conceptual shift.
CARLOS DIAZ SOTO: We’ve made lots of twists and turns in that sense. In the beginning we started out with an idea, which at that moment of birth was fresh and green. But later it matured through time in terms of aesthetics, music and the tendencies that influenced us – including foreign artists and musicians here on the island.
When we began, Qva Libre was based more on the concept of a rock group with shades of Cuban music, but today it’s just the opposite, it’s a group that plays of alternative Cuban music with shades of many musical styles, including rock as well as hip-hop. Also firmly rooted in our work is a funk tendency. In short, all of this forms a very interesting stew.
HT: Did you did come from some other music group?
CARLOS DÍAZ SOTO: This was the first group I ever joined, and I’ve been with it all my professional life. I’ve done things with other artists, musicians like Telmari and Kumar, but Qva Libre has always been my group. In it I’ve cast my lot — my desires and my artistic life — and I believe it will always be this way. From what Qva Libre formerly was, I’m the only one of the founders still here. The rest of the members are new.
I really come from the street, because I didn’t study at any music school. Still, I’ve been studying this career. I’ve had some magnificent teachers who have allowed me to understand the depth of this world and to prepare myself professionally more and more. Among them I can mention Clara Nicola, my guitar teacher. I’ve also benefited from the instruction of the well-known composer Juan Antonio Leyva; in what concerns musical productions, I learned a great deal working with him. In this way I’ve evolved until I’ve become what I am today: the director of Qva Libre.
HT: Keeping in mind the training that you’ve received based on you own interests, what catches our attention is that you’re no longer centered only in the work of the group. You also participate in other initiatives in which you’ve been able to create arrangements and define musical concepts, for example that’s the case of the festival of the popular television program Cuerda Viva.
CARLOS DÍAZ SOTO: Well, the relationship of the group with the Cuerda Viva program has been great because we’re one of the first groups that’s been on the program since its beginning. Specifically, this work came about based on an homage paid to Los Van Van in a music festival. Qva Libre played a version of a very famous song that sounded very much like the legendary group “Azucar.”
Since that turned out well and people liked it, the director of the program, Anita Rabaza, asked me to do the arrangements for a segment that was presented in the festival this year. It was dedicated to the music of the ‘50s or what’s called “vitrola music.” So I was in charge of the musical production and arrangements of all those songs, which involved artists of that generation singing with artists of today. It was incredible, kind of a crashing together of time.
HT: The song by Qva Libre that’s played most by the media here on the island is the one titled “2012,” written by you. By any chance does it have anything to do with the movie that’s been shown dealing with the issue of the end of the world or anything similar?
CARLOS DÍAZ SOTO: (laughter) Actually it’s just the opposite. In fact, it’s a way of making fun of those suppositions. Human beings walk around in constant search of answers. What we do with this song is to make fun of all this. That’s why I remind people that the refrain says: “Let’s jump, dance, enjoy and frolic because the world is ending in 2012.”
I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank Suilen Milanes, since because of her we were able to record it at the studios of PM Records.
HT: Is there some special reason or idea behind the name of the group, “Qva Libre”?
CARLOS DÍAZ SOTO: It’s that in a beginning we came from the world of rock, and that was the initial idea, to create a rock band but with shades of Cuban music, like I explained at the beginning. What we wanted was to capture in the name of the group was just that: a way of freely expressing in our music all of the uniqueness of a people, all of their culture and the thoughts of many generations. But we wanted it viewed in a different way, one free of taboos and concepts. It was like giving a new vision of what we youth are today, of what we want, what we hear… We are giving them a path to the freedom of ideas and also to personal goals.
HT: Can people find you and your group playing regularly somewhere in Havana?
CARLOS DÍAZ SOTO: Sure. We perform at the Casa de la Musica in Miramar, located at the corner of 35th Avenue and 20th, every Wednesday from 5:00 in the afternoon to 9:00 at night. It’s a good place where our public comes together to enjoy Qva Libre live.