HAVANA TIMES, Feb 18 — Adrian Berazain has just released his most recent CD, “Como los locos,” (Like lunatics), as he clears a path that is winning increasingly more followers here in Cuba. As he put it, “I define myself as a person who makes songs, has a good time and makes people think.”
HT: Your musical training was self-taught. So tell us how you wound up learning how to play two instruments and became the recognized artist that you are today.
Adrian Berazain: I had an exceedingly strong will to become a musician, though I was already relatively pretty old when I started music school and the conservatory. When I was in high school I began teaching myself how to play guitar, where I began to compose my first songs along with several friends who were studying with me. We formed a group that we called “Carpe diem.”
Since we were housed there at the boarding school, it was kind of a hassle to always be lugging around a guitar, so I started looking for an instrument that would be easy to carry and that would distinguish me. That’s when the harmonica appeared in my life.
It was the instrument that I learned to play and that I continue learning through recordings and by downloading musical techniques from over the Internet. I’ve continued to develop, and I’ve had the good fortune of playing along with other musicians and artists. That’s how I’ve continued learning how to sing, improving myself on the guitar, improving my songs and even becoming a better person.
HT: Tell us about your father and how he has influenced your artistic development.
AB: My father is Antonio Berazain Iturralde, a professor of physics at the University of Design here in Cuba. Currently he’s the vice president of the school, but he’s also a comedian and a writer of humor books and television scripts. From him I learned my love for Cuban song as well as my first chords. I imagine that it was also his influence for the sarcasm and double meanings in my compositions.
However the true artist is my mother, Maria Eugenia Azcuy Rodriguez, who has always worked in the world of the culture. She was the representative of the now-deceased Cuban poet Jesus “Nabori the Indian” Orta Ruiz, from whom I received wise advice in my adolescence. When I was a little boy, my mother would take me to all of her poetry events, trova concerts and art exhibitions.
All of those influences from my parents contributed greatly to my current direction.
HT: We’ve heard certain concerns from you about how you see the state of “trova musicians” these days. Could you speak to us about those?
AB: Not everybody would like to be a trova musician, but nor can everyone be one. I’ve heard it said from older trova musicians that it’s more of an attitude towards life. It’s about assuming one’s own opinion based on a poetic idea, which is then accompanied by music. I began as trova musician, though I’m now backed up by a band. Nevertheless, I haven’t abandoned that form of expression, since I never plan to stop feeling that way.
HT: As an instrument, your harmonica has been heard not only with trova musicians with whom you’ve collaborated, but also for the musical work of other Cuban figures.
AB: The harmonica has always been my advanced contingent. With this instrument I’m able to get into certain places and then teach my songs. Like I said earlier, from the time I was a student to up until now, it has been something that distinguishes me, something that gives me an individual brand in what I do.
Of course since there are few people in Cuba who play this instrument, I’ve always had opportunities to participate, either with trova musicians or with singers of other styles – like those who create popular dance music or pop music, in addition to some performances for the cinema and TV.
HT: Did your musical interests ever compel you to pursue a university degree?
AB: I pursued a major in design while I wrote songs and played them everywhere I could. I don’t know how I was able to graduate in that specialty. I still ask myself that since I had to make twice the effort. Currently I design CD covers, posters and whatever comes up, although I prefer things that have to do with the music. I think that if Compay Segundo rolled tobacco and Matamoros worked in the copper mines of Santiago de Cuba, it’s not bad that I do design work while music gives me a chance at something else.
HT: Your first CD, “Como los locos,” has just come out. How do we find Berazain at this stage?
AB: My CD “Como los locos,” under the Bis Music label, includes songs about my adolescence up until my youth – my current life. In it there are songs about love as well as social issues like immigration, the status of life, drugs, disillusionment and historical moments. In short, I’m trying to make a photo of a time, a chronicle of what I’ve lived.
The musical arrangements are based on a format of a rock & roll trio, that’s to say a bass, an electric guitar and drums. The electro-acoustic guitar is always present, as are shades of Cuban percussion, a trumpet and one or another keyboard. It’s a CD of Cuban pop-rock with songs from contemporary trova.
HT: Do you think that economic expectations have taken over with respect to recording here on the island?
AB: The crisis is on all sides and around the entire world. Since I was born there have always been “economic problems.” It’s part of my story.
At the moment, the CD industry is threatened by the technological advances that are making it obsolete – though CDs continue to be manufactured in Cuba. I see this becoming an increasingly difficult situation; therefore, though it doesn’t meet world expectations, it’s good to consider the effort that’s involved in creating, promoting and marketing Cuban music from right here in Cuba.
HT: What happened with your trip to Nicaragua in 2007?
AB: Nicaragua was good for me to see another reality, albeit briefly. I went as a guest to participate in the Festival of Central American Students in 2007. Once there, I shared with other youths like myself, discussing other realities different from mine. I also had the opportunity to sing with people from that country. Without a doubt that was important for me.
HT: How do you define yourself as an exponent of music, keeping in mind your interest in pursuing messages in your work?
AB: I define myself as a person who makes songs, has a good time and makes people think. I’m a singer of opinions.
HT: And if you sang of a tomorrow that you would like to see here on earth, what aspects would you not overlook in your musical poetry.
AB: Above all there would be love, just like for the Beatles when they sang “All You Need Is Love.” But there would also be truth and explanations for why things happen, and why things have happened.