Cuba’s Ivet Luisa, Singing to Yemaya

Irina Echarry, Photos: Caridad

Ivet Luisa Letuse, (L).

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 7 — In last November’s 14th edition of JoJazz (Young Jazz) there was great variety. Not all the songs heard are pure jazz. Ivet Letus Luisa competed in the composition category with a jazz fusion song titled “Entre Aguas.”

Particularly striking is the ease with which she performs on stage. We can then see that she’s a sweet young woman wanting to do what she likes best: creating music.

Though a little nervous because people “couldn’t hear her well,” because she was only able to prepare at the last minute, because she didn’t have a pianist for her group, and because she wanted to do better, Ivet nonetheless agreed to speak with us.

HT: Are you studying now?

Ivet Letus Luisa: No, I graduated from the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory. I’ve been a vocalist with several groups; I worked at the Parisien Cabaret in the Hotel Nacional, also with several companies. Now I’ve formed my own group, “Cielo Abierto.”

I’m also cutting my first record at Abdala Studios, produced by Emilio Vega, and where I had an opportunity to work with excellent musicians like Jorge Reyes, Alfred Thomson and Rolando Luna. What this means is that they served as the instrumentalists, and it’s been fabulous.

HT: How did you get the chance to record?

IL: It’s an album that I won, we might say, as a prize in the 2010 Ojala competition, sponsored by Silvio Rodriguez and Ojala Studios. I was a finalist and therefore I won the right to record.

HT: Was that also in composition or in performing?

IL: It was in “musicalization,” which consisted of setting to music the poems by Ruben Martinez Villena.

HT: This was the competition that Tammy Lopez won?

IL: Yes, she won, but I was one of the five finalists.

HT: And your group, how long have you been together it?

IL: It was founded on July 6 of this year. It’s new and we’re now working on a general repertoire of my own, since I’m a composer.

HT: How long have you been composing?

IL: Since I was nine, and I’ve continued doing it up until now.

HT: In “Entre Aguas” your singing to Yemaya?

IL:  She is an Afro-Cuban water deity that has always captured my attention, and since we’re on an island surrounded by the sea, we must be very close to her, so I wanted to do a tribute to her.

HT:  How old are you?

IL:  I’m 30.

HT:  Why did you decide to participate in JoJazz? Have you been in the competition before?

IL: I always had great respect for JoJazz. I think it’s an excellent competition, but I chose to first listen and learn. But since this is my last chance to participate in it — I’m at the age limit — I decided to be in it now.

HT: The song you sang isn’t pure jazz, there’s a lot of fusion in it, but nor is it what’s usually heard in this competition.

IL: Yes, I usually mix several styles, lots of rhythms. That’s basically what my music consists of. The album I’m now recording has many styles mixed together. People are going to be able to find jazz in different formats: a solo with the piano, with the bass and piano with Jorge Reyes and Rolando Luna, but also rock music, children’s music, guajira, danzon, cha-cha-cha, boleros, son and other genres. There’s also a waltz, which you don’t hear much these days, but I wanted to do a waltz. It will be coming out soon on the Ojala-Colibri labels.

HT: Do you have a place where people can go to listen to you?

IL: We don’t have a place yet because we are still waiting for an audition with the Institute of Music so that we can be picked up by a company. As soon as we become a part of a music company we’ll have a place because we do have a number of possibilities and job proposals. But without a company we can’t work. In addition, to promote the recordings we’re making right now, we need a business to support us.

HT: You said you’re at the age limit for JoJazz. What other options do you have in other competitions for artists over 30 or with other opportunities to make yourself known?

IL: Well, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m going to give a concert (though I still don’t know the date) because all these discs have presentation events associated with them. I hope to do mine at the Museum of Fine Arts. That will be next year and with all those guests that I mentioned, plus with the Sexto Sentido all-female vocal group. Your readers are invited to be there.