HAVANA TIMES — Elain Morales is a Cuban singer who has taken several international venues by storm and made a career for himself in the United States. “They say no one is a prophet in their own land,” he tells us during his interview for Havana Times.
HT: What did you do before you became the internationally-renowned soloist you are today?
Elain Morales: I started in the dance-music world, next to the sons of Los Papines, in a band called Sello L.A., around 1996. Then, I joined the band Pachito Alonso y sus Quini Quini. Dance music was very popular in Cuba at the time.
HT: Is there anything from that genre left in your current musical production?
EM: Of course. It was a kind of school for me that prepared me for the leap into solo music I would make later.
HT: Tell us about Mi paraiso (“My Paradise”).
EM: It’s my fourth album. To my great satisfaction, it won an award this year in Cubadisco’s Latin Music category. My first tour around Cuba, to start this month, will also be titled Mi paraiso de verano (“My Summer Paradise”). We’ll be launching a campaign against AIDS and continuing with my another campaign, Sin pasaje de regreso (“No Return Ticket”), during the tour.
I am very excited to be able to take on this project because of the message we’ll be taking across the island. I’ve always enjoyed becoming involved in things of this nature. We artists can reach many people.
HT: It is also the title of one of the most important songs you’ll be performing during your second campaign.
EM: We want to let people know we’re against all those negative things that detract from us and are socially counter-productive. Sin pasaje de regreso is a noble initiative I undertook in Cuba in conjunction with the Red Iberoamericana y Africana de Masculinidad (“Latin American and African Masculinity Network”) chaired by professor Julio Gonzalez.
After we had launched this campaign, the United Nations established the Artistas Unete (“Artists United”) network and made me its official spokesperson. We’re still championing that cause, speaking on its behalf the world over. We intend to meet with young Cubans and hold debates with anyone who’s interested in the issue.
HT: Tell us about Las mujeres de mi Cuba (“The Women of My Cuba”).
EM: That’s a piece I wanted to dedicate to the world’s most beautiful women, Cuban women. It’s a kind of homage to them. Cuban women are dancers by nature. I am an admirer of women. I’ve had the opportunity to meet women from several countries and I can assure you Latin American women are special. I respect them a lot, for women give us life, and they are prepared to take on far more than men are.
HT: How long have you been working outside Cuba?
EM: In 2000, when my solo career began, I was offered several professional opportunities outside Cuba, chiefly in the United States. This is why I’ve been living abroad most of the time of late. I also had the opportunity to perform in Europe. I was in France and Holland. But I’ve spent most of the time in the United States, where I’ve released my four albums with the US label Melomania Productions.
HT: And what about the Latin Grammys and your contact with music luminaries.
EM: Getting a double nomination was an extremely important opportunity for me and made it possible to meet some music legends, such as Carlos Santana, Alejandro Sanz, all those famous people.
HT: What of I Believe in Love?
EM: This song was born following a tour through different countries, where I realized that we are constantly changing as a society and that some people are ready for this and others aren’t. I felt the need to express myself through music, to let people know we are a family and should not hurt one another.
Today, we prefer to send someone a text message than to say “I love you” in person – that’s where the trap lies. There’s nothing wrong with evolving, but we are made for loving and allowing feelings to flow. I lived in New York for a while. It’s a city where people don’t look each other in the eyes, and that made a deep impression on me. That’s where I Believe in Love was born.
HT: Your expectations of performing in Cuba?
EM: Performing in my country is a huge pleasure for me. Cuban audiences are very musical. I am sure we’re going to enjoy playing for all of Cuba immensely. Returning to the island is always very exciting for me. We’ll be playing songs that have accompanied me in this long journey with a lot of positive energy there.
HT: Tel us about Costumbres (“Habits”).
EM: That’s my next album, a special compilation I am putting together as a kind of tribute to my mother. Costumbres is a song by Juan Gabriel. I had never done covers before, but I decided to do this album with songs by other artists, with the songs I would listen to at home, the songs I grew up with. We are putting together a selection of pieces that had an impact on music history, by Juan Formell, Joaquin Sabina, Johan Manuel Serrat, Pablo Milanes and others. All of this music is the soundtrack of my and many other peoples’ childhood, of an important period in our lives.
HT: Your music is associated to Spanish flamenco because of your singing style.
EM: That has to do with the fact we Cubans are a mix of different races. On my mother’s side, I have Lebanese ancestry, and Spanish roots on my father’s side. I think that explains that a bit.
HT: Are any Cuban labels interested in your music?
EM: Yes, EGREM is interested in buying the rights to my four albums recorded abroad. They say no one is a prophet in their own land. I don’t aspire to be a prophet, but I do want to play in my country, for people to see what I do. I believe this is a beautiful gift, it’s something I respect immensely, to be able to perform here, back home.