Fausto, a Cuban Musician and Writer

Photo: Dahian Cifuentes

by Giovanny Jaramillo Rojas  (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES — Diego, a young man who had recited a beautiful poem by Alberto Rodriguez Torca to me, introduced me to Fausto, his colleague, who he stars in Eje en Resistencia with, a multidisciplinary performance that was born from a small group of artist friends.

Eje en Resistencia is an inclusive platform where everyone, from people who declare themselves to be professionals because they have some kind of role that recognizes them as artists, to amateurs who are good and deploy their skills in the worlds of dance, theater, music, poetry, literature and painting, can take part. From the very beginning, the idea has been to unleash creativity and to create a collective script, which we make all by ourselves, to then present it to an audience without any kind of pretension, just to express ourselves,” Fausto says, looking out towards the anti-imperialist bandstand, under the Malecon’s grey sky.

Fausto is a sociable and profound man. He has tidy dreadlocks and wears a red T-shirt that cinematically contrasts with his black skin.

He is called Fausto because his mother, Margarita, is an avid reader. In his childhood, he had to read Goethe’s universal work twice, obligatorily, until he came to understand the dramatic responsibilty not only of his name, but also of his sensitive mother.

Fausto is a musician and writer. His band is called Esencia Rem. A penetrating mix of Blues, Jazz and folk music with Cuban flavor.

¿Fausto, what is Cubanness?

“Cubanness is the key. The rhythm.”

Fausto’s vocation is literature. He spent a good part of his teenage years writing a novel. He spent several years married to his pen. His girlfriend at the time left him. He got upset. Saramago had just passed away. He sent the novel to the recycling bin on his laptop. And he then he permanently deleted it, just to make sure. After that respective mourning period, he began writing a second novel. He wrote schizophrenically until he fell seriously ill. He felt empty. Hollow. Without the will to live. It was his good friendships that helped save him from the excessive loneliness of literature. He decided to buy a guitar and, ever since then, he has preferred to be on stage, playing, even though he knows his true calling is literature, fiction.

Which authors blew you away?

“There are many authors I idolize and I have read a lot of Cuban literature. But, to tell you the truth, I grew up reading Russian literature. Socialist realism. Then, I discovered Saramago and Garcia Marquez and I’ve never found anything better. I believe that one good book is enough for you to fall in love with the author.”

Tell me a little bit about that novel you deleted.

“I have deleted so many things that I can’t even remember that first novel. Look here: the creative process isn’t the most terrible thing, you type everything that comes to your mind. The worst thing is when you stop and have to start up again. She left me and I couldn’t continue. I just couldn’t. I got blank page syndrome. Writer’s block. This emotional break in my life made me give up on that book. Literature is you, just you. Against you. It’s pure selfishness.”

Today, Fausto prefers to be a musician. Not a writer. It’s said that the Cuban people are very musical on the whole. Plus, it’s no secret that the world of music is more active and greater than the literary world: “people don’t read, at least here, they don’t care about reading,” he adds.

Reggaeton has always seemed “a simple and crude form of entertainment” to him, but he respects it. He is advocating for more intellectual, sociable and well-made music. He listened to a lot of rock as a boy, but those weren’t his only influences. He discovered musical journeys through Spain, Africa and Latin America, of course.

“Everything has been made,” he declares, “you just have to take it in and experiment, perfect it.”

He is a staunch defender of one’s roots. Of what is ours. Nothing is more important to Fausto than the place we come from. Wherever we are from. It doesn’t matter. Traditions, history, culture are, quite simply, what we are.

“Someone can only transform themselves, reinvent themselves, innovate themselves if they know what they are. Cuban music is very rich and complex. It takes two or three lifetimes to understand it, know it. Sincopation is only studied here in Cuba. Nowhere else. That’s what we are,” he says.

But, not everything is fun and expression. Fausto hates something about Cuba. Or about Havana, his city. He hates it with his heart and soul.

What is it?

“Coppelia’s damn ice-cream,” he confesses, with the same smile he had when I was introduced to him.