Interview: Cuban Singer Niurka Reyes

Helson Hernandez

Niurka Reyes

HAVANA TIMES — Niurka Reyes remains one of the great voices of the Cuban song today. “I’m passionate, dedicated, true, but above all I’m an artist who loves what I do – and I’m very respectful of my audience,” she said in her interview with HT.

Niurka is a performer who can identify with the great voices that the island’s culture has produced. She possesses various experiences that she shares today with readers of Havana Times.

HT:  Before you began performing, did you have another profession, or has your voice always been your professional medium?

Niurka Reyes: I was, am today and will always be a performer. That’s my reason for living.

HT: How was the singer in you that we recognize today first discovered?

NR: Since childhood I was passionate about music, especially singing. It became a necessity for me. I used to listen to my grandmother sing. She had a beautiful voice and she implanted that bug in me. Undoubtedly she was my inspiration. I studied music for nine years, graduating in choral directing from the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). My formal academic training perfected me as a singer and artist.

HT: Of the great voices that Cuban music has given us, did any of these serve as a reference for you?

NR: Many of them. My mother used to take me to the theater and to television programs; so many artists of that time marked me and served as points of reference for me. A great number of these great singers no longer live in Cuba, people like Ania Linares, Mirtha Medina, and Maggie Carles.

HT:  What was provided to you by your experience with the Lizt Alfonso Ballet?

NR: Working with Lizt Alfonso and her company has represented something very enriching for me. The show “Amigos” is one of the most important works I’ve done in my career. I always wanted to experience musical theater, and being in that cast gave me the chance to act, dance as well as sing.

HT: Do you think that the absence of these types of projects in Cuba limits the potential of Cuban singers?

NR: Of course. Many of us are concerned about dancing and acting, besides singing – which is mostly what we do. Here in Cuba there are conservatories and institutions for the musical training of those who are born with talent and demonstrate their potential, but there aren’t resources to completely reach there full potentials.

Niurka Reyes

It’s almost impossible to find consultants who can help with one’s image, acting or makeup. This lack of resources and the resulting expenses to get any project up and running limit their scope of what you can do as far as musicals are concerned. Our country still has a large arsenal of artists. Just imagine how it would be if we could do anything we wanted?

HT: Tell us about your role in Arte Habana every month.

NR: Good grief… I’ve been involved with Arte Habana for six years. Every Tuesday afternoon I have a program at Artex that has given me immense satisfaction. Its success lies in my doing it with a lot of spontaneity. The artists and the audiences there interact in a beautiful relationship; it’s like a meeting of friends. The people who attend are regular folks, most of whom don’t have the money to go she me at the night spots where I usually perform; so they’re thankful for being able to see their favorite artists at a place close to them.

HT: Has Mexico left an imprint on your life?

NR: Mexico is a country that I love, and it has left deep impressions on my life. I’ve been there many times, I treasure the beautiful experiences, though others have been sad, like the car accident I had there in 1997. But I prefer to remember the best moments, which make up the overwhelming majority.

HT: EGREM Records has released two of your albums, but we haven’t seen a follow up record.

NR: I’ve recorded two CDs on the EGREM label: El baile del caracol and Apasionada. Unfortunately the recording industry worldwide is depressed, and the boom in reggaeton and other foreign styles make it even more difficult to record songs with a lighter repertoire here in Cuba.

That is happening with all of us Cuban singers. I have other two CDs that are ready for recording just as soon as I get the opportunity. One is of songs by contemporary Cuban composers such as Osmani Espinosa, Juan Formell, Amaray Perez, Jose Valladares, Alina Clemente and Albertico Pujols. They’re beautiful songs and ballads.

The other project is a tribute to the work of Alberto Cortez. I’m very motivated with this one. I feel indebted to the younger generations, since I grew up listening to his songs and I think that discovering them would be a treasure for most Cubans. I hope to record them soon.

HT: If we were to define the features that distinguish you as a performer, what would these be?

NR: I’m passionate, dedicated, true, but above all I’m an artist who loves what I do – and I’m very respectful of my audience.