The Journey of a Young Cuban Singer

Yanelys Nunez Leyva

Geover Guevara
Geover Guevara

HAVANA TIMES — Running into an old friend from your teenage years is always a pleasurable experience and more so when we discover that, as well as the years that have passed us by, his way of seeing things, his generosity and his enthusiasm for what he loves haven’t changed.

When I first met Geover Guevara Sanchez (Camaguey, 1989) at a pre-university course, he was always humming songs by the Cuban group Orishas. When we had blackouts, while we were all waiting in the class area for the right time to go up to our rooms, Geover took advantage of the darkness, as he used to have stage fright, and would delight us with a solo concert of the latest romantic songs or boleros which we all knew.

He loved doing it. And even though he never signed up to a young talents event which the school held, we all knew that whenever we wanted to listen to him, we could always try to convince him in our optional sports afternoons or self-study nights as long as there was somebody to accompany him and break the ice.

He was shy and had never had any singing lessons. In the eastern Cuban municipality of Santa Cruz del Sur, when he was a child, he had taken aptitude tests to get into music school and he passed, but a sudden move to Havana because of family reasons, prevented him from studying.

Once here, he moved away from all of this, he turned to different levels of education, and then accepted a degree program in Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation, however the thing nagging at him to compose and make music hadn’t disappeared after all this time.

In a recent conversation, he told me a little about the projects in which he’s taken part over the last few years, however, he also told me about the countless setbacks he’s faced and his ambitions.

Osvaldo Montero and Geover Guevara
Osvaldo Montero and Geover Guevara

Geover: The first serious thing I did was when I played with Pesca Azul back in Santa Cruz where I began to live after I did my military service. I was with that band for about three years, since 2012. It was a group of young people, amateurs, who made fusion music, specifically popular dance music, something which gave us the chance to perform at public celebrations in the area communities.

Havana Times: Were you living off what they paid you for these performances?

G: No, I was working at a polyclinic. As a band, we did some municipal and provincial classifications at the Provincial Center for Music which served as an endorsement for when we presented ourselves somewhere else, however this meant that we weren’t paid. And this situation, along with the cultural scene in this impoverished place, was quite decisive in me deciding to try my luck in Havana after a while and waiting for a national classification that never came.

HT: Were you never interested in applying for arts schoot?

G: No, I didn’t believe in myself that much. Anyway, I didn’t know how to apply, or what the entry process was. What I did do though when I arrived in the capital, was to go to different Cultural Centers several times, where bands normally rehearsed, asking around to see if anybody needed a back up singer, however, the answer I always got was that without professional singer documents, they couldn’t hire me. So I returned to Santa Cruz in 2015 and at that time the Municipal Band had formed a collective and because I already knew them, they let me join.

They were called Proyeccion Latina and they played the same style of music: salsa, popular music. They were all professionals apart from the singers, we were four in total.

There, it was my job. We rooted ourselves in the Provincial Center for Music. We performed at various events: “El Son más largo”, carnivals in Cubanicu, Florida, Vertientes and Sierra de Cubita. I learned some singing techniques that really improved my performance. However, after three years, it fell into a lethargy and I felt stifled, that’s when the idea of going to Havana seduced me again.

HT: Haven’t you been interested in setting up your own project?

G: Yes, I think that’s what every artist’s dream is, however, right now, I feel like in order to be able to do something like that, I need to improve myself.

HT: But at the point you’re at right now, what line of work do you identify yourself with?

Some members of the band led by Osvaldo Montero.
Some members of the band led by Osvaldo Montero.

G: I’ve always liked bolero, romantic ballads. However, I also like what Roldan, one of the singers in Orishas, used to do, or more recently, what Leoni Torres is doing, so I think it will be something along these lines. But, I’m still searching. Listening to all kinds of music. Absorbing everything I can.

HT: What are you doing now?

G: I’ve been collaborating with the band “Osvaldo Montero and Luz Larga” for three months now. I feel quite comfortable there. I’ve had to learn how to play the guiro, to dance and sing all at the same time, and it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed. However, the most important thing has been that I’ve been able to get a professional contract here, with the Popular Music company. It’s something that keeps me going and gives me strength to keep on trying.

Geover is one of the many young Cuban people who, for different reasons, haven’t been able to join an Art Academy and, therefore, it takes them double the time to develop something within the cultural sphere if they don’t find an appropriate mentor or the support of somebody who is already established within this sector. Those who only have their dreams and ambitions have very few opportunities. However, dedication and perseverance almost always bear fruit.