Ahmed Alom’s debut album EXILIO
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban-born, New York-based pianist Ahmed Alom’s debut album EXILIO will be released June 2, 2023, under Irreverence Group Music. The album features works by Albeniz, Calvo, Cervantes, Lecuona, Falla, and De La Chica.
With his roots in Havana, Cuba, and New York City, 24-year-old Alom makes his album debut with EXILIO, a solo piano recording featuring curated works from a range of Hispanic composers whose music reflects the emotional turmoil of losing touch with one’s homeland.
Reminiscent of Europe’s late Romantic period, Alom demonstrates a contemporary approach to the melancholic concept of exile projected by past composers, while demonstrating a proposed new perspective to contemplate.
Alom’s modern interpretation of these nineteenth-century works is rooted in a forward-thinking perspective, finding refuge within the piano and transforming prior notions of exile by means of present-day curation and production.
Alom partners with Irreverence Music Group, founded by Colombian composer and pianist Julián De La Chica, to cohesively blend the works of six self-exiled and forcefully exiled Hispanic artists, each sharing a sentimental longing to hold onto their past lives amidst the new. With their adopted perspectives in New York City, Alom and De La Chica offer a pivotal outlook on the concept of exile and its capacity to evolve and improve.
The album’s concept began with a focus on Luis A. Calvo, a composer influenced by his exile within Agua de Dios, Colombia: an isolated community created by the Colombian government to contain people with leprosy. Exilio offers some of the few recordings of Calvo’s works, many of which were written by Calvo in the confines of Colombia’s disregarded colonies. This portion of forgotten history was widely studied by De La Chica and brought to fruition in his literary debut entitled God’s Punishment. With great honor, Alom becomes a vehicle to transport Calvo’s buried works into the present and future.
The album additionally spotlights Manuel de Falla, one of Spain’s most influential composers, who committed to a life of self-exile in 1939 after refusing support from the Franco dictatorship.
In homage to Alom’s homeland, Exilio offers four tracks from Ignacio Cervantes’ Danzas Cubanas, which sheds light on his 1875 departure from Cuba and his devotion to Cuba’s fight for independence.
Alom threads the works of each composer’s unique stories, encouraging the listener to consider the nuanced relationships we have with our homeland, and prompting us to reimagine the present and future perceptions of exile as performed through his adaptations. US pianist Simone Dinnerstein notes, “Ahmed Alom’s album, Exilio, couldn’t be more timely, coming at this period of unrest, amidst the surge of migrants leaving their homes to find a better life elsewhere. In the United States, as we are
beginning to examine our own complicated and shameful past, the music on this album represents composers who were victims of oppression in their native lands.”
The album comes full circle in the present day with the work of Brooklyn-based composer Julián De La Chica, whose piece “Adios Cuba” leaves a final impression on the album. The track includes the vocals of Mexican mezzo-soprano, Rosario Armas, who is also Alom’s wife. Like many New Yorkers, all three of these musicians left their home country to welcome the opportunities of a new city, a depiction of exile that Alom notes as “nostalgic, eye-opening, and hopeful”.
Latin American music scholar Luis Gabriel Mesa notes, Ahmed’s voice as a migrant and an artist “accounts for that spirit of resilience that shaped a large part of the work of composers such as Luis Antonio Calvo, Ignacio Cervantes or Ernesto Lecuona, in life circumstances that led them to find in the writing for piano a ground and a refuge to cultivate your introspection. I highlight that thread that links in such a coherent way the selection of musical works derived from those earthly and sentimental exiles, which were transformed into music through the creative exercise of the composers integrated into Alom’s repertoire.”
Ranging across nations, generations, and political climates, Exilio offers a journey from past to present and the foreseeable future, maintaining a central theme of hope and support for those who carry the weight of exile on their shoulders.
Background on Ahmed Alom
Ahmed Alom started piano lessons at five in his hometown Havana, with Beatriz Olivera, Hortensia Upmann, Leonardo Gell, Ninowska Fernandez and Svetlana Logounova. He is a Manhattan School of Music graduate as a scholarship student of the Viola B. Marcus Foundation and Flavio Varani Fund for Pianists, under the guidance of Dr. Solomon Mikowsky, and was coached by Kirill Gerstein, Sylvia Rosenberg, Richard Goode, Anthony de Mare and Robert Levin. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras in Spain, Cuba, Mexico and the United States, performing works ranging from Beethoven to Chopin and Gershwin. As a Jazz and Latin Jazz pianist, he has appeared in festivals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica and Cuba, and he has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the MSM Afro Cuban Jazz Band, ExitZero Jazz Festival and Jazz Night in America.
Alom collaborated with the Latin Grammy Award Winner Pedro Giraudo, and the music ensemble for the newly premiered ballet “Doña Peron”, written by composer Peter Salem and commissioned by Ballet Hispanico. He also collaborates regularly with Philippe Quint, Steve Hackman, Teddy Abrams, Paquito D’Rivera (Grammy Winner), Pedrito Martinez, among others.