Portada del disco Versos de José Martí. Cantados por Pablo Milanés.

Cuba: music poetry. 10 productions and a rarity

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Good music is always poetry for the music-loving spirit. But there is the so-called musical poetry, in which the composer and the interpreter-sometimes the same-must also be in his poetic way; or at least, sensitive reader. And if, in its interpretation - here understood in the deepest sense of the word - exudes the ineffable substance of creation, the miracle is guaranteed.

Verses of José Martí. Sung by Pablo Milanés (EGREM, 1973)

As if it were not enough for one of the icons of the Cuban popular song to sing and sing to the greatest Cuban poet of all time, this was the first record as a soloist by Pablo Milanés, which turns it into a phonogram of its own right. worship. A Pablo who already saw himself coming in his impressive vocal faculties and taste for interpretation, converts into songs eleven of the best known verses of Martí and a fragment -We were- of his philosophical and political essay Our America, written in 1891. The poetic voice of the Apostle of the independence of Cuba in the tender, strong and overflowing voice of a greater troubadour. Originally released on vinyl and later on cassette by the same company, it had editions in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, Italy and Spain. It was reissued in 2017, on the occasion of the publication by Bis Music of the integral edition of the record work of Pablo Milanés.

The popular flying pigeon, Ana Belén (Phillips, 1976)

Double LP in which, who later was called "The bride of Spain", he performs 24 songs about texts by Nicolás Guillén, composed mostly by Víctor Manuel and Sergio Aschero, although Rosa León, Quilapayún and Amaury Pérez each sign a musicalization. Virtually all texts are part of poems in the book The popular flying pigeon, edited in 1958. It is a historical musical document, a classic of a Spain that still cared about Cuba and Latin America. Produced by Víctor Manuel, who along with his wife had lived for several years in exile from the Franco dictatorship in Mexico, shows Ana Belén in the fullness of his vocal faculties. Originally published as a double album on vinyl, it was reissued on CD by Universal Music Spain in 2001.

Martí in Amaury, Poems of José Martí sung by Amaury Pérez (EGREM, 1978)

Originally published as an LP in Cuba, it had at least one subsequent edition in Mexico. In which he counts as the troubadour's second album, he is accompanied by luxury performers (Cachaíto López on the double bass, Ignacio Berroa on the drums, Pablo Menéndez on the electric guitar, Mike Porcel on the guitars, Pura Ortiz on the piano and the strings of the Orchestra National Symphony, directed by Armando Guerra). The record shows a very young Amaury Pérez performing ten songs based on texts -musicalized by him- of the free verses of Cuba's greatest poet. In the special edition of 1996, Eusebio Leal affirms: "The artist has managed to shorten the distance that separates us from the extraordinary and brief life of the Apostle, and at times we think we can listen to him or follow his pulsations on the pages, where they remained for always expressed the feverish confessions of his soul ... "

Tenths of Guillen, Conjunto Palmas y Cañas (EGREM, 1980)

With the production of the musicologist María Teresa Linares and the vocal performances of some of the greatest of Cuban peasant music (Adolfo Alfonso, Raúl Rondón, Martica Morejón, Inocencio Iznaga "El Jilguero de Cienfuegos", María del Carmen Prieto and Celina González) the Conjunto Palmas y Cañas, a reference of traditional music from the fields of Cuba, gives life to a delicious album of guajiras, tonadas and sones montunos where, to the usual musicality and rhythm of guillermo poetry, the thanks of the guitars and the lute. The original edition on vinyl has been reissued on CD (remastered) by Sony Music Spain in 2017. The original notes were also poet Jesús Orta Ruiz "El Indio Naborí".

Noel Nicola sings to César Vallejo (EGREM, 1986)

The most unknown of the great exponents of the New Cuban Trova, Noel Nicola, recorded together with a group of Peruvian musicians this tribute album to the writer César Vallejo. Everything seems to indicate that the troubadour was a faithful reader of the poet and that he spent almost a decade musicalizing about 20 poems of Vallejo, until during the 1970s he traveled to Peru and there he concretized the idea of the phonogram. The album, with 14 tracks finally, was registered at the IEMPSA Studios in Lima in June 1986, under the auspices of the Lima municipality. The choice is not uncommon, Noel is a “vallejiano” singer-songwriter. As the words of the album dictate: "The songs gathered on this album are the product of a long and intimate dialogue between the musician and the poet."

Eternity, Poems by Dulce María Loynaz set by Amaury Pérez Vidal (Abdala / Factoría Autor, 1999)

Amaury Pérez is an assiduous reader of Dulce María Loynaz, a true connoisseur of his work and details of his life. In 1999, as part of the preparatory acts for the centenary of the General Society of Authors and Publishers of Spain (SGAE), the AUTHOR Foundation produced and edited in collaboration with Producciones Abdala, several relevant discs and among them, this jewel in which the high lyricism of the Cuban poet, who won the Cervantes Prize in 1992, is fused with the interpretative intensity of a singer who feels his lyrics as his own. A sincere and meaningful homage, with arrangements by Lucía Huergo.

Songs of good love, José María Vitier (Abdala / Factoría Autor, 2001)

Poetry with poetry. José María Vitier gave himself to the enormous task of musicalizing some of the most important poets of our language and the result put him in the voice of very special interpreters of the Ibero-American song. Thirteen songs composed and orchestrated by Vitier, mostly for solo piano -interpreted by the author himself- and some for symphonic orchestra, directed by maestro Enrique Pérez Mesa. The constellation impresses: verses by Federico García Lorca, José Martí, Cintio Vitier, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, San Juan de la Cruz, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and Rubén Darío, plus some texts by the composer himself and his wife Silvia Rodríguez, who do not demerit the whole. In the voices, Cubans Silvio Rodríguez, Pedro Luis Ferrer, Amaury Pérez, Anabell López, Miriam Ramos and Pablo Milanés, the Spaniards Martirio, José María Cano and Luis Eduardo Aute, the Venezuelan Cecilia Todd, the Uruguayan Jorge Drexler and Iván Lins representing to Brazil. Absolutely beautiful in almost all his tracks, it is a must-have album in any collection of musical poetry that boasts of serious.

Daydreaming, Poems by Eliseo Diego played by Rita del Prado (Pablo de la Torriente Brau Center, 2008)

This album deserves to be better known. Winning project of a Creation Scholarship "Del verso a la canción", organized in 2006 by the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Center to stimulate musical creation based on literary texts. Contains eleven poems from the book Daydreaming by Eliseo Diego (published by the Gente Nueva publishing house in 1998) and performed by the Cuban troubadour Rita del Prado, to which ten tenths created by the composer herself are added, recreating the life and work of Eliseo. There are 21 very short musical segments, which get what pieces of a tiny clock, to mark perfectly the exact time of imagination and beauty.

Creation Award Collection Ojalá 2010 (Hopefully, 2011)

In 2010, Producciones Ojalá, directed by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, organized a Thematic Creation Award, with the aim of promoting the study and knowledge of the life and poetic work of one of the most outstanding Cuban revolutionary intellectuals of the 20th century: Rubén Martínez Villena. The jury evaluated 25 works and awarded two prizes (to Tanmy López for the album Light is music and Joel Espinosa for A seed in a furrow of fire), two mentions (to Jennifer Almeida for Offering and Ivette Letusé for Urban Symphony) and a special prize (to Augusto Blanca for The afternoon escape). The small record company made the editorial feat -in times when commercial music discs are barely sold- of publishing a box with these five works and an additional disc that includes a selection of the other musicians that participated in the call. As a result, the most complete collection that exists of musicalized poems by the same poet in Cuba. And as Rubén, who died young, has a work not so vast, here we find the rare possibility of listening, in a sixfold album, up to four different musicalizations of the same poem.

Before your eyes, Polito Ibáñez (Producciones Colibrí, 2013)

With orchestrations by Miguel Núñez and accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra, Polito Ibáñez, one of the best male voices of the last thirty years in Cuba, is involved in the risk of musicalizing and interpreting Eliseo Diego, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Reina María Rodríguez , Bladimir Zamora, Marilyn Bobes, Nancy Morejon, Carilda Oliver Labra, Miguel Barnet, Reynaldo Gonzalez, Alex Pausides, Lisa Soto and two texts by Polito himself. Raised, at least in the beginning, as the first of a trilogy in which the singer-songwriter intends to pay homage to "people who have defined the thinking and spirituality of my country in the last 20 years", Before your eyes it is an unequal production, but monumental and valuable.

BONUS TRACK:

DVD Up into the silence, Poems of ee Cummings music by Sue Herrod and interpreted by Diana Fuentes (Producciones Colibrí, 2011)

Worthy of the 2013 Cubadisco Award in the Audiovisual Concert category, this DVD is one of those unrepeatable astral conjunctions. The complexity and beauty of the poetry of ee Cummings comes out enriched - if it is possible - by the musicality provided by the English composer resident in Cuba, Sue Herrod, and the interpretation of a Diana Fuentes that few will recognize in the delicacy and perfection with which he embroiders each song fragment. From the Karl Marx turned into tiny arena theater, there is an audiovisual material here gourmet for experts in aesthetic perfection.      

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