"I am a schizophrenic fan of Elvis (...) I do not want the name to be ignored. "
Yosvani Arismin Sierra Hernández (Chocolate MC)
Every night, while their idols were singing, Yosvani must have experienced a sensation very different from that of the crowd that gathered in front of the stage. The women wagged their hips and the men shook their shoulders with sudden movements, back and forth, fast, as stipulated by infamous tranques so fashionable. Perhaps, on the side of the stage, Yosvani moved his feet secretly to the rhythm of the songs. Nothing else. His ecstasy was not that of the uninhibited and wild body that continues as bewitched by the sound of the basses, but more calm, meditative, an epiphany reproduced a thousand times in his head that revealed: "someday you will be there, singing".
When reggaeton began to incorporate the pails, Yosvani felt the real weight of his work as a prop. Before and after the concerts he carried instruments, microphones, cables, horns. Sometimes, when there was no other choice, he would stop at the door of the enclosure and control the entrance of the public. His skinny body as a teenager should not inspire much respect as a disco gorilla, the truth, but Yosvani knew his suburban and marginal environment well; he could talk like a handsome man, pose as handsome even if he was, in the background, a cheerful boy, almost childish.
In 2007, some of his classmates excelled as urban music stars, underground no place in the media that, despite everything, had the country dancing its compasses. Some friends took others and Yosvani ended up frequenting the private downloads of El Micha, Adonis MC, Pipey, Samil, Jhona, Dj Jerry and Elvis Manuel. Of all, according to Yosvani, Elvis was the best.
Elvis Manuel Martínez Nodarse was what could be called "a prodigy" of urban music. When he was 17 years old, he had the whole of Cuba dancing at his feet and singing his lyrics. A few months were enough for him The Mulata, Wait for it, The bass horn, The Ditú, Give him mambo and many other songs will "stick" in the streets. Any small holiday motive moved at his own pace.
Despite his fame, Elvis Manuel remained the same as always, a poor boy from Los Pinos. Amateur to raise pigeons, he received in the dovecote of his roof the same friends that representatives. It was, to put it in some way, his office. He also liked the clandestine fighting of roosters, so common in his area of Arroyo Naranjo. For the rest, the "king of the streets" was a strange and somewhat arrogant guy who lived in the limits of the sociable and the lonely. At least that's what Yosvani saw, his biggest fan.
Although they did not recognize it, between Elvis Manuel and Yosvani there was always a very strong bond. Both were consecutive links in a chain of ambitions, bound by the desire to succeed in their world. Each one intended, simply, to take another step. Elvis dreamed of recording a true album, in a respectable studio with wooden walls and not covered with old egg cartons. He wanted them to recognize his title of "king", not to hear him alone in the streets but on radio and television, to interview him, to make video clips for the Lucas Awards. All this obsessed him to despair. A singer is not a star until he comes out in the media, he must have thought. Yosvani's aspiration was another, something realistic and mundane. He just wanted to be Elvis.
During the first days of April 2008, Elvis stopped going to the concerts and private parties of the reggaeton show. He had not explained why, but he was always that reserved and very few worried about his absence. Yosvani was still working as a prop, promoter, gorilla or whatever it was needed, always behind the scenes, until one day, while enjoying a quinceañera celebration with Jhon and Adonis, some boys arrived agitated.
-Hey, Jerry just arrived from the sea and Elvis does not appear! - they said.
The high volume of the music meant that nobody heard the news. Nobody except Yosvani, who left running to the house of DJ Jerry, frequent musical accompanist and intimate friend of Elvis Manuel.
Jerry came out the door. His face and shoulders showed serious burns that had just begun to heal, long flesh-colored spots and pockets caused by the sun and salt of the ocean. When he saw Yosvani, he started crying.
-Jerry, asere ... and Elvis?
Jerry lowered his head between sobs and said:
-Brother ... Elvis ... we do not know where he is.
Jerry told him the details about the disappearance of his friend, or at least those he could catch from the desperation of a shipwreck. They had left for Florida in a small boat, they were lost, they were caught by bad weather, the boat sank, the waves, the cries, the absence. They were crying for a long time until Yosvani decided to return to the party to inform the others. But when he arrived everyone was already very drunk and they only managed to smile.
The disappearance of Elvis never happened of a simple tragedy that could happen to anyone. Irioska Nodarse, the mother, had returned to her little house in Los Pinos and swore that her son was alive, only that she did not know where. Some Miamian television stations, which until then had spoken little or nothing about him, now speculated with ridiculous theories and placed him on an island in the Caribbean or kidnapped by the government. The friends did not react either, many of them took advantage of the context to seduce the Elvis women.
To top it off, in the famous concert of the 100 cuc tickets that gathered at the Hotel Capri to the then fractionated Clan 537, the rapper Insurrecto, joking about the subject, began to sing Under the sea.
Yosvani boiled inside. He could not stand the ungrateful disdain of the fanatics or the hypocrisy of the small intimate circle of his idol. He did remember him, he was mourning him. He had never dared to imitate him, but the pain gave him strength to take a microphone; not to transport or adjust it, but to sing.
Loaded with courage he went to the beaches of Marazul, east of Havana, and on the seashore, facing the horizon, he spoke to Elvis. He promised that he would become famous and talk about him at all times until people remembered his existence. Then, humble, he asked for his blessing.
In the dawn of humanity there was no myth without music. Today there is no music without myth. There exists within this world something theological, a beatifying essence that builds legends from nothing, although some prefer to call them idols, icons or stars. A song is a story, and whoever sings it, a prophet.
Reggaeton, in and of itself, has a very special eschatological condition. Vico C, one of the pioneers of the genre, began with religious topics, a mismatch between the Christian precepts and the honor of the thugs. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic fathered an entire generation that included in its lyrics themes of sex, violence, gangs ... raw realities of the underworld of the Caribbean. The reign of double meaning began, which would gradually unleash into direct blows impossible to misinterpret. Even so, those reguetoneros could not depart from the mystic. United called themselves "The 12 Disciples." Others on their own, like Tito el Bambino, alluded to their good Christian customs with a "God bless you".
In Cuba it all started with Candyman and some imitators. Then Elvis Manuel arrived ...
On April 7, 2008, Elvis Manuel launched with his mother, Jerry and 16 others in search of the American dream. He left behind his friends, the little house in Los Pinos, the loft, the rejection of Cuban cultural institutions and a people who would continue to listen to him once he became famous in the United States.
They left Pinar del Río in a boat that was too small for so many navigators. Devoid of compass, to the seven days they followed without aim by the Atlantic. Suddenly, a storm surprised them and the waves began to flood the boat. The improvised sailors turned off the engine and took turns taking out the water. The boat was shaking more and more. One of the crew unintentionally removed a lid from the boat. The sea entered and they ended up capsizing. The bad weather worsened. The panic spread. Irioska saw her son swimming, fighting against the violent swing of the stormy ocean. He called him several times. Elvis answered "Mami!" In a cry that must have seemed more like a scared boy than a singer who talked about prostitution and drugs. Then, says Irioska, a shadow swallowed him. According to other survivors, it was a wave. They never found the body.
At age 18 Elvis (Presley) tried to make himself known outside the realm of family and friends with an unsuccessful acetate album under the Sun Records label. At that age the other Elvis (Manuel) died after having stirred up the musical panorama of his country with his successes. There is no place for comparisons, it is just an observation.
By itself, the fame interrupted by death produces a legend. It's a preacher to become a cult. Elvis Manuel had a short life and an even more fleeting popularity. Elvis was also fortunate to meet Yosvani Arismin Sierra Hernández before it became Chocolate.
The Choco is a type sui generis He transcended his own music, broke all the schemes and is now more than an eccentric singer; he is the historian of reggaeton in its pure state, that of the streets, of what he himself calls "the distribution". He has become the Pablo de Tarso of the Cuban reggaeton, only that by epistles he sends direct on social networks. He is the apostle, the inquisitor of apostates who denied tears to the martyr. Elvis left a story and he rewrote it with epic airs, in his own way, transmuting it into something sacred.
The mystical relationship between Chocolate and Elvis Manuel can only be understood from superstition and faith in the human will, without disregarding what the goals are. Somehow Chocolate has had the life that Elvis had and, perhaps, also the one that Elvis would have wanted. He left the streets, popularized some issues in Cuba (The camping, Mess is mess problem is problem, Guachineo), did featurings with the reguetoneros of his time (The chupichupi, The flute, Sex), he went to the United States and from there he continues to be heard on the island with more fury than before (The divine palón, Bajanda...) Not in vain Chocolate has given the spirit of his idol the symbolic form of a crown that now claims by inheritance. He is, without doubt, the new King.
Elvis Manuel represents in the logic of his evangelist an alternative Cuba that does not appear in news or newspapers, an island within the island, a toxic, violent and barefoot glamor that underlies the glamor of the crisis and that of tropical palms. It is also the antithesis of the hypocrisy of many reggaetonists who seek to ingratiate themselves with the state distribution circuits, and how much tragedy the act of emigration implies. Elvis, the prop of his epic of the American dream.
Before going to the United States and becoming a self-exiled King, Choco brought together some old friends of his spiritual and musical guide to record a song as a tribute. After a few sad piano chords, your voice can be heard:
"The dream of Elvis Manueeel / Martínez Nodarse / ... in the dream you have to persevere / sleep can not get tired ..."
On any album from Tampa, United States ...
Chocolate sweats. He just sang one of his songs and the audience shouts, asking for more. He smiles. Fame suits you well.
The entertainer of the show appears on one side of the stage. Walk up to him and show him what looks like a frame already framed.
- This is from a store that is here, in Tampa, that made a gift to the King of the dealers in memory of Elvis Manuel. Applause, applause! - the animator asks and the crowd responds with shouts and leaps.
The work is something simple, just two superimposed photographs, one of Elvis and another of his. He takes it in his hands and raises it on his head. Thanks. He gets excited. Perhaps you remember the promise in front of the sea and think that all your success is due to the blessings of your idol. Anyway, on the stage has disappeared Chocolate MC and nobody has noticed the leak. In his place is Yosvani, a dreamer who takes the microphone with strength and begins to shout:
"Look at her, look at her like she's sweating ..."
Under the stage, the frantic public sings with him.