The silent yell of Carlos Varela
«Solo se debe escribir lo que hace falta, y hacer un buen silencio después»
I remember the passion with which I listened to Carlos Varela. A passion that teenagers and young people spent as a witness since the eighties and shared despite the time, because their anguish, personal and social, were theirs. Great songs have that, the ability to save the boundaries of time because they talk about the essential, and the essential does not expire. But the years went by, and the country changed, the young people changed, and even Varela himself changed, and yet the songs that continued to be born continued to speak to a place and some beings that were the same.
Carlos Varela seems to have gone through the first twenty years of the 21st-century immune. There is nothing in El Grito Mudo (2019), his most recent album, that reveals that you are in 2019, and not in 2000, or 1990. Neither in its sound, nor its instrumentation, nor in the lyrics of the songs in yes.
The album is designed with all the typical ingredients of the Varela that we always know: persistent riffs acoustic guitar riffs entwined with electric guitar chords, intelligent lyrics with a message both gloomy and hopeful, excellent backing musicians, their voice wrapped in layers of itself, the eighties pop-rock sound that distinguishes it.
A Why not,a theme that opens the phonogram and has a beautiful video clip is followed by a couple of songs that seem transplanted from some previous musician material. This feeling of deja vu persists throughout the album, the impression that we have already heard this. However, the bad taste calms down a bit when we hear those messages of love - something that Varela has written as few people in Spanish - that are Volando Slowly, Perdón or Origami.Not because they are extremely original songs, but because their lyrics beat us above any mannerism.
Special mention for De espaldas a La Época,one of those poetic stories full of local references that we love so much. But Cubans and Cuba have changed, and if an artist wants to appeal to the social message today, he must activate other devices. I do not doubt that this is one of the hits on both sides of the border, one of those issues that people cling to feel less alone, but could well have given us something more, 20 years later.
Did we need another Carlos Varela record? With a solid discography that includes several masterpieces, El Grito Mudo El Grito Mudo does nothing more than a new ornament in a house that was already splendidly decorated.
The most unconscious fans, the people of younger generations or the most forgetful minds may receive this album with joy, these songs may speak to the heart, but we saw all this before. The wizard who once dazzled us with his sleight of hand has nothing to do but teach us the same old tricks that we have turned around.
Owner of one of the most powerful lyric voices of the Cuban song of all time, Varela was lost at some point along the way. Maybe he didn't get lost, maybe he gave everything he had, and we are and will be eternally grateful. That is why I am surprised by his need to launch this silent cry.
There is no better metaphor for valuing the album than his name, a call from someone who wants to tell us something but does not reach us.
It would have been better to continue ruminating patiently until having another dazzling bomb, or, if the urgency was great, drop singlessingles, which is the modern way in which the world consumes music. The songs of individual way would reach the glory or they would happen to the forgetfulness without dragging in its advance some subjects of the album in which we can glimpse to the best Varela.
When you reach the top (and Varela, do not hesitate, it is) there are two ways forward: or you launch a work of unquestionable quality that continues the path already drawn, a precise distillation of the best we already know you can do; or you risk the skin and change the rules of the game, give a rudder and start to open new paths that challenge all your previous work. My heart and my ears will always be with those who bet on this second option. In art, risk (even if failed) is always going to win the hand of the typecast
Rafa G. Escalona
Certified Journalist. Father of a music magazine.