The Cuban Pipers. Standing, from left to right: Tony Suárez Rocabruna and Regino Tellechea. Seated, from left to right: Hermes Goicochea, Virgilio "Yiyo" López and Gilberto Valdés Zequeira. (Photo taken from the blog www.desmemoriados.com).

Memory and poetic justice

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Amid the turbulence of the so-called blogosphere — a universe where the human, the divine, responsibility and frivolity join together and shake hands, in the digital age — it is possible to discover treasures. I found one that I would never stop reading: the blog Desmemoriados. Historias de la música cubana [“Forgetful/Histories of Cuban music”](www.desmemoriados.com). All of its posts, which run from 2014 to date, are written by Rosa Marquetti, who describes herself as a person “privileged to work in something that I like very much. I live for music, cinema and the visual arts. I work on issues related to royalties, although I’m also passionate about delving into the history of Cuban music and musicians, which is why I research and write about them.”

I would say more: Rosa, who works as a specialist of the Cuban delegation to the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE), in an intellectually rigorous researcher and stubbornly tenacious because of the writer that she is, combining analysis and documentation, hypotheses and sureness, objectivity and passion.

From her blog she has gone on to the old-fashioned but still tremendously relevant and effective printed page — who says the Gutenberg galaxy is dead? — and this was possible because of the interest of the Colombian publishing house La Iguana Ciega and the Fundación Cultural Nueva Música [New Music Cultural Foundation], responsible for the publication of her book Desmemoriados, a selection of writings from her blog.

Cover of the book Desmemoriados. Historias de la música cubana [“Forgetful/Histories of Cuban music”], of Rosa Marquetti Torres.
Cover of the book Desmemoriados. Historias de la música cubana [“Forgetful/Histories of Cuban music”], of Rosa Marquetti Torres.

The book, like a suite, is structured in 16 movements, each one of them devoted to shedding light on processes, episodes or biographical aspects — sometimes very specific, and not necessarily all-encompassing — and artistic contributions of Cuban music figures who, in diverse periods, have marked milestones in the island’s world of music and its international projection.

Some are more well-known — who doesn’t remember Dámaso Pérez Prado or Celeste Mendoza, or the ineffable voice of son and rumba, Carlos Embale, or the Cuban influence of Nat King Cole, the deeply-rooted piano of Bebo Valdés, or his legacy, made larger and multiplied by his son Chucho. Others are less known: it is the moment for rediscovering Armando Peraza and Carlos Vidal Bolado, Guapachá and Maggie Prior. All of them, however, the greatest and the great, are subjected to a review of their origins and influences, where speculations are cleared up, mysteries are solved, things are put in their place, and balanced hierarchies are established.

While all of the book’s stories and arguments are equally fascinating, there is one that, because of its demystifying, restorative effects, I would particularly like to highlight: Deconstruyendo al Chori [“Deconstructing El Chori”].

Shedding light on and trying to set straight the saga of a legendary character like Silvano Schueg Hechavarría, better known as El Chori, is not just a question of drawing the line between myth and reality in the dense wilds of nocturnal Havana, at times fodder for nostalgia and at others, for damnation.

A timbalero-turned-showman, star attraction of Playa de Marianao night spots visited by celebrities, extolled by writers and chroniclers, his image dimmed with the onset of the radical revolutionary transformations of the 1960s, and for many he became a simple scribble on walls of Havana’s streets and plazas, or at the most, a folkloric reference, if not a mere shadow in the past.

Rosa, however, is not hindered by myths or tall tales. She sounds things out, demands answers, weighs both lights and shadows, confronts sources in a constant dialogue, and leaves us with an image of El Chori that is as close as possible to what he represented, both sociologically and artistically, a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.

Her essay/memoir about El Chori demonstrates the methods and tools Rosa uses to closely examine the protagonists of her stories, such as her new book on Chano Pozo, to be issued by the Cuban publishing house Editorial Oriente.

Hopefully, Desmemoriados will be issued in Cuba sooner rather than later. And other stories from her blog, the ones she is composing now and the ones she will compose in days to come, will also come to print. Book by book, Rosa Marquetti is contributing to Cuban musicography.

Desmemoriados: historias de la música cubana, by Rosa Marquetti Torres
Editorial La Iguana Ciega (Festival de Jazz de Barranquilla), 2016

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