Haydée Milanés en concierto junto a Miriam Ramos. Foto: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini

Miriam Ramos and Haydée Milanés sing… in two, three and four voices

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I am not ashamed to recognize that when I arrived at the entrance of the National Museum of Fine Arts, last Saturday, February 15, I felt that I was going to meet a kind of brotherhood.I immediately recognized faces, gestures, faithful and devout, who were also there to confirm the fidelity towards the two women who were going to star in the concert that was leading us to that portal. One of them, precisely, was the central figure of the recital that sent me to that same theater, of the Cuban Art Building, on the occasion that preceded it. Miriam Ramos celebrated her 50 years of artistic life there and wanted to do it in the same space where she sang for the public on that occasion, at the end of summer 2013.
Now she was returning to that point in her memory and her successes, but accompanied by Haydée Milanés, the daughter of one of the composers who has also been present in her career. We knew, those of us who gathered together near the door, that it was an extraordinary occasion. And, luckily, that expectation did not stop being fulfilled. For Havana to give us a moment of peace. So that in the throat of those two interpreters, Havana itself gave its fragile winter another atmosphere and encouraged other conviviances.

In the courtyard of that same building, Haydée Milanés had her concert perhaps more endearing recently, as some of the lucky ones who were there confess to me, that night in which she presented to the Cuban public songs from her album Amor Deluxe Edition, at the beginning of last December. To return there, I had to do it accompanied not only with those songs but with an even greater appeal that made us know that she could dare to a new challenge. From the shyness of his initial appearances, she has been growing and gaining in maturity, taking advantage of her low-pitched voice and finding accommodations and challenges while growing her fan base, to which he speaks not only from music but also from her commitment to a more diverse idea of Cuba, in so many orders and towards so many cardinals. Love, which returns her to the compositions of her father becomes that act of consecration that reminds me, in his own way, that Maria Rita dedicated to Elis Regina Redescobrir, bowing to her mother's songs. If at that concert she shared the stage with Pablo himself, among other guests, she was now with a crucial figure of the Nueva Trova movement: a woman who, beyond preconceived classifications, has gone through tides and fevers to become, perhaps, in the biggest defender of the Cuban song that our country has today. And the best part of the evening was to verify that it was not here to see a veteran delivering the baton to a younger figure, but of the coexistence, as I said above, of two personalities at a time in which to breathe the same air and the same song, they do everyone well.

Photo: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini
Photo: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini

Every recent Miriam Ramos album is a master class. She has been committed, without losing a single part of elegance or the rigor that characterize her, in compiling a songbook that perhaps had been lost, before the deafness of the less trained musical producers in certain memories. From her album dedicated to Bola de Nieve, each new installment is a happy example of that obsession, which she translates with a voice that, yes, is no longer the same as when she first sang Mariposa, by Pedro Luis Ferrer, not even the Son Oscuro, by Noel Nicola; but that comes back from all that so that we recognize her with hardly any effort, in the same one that she has forged from herself.

Haydée, little by little, has been armed with courage, and watching her grow and mature until she is 39, is an act that many of us can share among the best musical memories of the last dates, because in her case (a rare thing among us) there has been no gloating in concessions or easy solutions. His album Palabras, dedicated to the great Marta Valdés was, if you like, the proof we needed to convince us, and Amor Edición Deluxe, in which duets also with important personalities, was the following exam, which also passed with congratulations. Neither of them needs to boast because they have managed to filter, through their throats and their presences, some of the health that Cuban music, and our culture, should reach in even bigger doses.

Ella y yo was the title chosen for this concert. Just as that way of naming an exceptional and luxe meeting made a nod to Oscar Hernández, I like to play with that of the famous album recorded by Esther Borja in 1955 with the pianos of Numidia Vaillant and Luis Carbonell. Because they not only sang together but also threshed tributes to those who —as it did the one whom Fina García-Marruz named “the owner of the afternoon”— they handed us a repertoire and a way of being in the song of which we should be more proud. "Here are some Martinians", said Miriam, after singing a composition of the Valdés, who would not be the only one in this concert, under the musical direction of Dayron Ortiz. A snatch a capella, from the famous Ausencia, by Fernando Celada and Jaime Prats, it returned to me the memory of that record of the also host of Álbum de Cuba, who would have greatly pleased what was sung here and how it was sung. Together or separately, they brought to the auditorium themes of Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Eusebio Delfín, Julio Gutiérrez, among other authors. The always small scenario was filled with so many songs, which consolidated the desire for dialogue that animated the entire event, and never gave in to the desire for prominence or rivalry that has spoiled on other occasions (and with other figures, I clarify) what was much more beyond an occasional encounter. Proof of this was to listen to Haydée interpreting a song authored by Miriam herself so that we remember that she also has an attentive work as a composer.

Photo: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini
Photo: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini

To make the memory of this concert even more vivid, Miriam Ramos returned to her "radio days", when she could be heard on Radio Progreso as an announcer on the program No hacen falta alas. Faced with a breakdown in the audio that was about to despair, while solving the origin of undesirable noise coming from a speaker, she used a poem by Mirta Aguirre, who declared cleanly to win some unscheduled applause but achieved in a good fight. I imagine that many of us will remember for that detail, too, this Havana afternoon. And from there the point of joy of the concert was becoming sharper, and as neither she nor Haydée are supporters of the burden (rather of the precept of Gracián: "the good, if short, twice good"), said goodbye with a bis, also a capella, which closed as perfect circle the whole evening. Attendees we wanted to review songs from the repertoire of both that were absent here: a sweet taste that is already a promise for other reunions.

A bass, percussion, guitars, and drums were all that was needed. And of course, the complicity that these two women have gained by force of honesty and dedication to the musical heritage of the Island. The winter, real or imaginary of Havana, is also fooled by other noises, by other voices, for which the virtuosity does not always seem to be something to achieve. If Miriam Ramos is a virtuoso in the art of being herself, true to herself, Milanés is well headed in that direction. The life ahead is also a mirror of ours, as has been the one who accompanied her this time, to please us all. Havana, which was sung through a song by Julio Gutierrez, can be friendlier for hours like that. When the sea and those who love it, despite everything, seem to hear, or sing to it, the same song. Someday, I hope, it will be Haydée who summons us to share the stage with another young performer. Then all this, what I shared as someone who recognizes himself in a brotherhood of very lucky people, will have another meaning. It will be another song, as guessed already in this same memory.

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