Oscar Sánchez: road map of a stupid troubadour
I entered the room like someone entering a cage: cautious, pretending normalcy. He laid his back on the big door on the left, the one that leads to the recently demolished balcony, the one that can not be opened. Between his legs, like an animal domesticated by the fingers, marímbula sounded.
There are people who are poor and do not eat eggs ...
Heat mince, they do not eat egg ...
With the claria, they do not eat egg ...
You do not eat egg ?!
Then I knew that a questionnaire was useless, the sanity of this tamer was dependent on the animal, and on that occasion there was no guitar. I would have to ask from the viscera, then. He would have to decode the poet of the everyday and the strident; of the buses and the heat of hunger; of the barefoot in the tooth and dog and those educated by good people.
But he got up and ordered the marimbula silent. He stood up and mutated his energy, as one who has the ability to abandon a character after each movement. It was another.
Oscar Sánchez is many artists living in the same body and expressing themselves at the same time. Only he knows if the next song of the concert will be calm and beautiful or resounding and mortifying. Sitting on the bed with my feet crossed and warning me not to throw the butt out the window, I could be cooking some quatrains for the chorus of his next song. In one corner of the room is also his minitaller, his alpaca roll, his tweezers, his stones. Sometimes I wonder if he twists wires to give that kind of flowers that does not grow in the city: its iron flowers, like that song by Freddy Laffita that never refuses to sing.
-The musical beginnings started in elementary school, he says. I had a backpack with an elastic cord. I rolled it on my little finger, and put it in my ear; then he would press it like a double bass and emit a sound: 'Tinguirintintín'. It's a game I remember. The guitar was a matter of curiosity. I once wanted to do the tests in the EVA [Vocational School of Art], in the battery specialty, and they said no. Then my sister had a boyfriend, Rosel Estévez. He played guitar, Juan Gabriel songs and those things. I was 15 years old, and he was the one who taught me a couple of chords. He also painted, of course: he went to classes with Miguel Mayán, a painter who was the founder of the academy of plastic arts [in Holguin]. When I finished ninth grade I took the tests for the Professional School of Plastic Arts. They suspended me, and the option that remained for me was that of Art Instructor.
-How was Holguin then?
-In that moment the cultural movement of Holguin was great. The Pilgrimages of May were the Romerías! The city, full of people; that was a machine. When I was in seventh grade I listened BacksTreet Boys, and in Colorama they put all the videoclips of the moment; then I went to hear Pantera and other bands with my cousin. We sat on a corner Paquito, El Chivo, el Güije; they what they heard was Rock And Roll. The trova was not strong and with the traditional music we did not have contact, because rather it was played on the beach; However the Rock And Roll It had a tremendous boom.
- How was the idea of trova born? Do you remember the first song?
-When I started playing guitar I took a tremendous vice with that. I finished the Instructors School and I already had my subjects. There I did my first concert, my first 16 songs. The first one I wrote was called In the evenings, for Elizabeth, a girlfriend that I had. At that time I was in the boom William Vivanco, and I was very influenced by his songs, his vibe. At that time I rehearsed with a group of Rock And Roll and I decided to leave the group to start playing alone.
-When do you come into contact with the work of other troubadours?
-I am introduced to Alito [Abad] and he is the one who puts me in contact with the music of Roly [Berrío], Ariel Barreiro, Inti Santana, Leonardo García, Yunior Navarrete, composers that impressed me a lot. I start to run into that kind of song, to have ideas. At that time I knew almost nothing, much less that this type of music existed in my country. In Holguín there was almost nobody, there was Alito; Ivet Rodríguez and Carlos Pérez, in Báguano; and Fernando Cabreja, in Moa. Alito was just beginning; I had gone to a couple of festivals. From the troubadours he introduced me, Roly interested me a lot. I still have a cassette with the recording of a concert given by Roly and El Mojón [Alejandro Gary] at the Casa del Joven Creator.
-You are a different troubadour. Are you afraid of commonplaces?
-A common troubadour is a guy who has his songs, his guitar, a specific melodic line. He is a guy who gets carried away by a harmonic turn and uses chords similar to other troubadours. By personality I seek to be different, it is my way of being. In music I also try to be: I do not want to be the heap. I have searched, in addition to the things that must be done, those that should not be done, and that has led me to my "madness".
And yes, there is that common trova. Sometimes I feel that there are not many who want to change that. It's about having courage, knowing that you're going to face the world, marginalization, segregation, not being understood, not giving you work, not accepting: it's easier to go like a lamb, Do what must be done.
-In that constant attempt to revolutionize you have allied with several instruments.
- I started being a typical troubadour. I went traveling through different stages, of experimentation, of movement, but I started being common, with my guitar, my songs. What I did Vivanco liked very much. I saw that this could be a way. I also felt afraid to stay alone with the guitar.
I do not remember what struck me as a three. I had an old man when Pedro Luis Ferrer arrived in Holguin: what he did there, more than a concert, was a master class. Working with the band Kñenga, a band that I founded in Holguin, did me good because I did not compose just for the guitar, but also for the group. It was a tremendous fusion, and my part was rocky, funky, Satanic I could exploit it.
The "timba cutiri", what I put on the stage with the variety of instruments I use, and my scenic projection, is a communicative strategy, a way to gain public attention. I like to clown a lot. I have followed many bands that are performative, and that can be much more readable for people, because with gestures you place more emphasis on what you are saying.
An interesting thing that has happened to me with the three and the marimbula is that I realized that the instruments are not to play in a specific way, that one can not face them in a closed way: the sound possibilities are endless. I would do a lot to do something with the oriental organ: I want to sing, let the organ accompany the lyrics of the song. And that mixture could be very crazy; there the public either leaves or stays, never half measures.
-And luck tests in the capital ...
-Yes, I'm coming to Havana. Inti Santana and I had very good relationships; He invited me every Thursday to his rock, and we did an investigation: we read about changüí and other genres, and we started playing a lot three. In that game with the three I know Omar Pérez, another one of my strong influences. Somehow my language has changed because of the contact with that poetry. I have experienced a growth in the ways of listening, in the ways of knowing what one is saying and how they can interpret it.
-In your lyrics is recognizable a strong brand of the poetry of the colloquy, the double meanings, the irony, always playing with the social and political context that affects you. How do you explain that way of saying?
-I have a very strong influence of El Guayabero. I managed to understand what was going on without explicitly saying it. In my family too, that is a habit. My father spends all his time "giving pooch" and from there you do the exercise, you train the mind. And people love that "blood runs." As we are a society of lambs, where everyone is afraid, nobody wants to throw themselves against the fence, but to be represented. They know that the one who pushes does not hit himself.
-Little by little you've won a public ...
-That of having an audience I'm experiencing very recently. To feel that there is a group of people who will see me, to measure the quality of those people, that is relatively new. For me the important thing is not that many people go, but what kind of people go. I owe them. I play both for the one who only goes to have fun, and for the one who searches beyond the surface.
- Do you think it would be healthy for the trova movement to have more communication among the young singer-songwriters?
-It would be very healthy, although you should not lose sight of personal interest, which can distinguish everyone. I am very happy that there is a group of people with a guitar experimenting, doing things. We are in a moment of push; in part, because of the possibility of being independent and, on the other hand, because there are places where you can go to play, where you are listened to, and where, in addition, they pay you. That makes people want to do, to introduce themselves. The new boys, the ones who are starting and who are here in Havana have opportunities, and very good ones.
-How do you assess the trova-institution relationship in your experience from your experience?
-The music companies, the media, all that put it aside: it's fried. The alternative is to throw the breast. Use social networks, alternative means to record, do everything in a small room; because recognized official record companies still have to exploit even more the tools to position music in the market. What they want is to record an album, license the album (the album belongs to them), pay you three thousand dollars and store it. For a video, same. The means of production are in our hands, we already have almost everything, there are many more ways to make ourselves visible.
-Lightily you can think that you are like some of the songs you sing, but stand out for your professional commitment and perseverance. How many Oscars are I talking to right now?
-I worry sometimes a little how my personality can be divided into three, four: sometimes I am a super lyrical, melancholic type; but I can also be a total madman, pushing everything to the limit; or the one who puts his hands in the kitchen, who makes necklaces and earrings. It's a personality thing. I have that ability, I think.
I do not take music as a career, it's just what I decided to do. To do anything in life you need discipline, not everything is talent; If you do not put in order, nothing will be good. Even so, under discipline and rigor, I have fun.
-The plastic arts and crafts have saved you more than once, in music and in life.
- Luckily I have the ability to twist wires. 10 years ago I do it. It was a job that happened to a Chilean friend, Adrián Cortés, and that's what makes me independent. It is what kept me alive the part of the plastic arts.
The handmade covers of my records are made with nail paint, because there is always, and hard quantity, in addition to the wide range of colors that I find. I make ten albums per spin. Anyone could melt by painting disc by disc. I take it easy, I release quantity. But I like the language of music more, you know, of the word. For the things I want to convey, you do not necessarily have to go to a gallery.
- Since recently you have been expanding your repertoire with sounds that borrow from genres such as trap and reggaeton.
-I like to share the criteria of Frank Delgado about reggaeton. In that genre there are more mistakes than successes, but right now this is happening using national rhythms through electronic sonorities, and that, musically, I think one of the most interesting things that is happening in music: since it was over the boom of sauce did not happen something like that. I do not speak of letters, but of rhythms, although in the letters you can also find very curious phrases. There is a lot of prejudice with the use of these codes. The most conventional ones are upset; others laugh. Frank gave me a topical class. He is on top of what is really happening.
-Was that what led you to sing Bajanda in El Mejunje during the last Longina?
-I did not just sing Bajanda in El Mejunje, I also incorporated it into my repertoire for a while. From what I've heard lately I think the cast, what Chocolate, or Coquito and Negrito, is the result of an evolutionary process in Cuban popular music, although I know that this idea can scandalize many. But specifically Bajanda, both in his chorus and in his stanzas, removing the guapería from the end, it seems a good subject. For me it has different levels of reading, everything is in how it is heard.
-But, it's funny that for a while you've been heard singing The two princes of Martí; You have also worked on the work of other poets. Tell me about your interest in music poetry.
-A early morning Marilé [Ruiz] and Ray [Fernández] began to recite Martí's poems, and when they came to that ... Although it seems otherwise, I am quite nostalgic, emotional. I am a person sensitive to mood changes. When they recited that poem, the melody came to my head. It is a very big poem. I would also like to point out that with Andrés Pérez (a poet with whom I have had a close relationship) I had a theatrical and poetic musicalization experience that I am very grateful for. His poetry has greatly enriched my repertoire. Andrés is a supercreative type: of fear, of fright.
- Do you worry about being recognized?
- One way is to engage in a musical career only in order to play where they pay more, to have social acceptance, to fill places. But the other way is to grow as a musician, as a poet, as a human being. Between these two waters, I sail. They are not exclusive paths. I intend to be respected and recognized for my musical work. I reject the idea of the pose or the artistic figure who seeks a glory, which in the end is often ephemeral. But I also oppose the idea of the artist that justifies his lack of recognition because he considers himself a superior being, a chosen one who can not come down from his pedestal to integrate into the world.
Although he left the vice of the cigar some time ago, after turning off the recorder he asks me to light one of mine. "We share it," he says, and then conceptualizes sarcasm in a phrase that alludes to the troubadours. Once again he stands up and looks into my eyes with his forehead tense, as if a capo in his face accommodated the tone of his expression. To have a guitar by hand at that time I would have sung some of Freddy Laffita: Iron flowers, maybe.
Abel Reyes Montero