Illustration: Mayo Bous / Magazine AM: PM.
Illustration: Mayo Bous / Magazine AM: PM.

An ordinary day for Green Lights

6 minutos / María Camila Maury Vázquez

18.02.2019 / Reportages

Throughout the world, the release and the roar of rock and roll were contradictory, initially, for established culture. Accompanied in the tradition of bolero and son, tied to the waist, Cuba also did not accept with ease the new challenge of the 50s. But there were many young people who insisted on listening to it, despite the prohibitions. Others took their rebellion further and founded bands of Cuban names. To such a point came the movement in the 90s, that while the nights passed in the light of a lamp or a gossip, the groups created their own electricity through rock.

During that time there were houses in which a gramophone played a record of the world classics, while the radio always tuned frequencies with Cuban creations. In the midst of those evenings, the five members of Luces Verdes were born. Already in high school they exchanged CDs and wore a little darker than the rest. Since then, they consider themselves rockers. They attended a same generation in the pre-Lenin, but they met later, in the CUJAE, the Technological University of Havana José Antonio Echeverría, when the engineers gave them time to go to the Culture Festivals.

"The first test we did in a 2 × 2 room. We had to lift a bed against the wall. The instruments were a drawer (instead of the drums), a bass guitar and computer horns. But nothing. That's how we won all the Festivals ", recalls Reinier Roble, guitarist and leader of the band.

In 2017 they auditioned at the Cuban Rock Agency, but they are still not considered a professional band. Despite this, they believe that the roles and experience do not matter, but rather the attitude that the artists assume in order to make music within a genre with fewer opportunities, compared to others with greater popularity.

Drummer David Hernández thinks they have had a lot of will: "We got a contact with the Yellow Submarine and we were able to get into the matinee in the afternoons. We spent a year and a half playing without charging and spending money to stay in place. The first thing is art, but the band must also be sustained, without one thing the other is impossible ". They still act there, now at night, with audience and profits, but the space limits them creatively: they can only do covers of tribute to the greats.

The imitation of the referents has been a fundamental expression of the groups on the island since the genre arrived in the country. This practice has allowed them to approach the founding fathers of their music, since they must interpret them in their own instruments. However, the aspiration has always been to define a rock "made in Cuba", and to show it is necessary to have a scene.

Meanwhile, the Green Lights come back to listen to the soundtrack with which they grew up. They remember The Beattles, Led Zeppelin, AC / DC, Queen and Linkin Park. They also learn about Argentine rock, and from Cuba they get Irakere, Habana Abierta, Síntesis, Gerardo Alfonso and Moneda Dura. These sounds come together in the productive process of their songs, an experimentation in which everyone participates in their own way. As they say, they give green lights to the changes, they contaminate an initial idea, they make the arrangements among all and unite genres like funk, country, reggae, bossa nova, blues, jazz, with Cuban rhythm of rumba and timba.

Many of the young bands look for their identity in that contrast of styles inscribed to a movement called by the "alternative" majority. To support this group of genres close to rock, which have reduced visibility, a space like Bandera Studio was founded in 2016. As its director Alejandro Menéndez explains, the label hopes to reach a time when there will be collective management by the groups.

The members of Bandera Studio went to the concert in which the Rolling Stones moved the floor to Havana. The musicians gathered signatures on a Cuban flag and threw it into the air. Mick Jagger took it before it fell to the floor, and continued singing and dancing with it in a fist. Some believed that the badge had gone somewhere in England important for the iconic band, but it was not like that. David managed to get hold of her at the end of the concert. Later he went to return it to Bandera, he used it as an entrance ticket to the project. Once inside, the band managed to record the EP First Lights.

The ambition remains today to record his first official record. They work on it because they want to transmit their lyrics in a careful way. For them Santiago Feliú is the teacher; they begin in the trova to write their lyrics, which are then made song through rock. Also, they choose Spanish as the best way to express what they can only say "a la cubano", because the themes are born from their homeland and go to those who inhabit it in some way. That is the destination for bassist Daniel Hernández: "Our music is dedicated to those who have lived what we have lived."

Another of his illusions is to give concerts and become followers to make the moments when they play and the audience listen to them. Among the first experiences, live in front of many people, are those of the Aljibe, "a little hole" that the group Habalama made them, inside their Saturday club, in the parking lot of the restaurant: "All those frikies jumping, they were very many and it gave great emotion. The opportunity, although it ended with the closing of that space for rock, helped us to perfect ourselves musically, they are more metal heads and they taught us to make a little stronger arrangements, "recalls keyboardist Víctor Rivera.

All members of Luces Verdes have other trades, from time to time they give shows in bars, because the need exists. Meanwhile they continue rehearsing in a garage, composing lyrics like the one of Any day. They feel that the routines of all Cubans are similar, that they change them when they become songs. "So we keep fleeing to sunset."

María Camila Maury Vázquez

María Camila Maury Vázquez

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