In this second work of the MxM series we sit down to talk in the López-Nussa Studio to Oscar Sánchez and Yusa, two great creators of songs united by the love of the word and that instrument, unique in its kind, called three.
Oscar Sánchez: Let's go to the genesis of Yusa, to childhood.
Yusa: My mother says that she always knew that I was going to be a musician because I never had another game that was not to make music. There are things I do even before I am aware; One is that I don't know when I learned to swim — I am the daughter of a merchant sailor — when that moment was. Something similar happened with music because every time there was [a delivery] of basic and directed toys I always asked for a guitar. And I remember the first guitar that [my mom] brought me; I was a little girl and I said: "but this is a lie, you're cheating me!"
At that time my mother took me to see the ballet and things like that, where music by Leo Brouwer was used; I saw that and I already had in my mind that I wanted to study classical guitar. At that time I was not interested in making songs, my idea was to play classical music. When I entered the conservatory I asked my mother why she had taken me so late — because I saw that there were students with a blue scarf, and I already had the red one already. "Mommy, and why didn't you bring me here before?" "It's just that you wanted to study guitar," he replied. “But I want to study this and that too!” —And pointed out the violin, the cello, all the instruments.
Oscar: Let's jump a little; you study guitar and you get to three. I have a question, I have given it many laps in my head, and asking it to you is very good because you have the plus of having been the first woman graduated from three by the academy; and it's about the focus of the study of three. I understand that the academy program is a bit far from how the three are played popularly ... Look, it's not just a matter of loudness, but we know it's more focused on classical music, and not so much on popular music.
Yusa: Efraín Amador, who created the school of the tres and the laúd in Cuba, is the son of a luthier, and also a classical guitar teacher, so what he has done is integrate the technical part of the instrument [into the study program]. At first, there was a very little repertoire of tres, things from Guyún or Niño Rivera, and a few other pieces that were made for tres at that time. Outside of that, what we were doing was transcribing works by Bach and Beethoven, and there were always some popular ones, but they were the least. In fact, you had to have a classical guitar training in order to enter the academy of tres; you reached the instrument at medium level and you had to have a technical development to address the instrument because the works were complex.
On the other hand [the fact that there is no basic academic training] is good, because being a traditional instrument, which comes from the countryside, you can not violate it and lead to classical music, but you must integrate the traditional elements into the classical music, which was just what people like María Teresa Linares, José Ardévol and Harold Gramatges were trying to do. That was nice, there were even pieces that were created while I studied.
Yusa: Well, let me ask you. When did you start integrating the marimbula into your poetry?
Oscar: The maribula was a happy coincidence. I went to Guantánamo to a song festival, and was going with a friend to buy a marímbula. I bought the maribula, took it to the hotel, and of course I couldn't have that device in the room and not sit on top of it ... Well, my hands swelled because I didn't want to let go; They told me "let's eat" and I answered "now I'm going". There I got the first song. This is an instrument of the devil, what I need to take many paths.
Yusa: It's very beautiful, I loved what you are doing ...
Oscar: The charm is mutual ...
Yusa: Because you also have that chronicler thing, and at the same time you integrate traditional instruments with a fresh and modern verse, where there are also amagues and links to stories and your cultural background. It is important that artists like you are seen because it is a way to see how much [the song] has evolved, to see that there is hope, by having people like you who are making such an authentic and fresh art.
Oscar: Now let's talk about the world of theater. Yusa studies in a conservatory, she has contact with a lot of people from various artistic manifestations, but you collide with the theater. Tell me what that experience gave you. I imagine that you restructured your vision not only of music but of words and gestures.
Yusa: I was always in the anthropology classroom at the ISA, there were some deep debates about history and the black people, a super-strong thing. There I met Domingo Candelario, a theatrical player who later became a very good friend of mine. On that date, he was going to present a monologue called Blen, Blen, Blen, and I was interested because the work was centered on the life of Chano Pozo. That monologue drove me crazy because that was when I came to find a way that matched what I was, and how I wanted to write. It has always seemed very pretentious to be naming or giving category to things - in fact, my music is uncategorizable -, and I liked that this system he used of acting poetry, with elements of the subtext that have to do with our society, where always Underlie things.
From there I started working with him, using the instruments theatrically. While I was with him, I met a theater director and professor at ENA, who worked with a group attended by Raquel and Vicente Revuelta, and there I completely lost my mind. We did American theater, many works by Virgilio Piñera as Falsa alarma, Aire Frío y Las escapatorias de Laura y Oscar., Cold air and The escapes of Laura and Oscar.
Almost all of my first album came out of that encounter with the theater. That opened a very big world for me; [showed me] the path to the way I wanted to write. That's why almost all the texts on the album Yusa They have to do with that approach to the theater. With Raquel and Vicente Revuelta it was like a great game, because it was the first time that I made music for theater, and where music was a character, because I have always believed that music is not the accompaniment on the text, but that the text and the melody both play an important role, where sometimes they give the other the leading role. In fact, my live songs are very different from the album, because the live show has that theatricality where the ephemeral happens, what happens at that moment and never happens again.
Oscar: Everyone who composes has some tools, how does that process work in you?
Yusa: I do not have an established structure, because many times I am studying and at the moment I have an idea, and that idea begins to write it. Other times I have had an event, and basically, those stimuli drive me to write. As happened with the theater, at that time I wrote everything. I wrote the same the most absurd song in the world and I didn't understand, but I was doing a search, you know?
In fact, as I like the word so much, I also care very much what is said, how it is said, how it sounds, or how it is received, I have always taken a lot of respect for that game that has to do with words, because whatever the music is — what the melody is — it is something I have as almost innate training. Literature was my escape, the only thing I had outside of music; after the theater is that I begin to create a system, which has to do with stimuli, and can be a play, or an event, or other songs that I created.
It is always different; there are days when a song has gone from top to bottom, as happened with Sirvió de algo, which was a subject that I made myself. The other day I was looking at the manuscript of the song, and I saw that I had exchanged an article for conjunction, I don't know, something like that. And that was amazing, but that doesn't always happen, sometimes I've spent months.
I remember when I did No tengo otro lugar; I had done the whole song and I was missing a word that I had stocked, and I said: “I can be so different from what I was, I can even ... age" I had to talk about age, the fact of being young and at the same time getting even. Now I say take it off, although that word who put it was Santiago Feliú, I was locked. I remember that at that time he was also in the process of creating Sin Julieta, and we saw each other and he said to me: “But you already composed?”, and I said to him: “no, nothing comes out, compadre”, and a lot of months passed and again: “And what?”; I could not move forward, and it was a word, that word I was missing.
But hey, it often happens that way, that you don't find it and, you know, you play with it. Play a little with synonyms. Many times when I do them [the lyrics of the songs], I do them because I basically know what I'm going to say. Then I start putting together games with other stimuli and start to connect theatrically because it is the resource I have the most, the one of the theater.
Oscar: Here I have you with the tres, our friend the tres. Tell me, right now we were talking about the inclusion of the tres and the laúd in classical music. There is its loudness, how it is played, which can perfectly be treated as a mandolin, or it can be a twelve-string guitar, and I know that depending on the pick you use you have a different loudness.
Yusa: I use a pick medium or soft for the theme of the trills. The trill is so soft, and has so much [sound]…; That is one thing that I really liked about this instrument: the possibility of doing the trill. This spike [that I have now] is a little stronger, more rocker. Almost always when I play in concerts, on the last song that is always with the three - although I use the three in the middle when I do Close to you—, I like to go to that tribute where the academy and popular music are mixed. If Efrain listens to me, I don't know ...
Oscar: It sure gives you two.
Yusa: You can give me two, yes, straight for suspense.