Researcher William Navarrete, an author of the new book “Cuba, homeland and music”, a journey through the island through music from the 19th century to the present, says that the song “Patria y Vida”, winner of two Latin Grammy, has “placed Cuba on the bandwagon of modernity after 80 dark years.”
“Now everything fits, I think that the less modern will have to adjust, accept all these contemporary expressions that the most purists find frightening, but they have a great acceptance in the young population, which is the one that really takes the baton,” says Navarrete in an interview.
“‘Homeland and life’ falls like a glove at the moment. It is vital to draw attention to what is happening in Cuba, which has practically remained in the nineteenth century,” he added.
“Cuba, homeland and music”, by the publishing house Unos & Otros, from Miami, which will be presented for the first time in this city on December 22, part of a previous book on Cuban music written by Navarrete in French.
That volume ran until 1959 and several readers asked the author for a continuation.
“It was missing to know what was happening outside and the way in which Cuban music is regenerated abroad. Salsa would not have emerged if there had not been so many Cuban musician exiles,” he says emphatically.
CELIA CRUZ AND OLGA GUILLOT WERE MISSING
According to this 53-year-old journalist, novelist, and poet, of whom he has lived in Paris for 30 years, “the phenomenon” of “Homeland and life”, which won the Latin Grammy for Best Song of 2021 and another for urban music, It was not the main motivation to update his book “The Cuban song: 1902-1959 (texts and contexts)”, but other paths.
“The main reasons were, for example, the death of Olga Guillot, the funeral of Celia Cruz where I was, in the Freedom Tower (in Miami), all that was not there, ” he explains.
“The motivation was to talk about the reunion of Bebo Valdés with (his son) Chucho Valdés in the documentary by Fernando Trueba, the fabulous records of Bebo Valdés with El Cigala, all that I had to add so that it would be complete until 2021. The ‘ Homeland and life ‘was the culmination, “he said.
Navarrete, who at the age of 25 ordered by genres while the music department of the French chain of stores FNAC worked there, says that this book is a tribute “to the people who have to leave their country for certain reasons.”
“It is not a journey through history, it is a book of humanism, it is the story of people who have to leave their country for political, economic, emotional reasons; emigrate, go elsewhere and rebuild their lives in another place and start from scratch practically “.
The author notes that “all (the musicians) have not been Paquito d’Rivera or Gonzalo Ruvalcaba. So, it is a book to trace that history and that way in which Cuban music has remained outside of Cuba, to such an extent and with so many representatives that it could even be considered an independent movement. “
THE SOUND OF MIAMI
In the chapter “The gray decade of Cuban music, “ which paraphrases the so-called “gray five-year period of culture” that took place on the island between 1970 and 1975, Navarrete looks into what happened in parallel with music in Miami.
“It’s the 70s, what became very ugly from the Stalinist process that was the trial of (the writer Heberto) Padilla, and that marks a dark period of 10 years in Cuban music (…), except the glorification of the Nueva Trova “, explains Navarrete.
“It coincides with the rebirth of Cuban music outside the country with the ‘Cuban-Americans’. It is when Miami Sound Machine begins, Willy Chirino … They are the children of Cubans raised in Florida. In fact, Gloria Estefan’s first album in Spanish is called ‘Renacer’. It was very premonitory “, he expands on this section collected in his book.
“At the time when Cuba was stagnating, a new phenomenon was being reborn here with the ‘Cuban-Americans’, with a Miami sound, which is called that,” says the author.
” This book was initially going to be called ‘With your music to another part’, but in French, it didn’t work. It would have worked in Spanish; however, it took me 20 years to get it out in Spanish,” explains Navarrete, who needed to rewrite it when he updated it.
“I was not going to allow them to translate for me, since Spanish was my mother tongue, it was my turn to rewrite it, so I felt free,” he says.
COMPAY SECOND: A STAR IS BORN
Navarrete includes in his volume a little-known story, “the moment they discover Compay Segundo”, which he claims was a festival in Nantes (France) in 1995.
“I speak of the phenomenon because I witnessed an interesting moment, the moment when Compay Segundo was discovered, that’s why the photo of him is with me”, says the author in reference to the Les Allumées festival in Nantes, which that year was dedicated to Cuban culture.
It occurs to them to hold a round table on human rights and democracy in Cuba. In response, the Cuban Ministry of Culture did not let anyone go to the festival that had all the tickets sold. The only one who arrived was Compay Segundo, who was a stranger and was playing in Europe at a Timbiriche “.
“When he arrived in Nantes”, recalls Navarrete, “all the press focused on him; he became the Cuban star. People discovered his songs and then he released his first album. That is the germ of Buena Vista Social Club,” he said. the author.