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Ariel Cumbá: “I used to be one in every of the primary in Cuba to exit dressed as a lady”

Ariel Cumbá has lived in Valencia for nearly 20 years and in the town of Berlanga has made an irrepressible profession! Which fits from acting in a famous cabaret to ballet and singing classes, tours, presentations, etc. He briefly updates me on his projects, some stalled by COVID-19:

“I’m preparing a tour of Mexico and Latin America with a show that can be re-released in March here in Spain, ‘Mujeres,’ a sort of musical where I play various characters. With the singer Lucrecia there can be a ‘remix’ of the song ‘La Mamma’ that I published a number of years ago and I’m working hard on an album that stopped as a result of the pandemic: El boulevard de los boleros, a compilation of virtually forgotten pieces and other more current ones by Cuban composers. Soon two dance singles by Odry Dj can be released and I even have a movie project in Barcelona with the director Juanfer Fernández. There’s more, but I can’t inform you about it,” he tells me between laughs. What now translates into successes and applause has behind it a story of overcoming and resistance that might well be taken to the pages of a book. I don’t rule out it happening at any time.

“What we gays of my time experienced is beyond belief”

The primary time I spoke with Ariel Cumbá was on the Hotel Nacional de Cuba — on the occasion of the premiere of the film Fátima or El Parque de la Fraternidad by Jorge Perugorría. For the soundtrack of the film he performed “Vieja luna” by Orlando de la Rosa. That was his reunion with Cuba after 25 years of absence.

He was born in a house of musicians, there undoubtedly his influences. His father Oney Cumbá Escollies, composer and arranger, triumphed within the La Corte Suprema del Arte radio program back in 1937. He was a famous guitarist between the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties accompanying great divas equivalent to La Lupe, Elena Burke, Moraima Secada, Ela Calvo…

“My father didn’t want any of us to be musicians, despite having a complete family stuffed with artists. He didn’t let me study piano because he said it was for sissies. Now I’m a sissy and I’m not a pianist. They wanted me to be a health care provider, but I don’t like blood. Later, over time and my work, they realized that I used to be never unsuitable,” he recalls.

His skilled training began on the Guillermo Tomás Conservatory of Music in Guanabacoa where he studied singing, theory, sol-fa and piano. He continued to higher himself on the Cuban National Ballet School where he specialized in classical ballet, contemporary dance and Afro-Cuban Folklore. With all this data he performed on different stages of Cuban theaters and cabarets until he was admitted as a dancer and solo singer of the famous Tropicana Cabaret.

“It took loads for them to acknowledge me, to respect my personal life. It was demanding in any respect. What we gays of my time experienced is beyond belief and most of us had to go away due to that. Nonetheless, leaving Cuba for good was never in my mind, much less being separated from my mother. Getting away from my family was the toughest part,” he maintains.

Away from the island and after several of the events that surrounded him, Ariel Cumbá decided in danger to take up his profession again where cross-dressing plays a vital role. “Over time it became an actual strategy to say what I feel. I even have at all times said that I’m an artist who transforms into whatever he wants. It has nothing to do with my intimate life. There are those that think that to be a transvestite you should necessarily be gay, a mistake. So far as I do know, I used to be one in every of the primary in Cuba to exit dressed as a lady and the primary time I acted like that, people applauded me for about fifteen minutes, it was amazing. Now, find out how to do it without offending women? That’s precisely why I’m such a perfectionist in relation to walking, talking… What you may never do is ridicule a lady, under no circumstances. Assuming you might be a personality, not a grotesque caricature.” 

You told me that you simply got to know Celia Cruz back in 1991?

Son, wonderful things have happened to me in my profession and that was one in every of them! I met her in Barcelona at one in every of her concert events and, unexpectedly, I discovered myself in front of La Reina. I used to be speechless. She asked me if I used to be related to Cumbá — referring to my father — and she or he got very excited. In 2000 I participated with Lucrecia in a concert where she performed and she or he remembered me: “Cumbasito,” she told me, and we talked about my father again, she told me stories…. A young, wonderful and honest woman, really.

For ethnologist, author and poet Miguel Barnet, “Ariel Cumbá is a unprecedented performer with a deep, metallic voice.”

You progress in lots of musical genres.…

I’ve even sung opera arias, but after I sing a bolero I transform. There appear the Elenas and all those stars. That was what I learned at home; are you able to see how education has an influence?

By the best way, amongst so many plans and projects, don’t you propose to sing in Cuba again?

After all I might like to! I’ll inform you more: I even have written the script for that show entitled “Vuelvo II.” I already had the experience of acting at the San Francisco de Asís Minor Basilica and Convent in Old Havana with Ernán López-Nussa, the double bassist Gastón Joya, and likewise on the América Theater with the Jazz Band of maestro Joaquín Betancourt, 2019 National Music Prize. But, this time, I would really like to perform with several members of the LGBTIQ+ collective and include an orchestra, dancers.

I do know you might be abreast about Cuba and its new laws. What do you consider the potential of legalizing same-sex marriage?

It’s a large step! I’m joyful. That may allow the collective to turn out to be more established. It was about time and I feel that Spain, in that sense, is a great model to follow. It has been shown that things may be modified not only in Cuba but throughout the world. The purpose is to like one another…and in that there isn’t a distinction.

Jaime Maso Torres, OnCuba Staff

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