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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: “Denying my art to my very own people is misplaced”

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The news was a bombshell in Havana. Jazz star Dizzy Gillespie, visiting Cuba to take part in the International Jazz Plaza Festival in 1985, approached a young Gonzalo Rubalcaba on the stage of the Parisien hotel, to ask him to the concert he would give the next night. The musician, barely 17 years old, was surprised and after that a horizon of infinite possibilities opened up in his profession.

Gonzalo is today, together with Chucho Valdés, one in all the important exponents of Cuban jazz on the world circuit. The musician left Cuba greater than 30 years ago and his profession quickly rose to the top of jazz. With several Grammy Awards and major collaborations within the jazz world, Rubalcaba was preparing to embark on a new world tour with singer Aymée Nuviola, however the project was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

From his home in Miami, where he lives “nearly 4 minutes away by automobile” from his colleague and friend Chucho Valdés, Rubalcaba has spent almost 3 months in confinement along with his family. He has used this time to complete the album Viento y tiempo, which he recorded with Nuviola, and to perform other priority projects in his profession.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba on the Newport Jazz Festival, 2011. Photo: NPR

“There are a lot of things in my lifestyle which have not modified. I actually have very specific customs after I’m at home and practically immovable hours. I actually have my time to stand up, to work within the morning, and an itinerary of every thing I’m going to do through the day, which is linked to projects I’m working on, either directly with the piano or in the sphere of composition. Within the afternoon I am going out to do my exercises. None of that has modified. In fact I actually have been at home because we lead a relatively family life. There are things which have been lacking, comparable to socializing slightly. Incidentally, it’s not that I’m the everyday one who socializes quite a bit. But the potential for going for a walk, going to a theater, to a restaurant, whatever you do as a family, disappeared,” Rubalcaba tells this journalist via online from Miami.

The musician analyzes the pandemic’s impact on many individuals and musicians across the globe. “The tours, live shows, all of the skilled commitments that I had agreed to disappeared. There was no talk in any case of canceling them, but of postponing them. Summer for us is an important stage of the 12 months since it’s when most work is completed and all jazz festivals all over the world are held. There are also concert cycles in theaters. All that has stopped. And that situation has multiple consequences for the artists, each economic, artistic, and psychological in some cases. There are individuals who the one thing they’ve done of their life is to go on stage and do their job. Now, after 50, 60 or 70 years they can be greater than six months without doing this on a compulsory basis, not by their very own decision. That brings disorders in lots of areas of human behavior. It’s not normal. Man shouldn’t be designed to be caged. To be hidden. Even physical contact with people has needed to be avoided. This has an impact that can vary based on the personality of everybody, their spiritual state, their emotional capacities. Many individuals almost live at their workplace, they live to tell the tale planes, traveling. In lots of cases, the family has taken a back seat. That’s the way in which of lifetime of tens of millions of individuals on the earth. Now they need to resume a lifestyle that was practically lost and bond more with the family, they need to resume communication with their family members. And I imagine that in some cases it has been dramatic because those things will not be learned overnight.”

For Rubalcaba, the way in which during which the return of art is being approached after the toughest months of confinement is totally fallacious. “For us music and humanities professionals, it’s a bit troubling how the reopening is being addressed. Culture is the last of the fields to open. I’m referring to the programming of the theaters, of every thing linked to culture. I feel it’s a mistake because I don’t consider culture has an ornamental function in society, but a vital one. However, if the world of culture is the last to open, it can even be the last to get well from all of the economic damage it’s suffering. If artists don’t go on stage, they’ll’t live off their work. It’s unlucky that the economic aspect must be mentioned a lot, but it surely is a reality.

“I’ve heard comments that affirm that playing from home, and doing live shows online can be the way in which during which artists can be referring to the general public, which can remain for the long run. I feel it’s a mistake to think that way. That isn’t the muse of what we all know as a concert. It isn’t the natural option to establish a concerted relationship because for that there have to be an audience. We are able to’t think that that is the one way that can exist. It seems absurd to me.”

How do you see the long run of music after this pandemic?

I’m not saying that this practice of doing online live shows has to vanish once we return to normal conditions, which shouldn’t be going to be the normality that we all know to date. It will probably exist instead, as one other reality. In actual fact, it already existed, but artists didn’t rely on this practice to have the ability to live and make art. And that’s what we’ve to avoid.

For me, most of these live shows are a really uncomfortable method because after I play from home I feel I haven’t moved or gone to any rigorous space that requires and allows me to perform professionally. I still think I’m at home and I don’t feel my home because the stage for a concert. The interpretation of music takes its maximum splendor within the space that has been created for it to be heard. Even dressing as much as go to a theater has enormous power. We’re losing ourselves slightly in the way in which we’re projecting the long run.

Have you ever developed a project during this time of confinement?

I haven’t stopped working at home. Now I’m going to release an album that not directly has to do with the piece we recently released with Cimafunk. The song is a single and is not going to be a part of the album, called Viento y tiempo, just like the Kelvis Ochoa song we included. These months have passed by in a short time due to being involved within the post-production of that work. We’ve just delivered the album to the digital platforms. This work has allowed me to breathe and lessen the results of confinement.

Last 12 months Aymée Nuviola and I made a decision to work together. We had been talking concerning the idea for some time but finally in 2019 the conditions got to hold it out. In order that project was taken to Japan where we did six shows on the Blue Note Tokyo. We had thought of recording them to depart testimony of those live shows and to know if with this material a live album could possibly be made. Fortunately, it was done. Production of the album began in February and we planned to tour with that project as of June in the US and Europe, but it surely was postponed. A only a few days ago the mastering of the disc was finished.

Last March you played with Alejandro Sanz within the concert he gave via streaming at the start of the confinement. Was the organization of that concert complex in probably the most complex moments of the quarantine?

I feel it was one in all the primary live shows done at this stage. There’s a producer named Julio Reyes who has great prestige and who works with many vital figures. On multiple occasion, Julio, when he has been involved in certain productions, for some reason has considered me and invited me to participate. About three or 4 months ago he called me to play a song on a disc in tribute to Joaquín Sabina. Within the album, many figures were going to sing their songs, amongst them Alejandro Sanz, and he called me to play the piano for him. Alejandro loved the work that had been done. Then when Julio thought of doing it “live” he formed a band and invited me to be a part of that concert with Alejandro. It was initially only a concert by him but then Juanes joined after learning concerning the project. There have been practically no rehearsals. We were two hours upfront on the place where the concert was going to happen, in Julio Reyes’ studio. While the sound was being tested we reviewed the songs that were going to be played. In actual fact, the live broadcast caught us once we were talking and we had to start out with the people connected. That emerged in probably the most spontaneous way possible and had an incredible acceptance.

In January it was announced that you just would present the project Viento y tiempo with Aymée Nuviola to open the Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana, but then the presentation didn’t materialize. Why was that show canceled?

What really happened was that they gave the news when there have been still quite a few unconfirmed details. Or relatively, there have been details that they confirmed after which denied, they said they might not specify. When the main points of the technical conditions that we wanted to do the concert were sent, the one place that had that infrastructure was the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater. That theater is the one with roughly a piano in good condition that may be used.

The Music Institute said yes, that there have been no problems, that every thing was high-quality. Nothing more was heard for some time. But when our offices spoke to search out out if every thing continued as planned, they told us that it couldn’t be done in that theater, that it needed to be within the Karl Marx, but we couldn’t give it there. That theater doesn’t have the conditions for a concert like this. A number of days before they gave us the programming, they told us concerning the change. It was then that every thing stopped. That was the essential reason why it couldn’t be done. The annoying thing is that, despite the fact that the offices were already talking about all this, they said we were going. This sort of information puts the artist at a drawback since it creates a state of opinion amongst people by not saying things as they’re.

Last 12 months you toured with Chucho Valdés in a duo project that reached vital international stages. What experiences were you capable of have from that tour?

The primary time it was performed was on the International Jazz Day that was celebrated in Havana in 2017. From there we spent a 12 months and a half touring. We were capable of take the project to many places; a lot of the stages were spaces dedicated to classical music in countries comparable to Austria, Italy, London, Luxembourg, China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, and the US. The general public’s and critics’ reception was very vital. We had a reasonably ambitious repertoire from the perspective of styles, composers, nationalities, cultures. There was Brazilian, European, American music. We took on a series of challenges that evidenced the commitment we made to that project. We also played music by Chucho and me. The actual fact of fidgeting with a continuing frequency allows the projects to be embraced and acquire a maturity, a time and a cadence that is essential. You begin gaining confidence in communication with the opposite and in the fabric that you just defend. Tours offer you the chance to spend lots of time with the people you’re working with. A piano concert often never lasts two hours. That’s all you may be on stage, outside of that you just spend the remainder of the time traveling or fascinated about other projects. One shares far more time with people who find themselves off stage than through the concert. If that offstage relationship doesn’t work well, it may affect the end result of the live shows. In that case I used to be very satisfied with what we were capable of achieve and we enjoyed it quite a bit because there was also the human aspect.

Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Photo: WBUR

Did you ask for any specific requirement to share the stage with Chucho?

All projects have something one should prioritize in an effort to achieve what the job represents. Within the last 20 years I’ve been involved in lots of collaborations with singers, duets with different musicians. Each project requires something specific. That’s given within the nuances of the repertoire you play, the story you tell, the demands of an aesthetic, technical nature. This project with Chucho had many rough edges. There have been moments that required a certain level of virtuosity, however the project was not only that. It was so far more. The interesting thing was to treat the genres of their original state after which transform them, take them to a different point. For that, it isn’t enough to play the instrument quite a bit, but to have an awareness and a level of vital musical information that permits you to know where to start out with something and how you can transform that “something.” That’s, go to the essence of things and know them, after which transform them. That was slightly bit what we did. Because we live so close, we rehearse in our homes. I went to his and sometimes he got here to mine. We had time to arrange every thing.

In 2011 you returned to a stage in Cuba after almost 20 years of absence. Do you remember the way you lived that return?

I feel all Cubans have experienced that feeling of not understanding exactly why there are such a lot of things you may’t do, express and transmit on your individual soil. We now have been at this for a lot of many years. We still haven’t learned that this sort of practice doesn’t add, but subtracts and doesn’t help in any respect. The one thing it has achieved is dividing, festering feelings; nothing more has been achieved than weakening us as a nation, as generations, as cultures.

During all that point that I used to be not present in Cuba, I used to be asked questions at press conferences all over the world. The questions were all the time the identical: Why don’t you go to Cuba to play? My answer was also the identical: “Because they don’t invite me.” There’s something that must be clear. I can’t go to Cuba or anywhere on the earth in the event that they don’t invite me to play. No artist can say where he’s to play or not. That, no matter political, ideological, or diplomatic conditions, whatever you must call them. There’s something that has not been understood. The rationale why a Cuban does or doesn’t go to his country, whether or not he agrees with the structures or the system that exist within the country, shouldn’t be only given by those aspects of society, but because he has to receive offers and invitations through the logical channels that exist throughout the world. Why I’m not invited is one other query, don’t ask me why I’m not going. Because it could seem that the issue lies with me. They’re two completely different angles of the situation. So I don’t know if that approach was ever heard in Cuba by the relevant structures they usually decided to ask me. That was what happened all that point.

After I arrived I discovered myself within the situation that there are various of my generation who now not live in Cuba, who are not any longer in Cuba. You discover a generation gap since you meet many individuals you don’t know, although there are others who remain. As humans, in the long run one all the time looks for that generational connection that one has lost because everyone seems to be in a unique place. That’s the very first thing you are feeling. The opposite thing you are feeling, and it is vitally unlucky to need to say it, is that many individuals take a look at you as in the event you were the explanation for the issue since you’re not there or because you made the choice to live elsewhere. That shouldn’t be true. Artists and anyone from any a part of the planet, at any given moment, have the liberty to explore life, and its possibilities, anywhere. That is solely real for whatever reasons, each mental, political, economic, creative, sentimental.

People have the precise and the likelihood to do it and we are able to’t fit every thing into the space of labeling you as an enemy. If my ideas or my way of considering are against, or don’t connect with the fact of a spot, I’m not an enemy. I don’t feel just like the enemy. You’ve gotten to see how the opposite side sees it because all of us have a unique perception of things. There should always be the intention of the liberty to think, to do things as one believes, and based on that, one is fallacious or right, which can be a right that individuals have. One doesn’t appreciate whether the steps have been consistent or relevant, if one doesn’t carry them out.

All this was slightly what I experienced after I returned to Cuba, in fact there have been all the time exceptions because there have been individuals who received me with great affection, with great respect, with admiration; individuals who had been aware, so far as they might, of what I had been doing outside of Cuba. There have been also others who knew nothing, for whom I used to be a completely unknown name until then, which tells me to what extent not being there makes you invisible.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba on the twenty seventh International Jazz Plaza Festival, 2011. Photo: Kaloian

Did you are feeling misplaced or out of context during that return to Cuba?

It’s very weird. I feel I said it in a documentary that was made after I recorded the album in homage to Bola de Nieve with Pancho Céspedes. After I was approaching Cuba, I keep in mind that Cuban land began being seen from the plane and I made a comment since it was what got here up. “I do know that is Cuba, I also know that I’m from here, but I also know that I now not belong to this.”

That’s how I felt. Nobody can ever erase that I’m Cuban and can be until the last day of my life. Nobody can erase that I used to be born and raised there, and that a component of my training as an individual and skilled took place in Cuba, amongst many other things that may be named. The reality is that I now not belonged to that reality that exists or existed there. I belong to a different, which is where I live and where I work.

Gonzalito Rubalcaba, Premio Especial del Cubadisco-2014

Nonetheless, you continued coming back to Cuba on several occasions. Why did you select to keep up that itinerary?

I’m blissful with that. Irrespective of what, there’s the Cuban public that has every right on the earth to see and listen to every thing, after which make judge. That known as having references. It’s the potential for giving a nation as many references as possible, and that’s what allows the general public and individuals typically to have the capability for consistent judgment. I feel that in some way all of us need to collaborate with that so that folks see every thing they’ll. That is not going to change the ideas or way of considering one has. It have to be clear that denying my art to my very own people can be misplaced.

What’s your assessment of the Cuban jazz school, especially the work of the youngest instrumentalists?

There are lots of talented musicians right away, from young pianists, percussionists, bassist trumpeters. That in some way speaks of music’s health in Cuba, something that is a component of Cuba’s history, a history that goes back a few years. Cuba has all the time been designed as a nation to supply very high-level artistic manifestations. Now there’s a generation about which I’m very blissful due to their seriousness. It’s not only concerning the ability of young people to maneuver quickly, with force, but about their intelligence and awareness of what they’re doing.

We almost all the time separate these qualities and think that the younger they’re the less mature their discourse is. Nonetheless, what is occurring could be very admirable, there’s lots of maturity at very young ages. The varsity doesn’t give that. It’s because of the potential for getting access to more references, to other testimonies on how you can make music. You will discover these young kids at festivals in Japan, Europe, the US; that’s the true advantage of having contact with other media. It’s not nearly what they’ll take, but what they’re taking from there. What they acquire in those places. Currently they’ve far more update about their music than in previous times. Now there are means within the hands of some people in Cuba that didn’t exist after I was young and that allow knowing in real time what’s being done in other parts of the world.

Before we were slightly outdated because neither the technologies nor the implies that exist today existed. Nor did we’ve the potential for contacting an outdoor world that may allow us to pay attention to what was happening. That barrier has been narrowing. The varsity has all the time been visible within the generations of the last 50 years; nevertheless, that faculty within the case of Cuba was very orthodox for a very long time. It was not allowed or was not seen well that one had relations with other forms of creating music, something that was inevitable. There was no room for an additional vocabulary or for an additional aesthetics that didn’t come from classical music. On this sense, Cuba has gained. There’s slightly more coexistence between classical music and other ways of creating music. That is perceived within the new generations and I find it great what they’re doing, their way of playing, of composing, even after they don’t have all of the conditions or instruments.

The piano has all the time been the delicate aspect in Cuba. It has change into difficult to have a superb piano. Budgets have been approved but they don’t realize that when you spend 200,000 dollars―which is what a 9-foot Hamburg Steinway can cost―and put it in a recording studio, the method doesn’t end. At that moment one other begins which is the care of the instrument. With pianos that problem has all the time existed in Cuba. Money has been approved several times to buy them. But to realize the culture of sound that the instrument produces, it’s essential increasingly prepare it to have a certain level of quality.

Once you face an instrument in good condition you may change into aware that there are a series of details you’ve lost, because your training shouldn’t be based on that reference. The one option to evolve, to grow, is to say this stuff as they’re. I teach on the University of Miami and I all the time say that it’s not nearly studying piano for five hours, but to review the method you’ve designed for that. For those who sit in front of the instrument day-after-day to have a look at yourself, to inform yourself how beautiful you’re and the way great you’re, you may make sure you’re wasting time. One has to pay attention to the issues one has, of 1’s weaknesses, of what one can’t do well, of what one has not achieved. That’s the moment to take a seat down in front of the instrument and suffer with that. That’s applicable to society and every thing.

You lately recorded with Cimafunk the song “Azúcar pa’ tu café.” How did the thought of ​​collaborating with this young Cuban musician come about?

That concept got here from Aymée Nuviola’s manager. I had already heard of Cimafunk but hadn’t seen him working, nor had I seen videos of him. On one occasion I used to be talking with journalists from the Nuevo Herald they usually told me about Cimafunk and every thing he was doing, about his live shows with Alejandro Sanz in the US and that everybody was delighted with him. That was the primary time I heard of Cimafunk. Then I didn’t know the rest about him until someday Aymée’s manager told me that they were going to provide a single for a song she wrote, but they desired to do it within the spirit of joining funk with the essence of Cuban music.

When Aymée’s manager was about to provide the song a voice, it occurred to him to call Cimafunk and invite him as a special figure. He was in Europe and got here straight to Miami. Days later we made the video clip and it was a fiesta. Cimafunk has a really contagious personality. I don’t have any doubts that he’s doing something that’s starting to point out a new path, a new type of what dance music is in Cuba. I don’t think it’s too premature to say it. What he projects could be very different. I dare say that it’s a part of the immediate way forward for Cuban music.

What difference do you perceive between the young man you were and the consecrated musician you’re today?

There are traits that never change. The bases that determine your character, your personality. You grow up, but your essence stays. There are other details that you just are acquiring which are the every day bread of existence, which are given by all of the experiences you’re living, the nice, the bad, the regular, the enlightened, the dark, what you gain, what you lose. There isn’t a way you’ll stay the exact same. Loyalty doesn’t change and neither do the convictions one has from a really young age, which come from the family.

With time one understands oneself higher or accepts some social direction that permits that balance that ought to be in people’s lives. Those are traits that determine who you were. I don’t see myself believing in the likelihood that age makes you modify from one cardinal point to the opposite. For those who do, it’s that you just never knew what direction you wanted. I actually have grown due to what I’ve seen and what I’ve lived. All the things shouldn’t be a bed of roses and every thing shouldn’t be as you thought. And that shouldn’t be necessarily a defeat. Life is accountable for showing you whenever you’re fallible or not, and it permits you to understand those first ideas or thoughts and begin to know what every thing is all about. None of that ought to kill the hunger to see results, which, nevertheless, will all the time be nuanced by a reality that can not be completely modified.

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Michel Hernández, michel-hernandez

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