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Harold López-Nussa: “The pursuit of perfection can asphyxiate me”

Harold López-Nussa’s music has been a mirror during which a component of the newer generations of Cuban instrumentalists has looked. Harold has entered jazz with a really personal language, guided by his interest in expanding the concepts of jazz in Cuba and merging them with other genres. An example of this heterodox vision with which he defends music is his new album Te lo dije, during which he recorded an experiment never before carried out within the Cuban music scene: combining jazz with reggaeton.

The song is known as “JazzTon” and it was a collaboration with Randy Malcom, one half of the favored urban music group Gente de Zona. For this recording, López-Nussa has already received some criticism from essentially the most purist, who’ve accused him of not respecting jazz or of violating some supposedly sacred precepts of the genre. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that he expected further questions for having given shape to this concept, which was born from his own interest in sound exploration after having seen someday how Santiago Feliú, in his iconoclastic tradition, played, like a baby, with the rhythmic cells of the reggaeton.

“I believed I might get more negative reviews for having combined reggaeton with jazz. I’ve received some from individuals who consider that we’re disrespecting jazz. They’re conservative individuals who find it a bit difficult to see how others transcend the boundaries. The song stays in an advanced territory since it’s neither jazz nor reggaeton. That was precisely what caught our attention. The concept for this theme occurred to me someday after I saw Santiago Feliú years ago. He began playing to the rhythm of reggaeton. He began to irregularize it and I based myself on that along with my brother, Ruy, to create this theme. It’s about irregularizing the foremost cell of reggaeton. I shared the concept with Randy, whom I’ve known since I used to be a baby because I used to go to the parties he had at his house once we were on the Amadeo Roldán and on the National School of Art. He really likes music and getting out of his comfort zone. It was really difficult and we plan to proceed experimenting with a lot of these fusions. It’s been one in every of the riskiest things I’ve done to this point and we’re going to proceed developing it. We actually enjoyed it and we put lots of love into this song. We’re not clowning around. There’s a really serious work in harmony, rhythms,” Harold identified in his apartment positioned in a populous neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado, where he lives along with his wife and his little daughters.

“JazzTon” is one in every of the songs on his new album, an album during which the musician had the pleasure of thoroughly experimenting with different rhythms and releasing a string of ideas that circulated like a whirlpool through his head. To record this hybrid composed of tributaries from jazz and reggaeton, he also spoke with Gente de Zona’s lead singer, Alexander Delgado.

“Randy loved the concept from the start. I had also considered Alexander but he was scared because he’s not like Randy, who has musical training. He told me that he won’t feel comfortable. Ultimately, we did it with Randy,” says Harold, who’s one in every of those artists who consider, above all else, in the liberty of music. That’s why he considers it a field of constant experimentation and creation. He affirms it while he moves his hands and body as if each word were a current. He laughs when he recalls the recording process for “JazzTon” and divulges that that experiment didn’t stop there.

“Now we’re working on something else inside the same line inside jazz and reggaeton, which goes to boost more criticism,” he jokes. “I wish to experiment and now that I’ve had the time to be at home, crazy things come to my mind and I even have individuals who follow me.”

Harold is 37 years old and, with 8 albums in his repertoire, he’s one in every of the utmost representatives of jazz in contemporary Cuban music. He has at all times been very attentive to the sound and the legacy of his roots, something that he made clear on the album during which he recorded a tribute to Los Van Van with the songs “Van Van Meets New Orleans” and a version of “El baile del buey cansao.” He called Cimafunk to record this song; the result was a song with an imposing staging and an infectious rhythm.

“It’s an album with which I desired to get a little bit more involved with Cuban popular music. There’s a song called ‘Timbeando,’ a form of rapprochement between jazz and timba. ‘El buey cansao’ is a tribute that I personally desired to pay to Juan Formell and Los Van Van, one in every of my favorite groups. Actually, there’s one other song on the album called ‘Van Van Meets New Orleans.’ It’s a fantasy about what would have happened if as an alternative of being born in Havana, the Van Van had emerged in New Orleans, a city that jogs my memory lots of Havana due to its architecture, its people. I at all times considered Cimafunk to record this song.”

How was the recording process with Cimafunk? Had you worked together before?

“Since I saw him for the primary time performing covers I loved his work after which I saw him in Interactivo. It looked as if it would me that he could give different and modern touch that I wanted with my version of ‘El buey cansao.’ It was crazy because I recorded the song without talking to him. I believed I could sing it but I didn’t even understand it. We did the gap work. I recorded the music after which I spoke to him to inform him that I had the music and wanted him to sing the song. I sent it to him and he loved it. He took his time and I actually liked what he did. It got here out higher than I had thought.

“Later, with the video, I used to be lucky to have designers Raupa, Mola and Edel. We’ve been friends for a few years they usually made my first video clip about 15 years ago. They’re incredible artists. They spent an extended time giving shape to the story and within the post-production of the video. I’m quite pleased with the results of this work, particularly this 12 months which has been so frustrating for a lot of. For me, at first, it was very hard, but I’ve been fortunate that these projects that I’ve been working on since before have come out they usually have allowed me to search for other ways of making.”

In keeping with Harold, creation and family have saved him from stress, from his being away from the stage and the uncertainty of quarantine. He has learned, amongst other things, to make use of social networks and edit his own videos.

Harold López-Nussa, Cuban jazz through the US

“The last time I played was on the Havana Jazz Festival. I’d been touring for a few years, doing live shows in lots of parts of the world. Being away from that has really been very difficult for me. I had a very hard time in the course of the first a part of the pandemic. Luckily I used to be at home, with my wife, my daughters, who helped me out with that. I’ve seen other jazz musicians who’ve talked about how not having the ability to play has affected them and, to be honest, it hasn’t been easy for anyone. I still miss the stages quite a bit and I’ve adapted by force to survive amid the uncertainty of the virus and the pandemic. But at first, it was very difficult. I’ve gotten positive things out of it like learning to make use of the networks and edit videos on the pc, something that I never thought I could do. I’ve invented projects with musicians from a distance. By some means I’ve continued creating and that makes me pleased. But I still miss playing quite a bit.” 

Jazz fans in Cuba regret that they don’t have many spaces where they will hearken to groups and most of people who exist are expensive. What do you concentrate on this context?

“Jazz consumers in Cuba aren’t actually individuals with a high purchasing power. They will’t go to places like La Zorra y el Cuervo where the quilt may be very high. These spaces are designed for a world market. It’s a shame because one plays in theaters and realizes that there’s an audience that likes jazz and consumes it. The alternatives of personal places aren’t accessible to many individuals due to the same problem. It’s a really complex situation.”

What do you’re thinking that could be done to alter this unfavorable situation for the consumption of Cuban jazz?

“There would must be some form of subsidy as many clubs have in other parts of the world with a purpose to survive, because they aren’t really solvent. Jazz clubs aren’t solvent because they’ve very high prices and don’t make much profit, but they’ve grants from individuals or they’ve one other fund that permits them to support themselves. I actually like doing live shows in theaters because they’re accessible to people, but musicians don’t earn money with those shows.

“Each time I do a concert in a theater I even have to take a position from my pocket. I even have to pay a truck to bring me the instruments, if a microphone is required, the payment has to come back out of my pocket, if I need to do a spot too. It doesn’t weigh me down because playing is my passion but all musicians can’t do this. There comes a degree once you’re saturated a bit to maintain insisting. We’re subsidized and firms have tried to create strategies to alter that a bit and sometimes they pay for the method involved in holding and promoting a concert. And that makes it possible to breathe at the least with the promotional expenses. It also happens that sometimes the corporate doesn’t find me a job and I even have to pay for it anyway. It’s an unfair mechanism.”

In a recent conversation, your uncle, Ernán López Nussa, told me that every one the musicians within the family had a really close skilled relationship. Are you able to explain to me what this technique of interaction or consultation is like when someone has a new project on the horizon?

“Now we have a really strong musical communication. Ernán and my dad checked out my last album a thousand times. When we’ve got a project we seek the advice of it amongst all. That dynamic doesn’t fail. We trust quite a bit in the factors of the opposite. I trusted quite a bit in the factors of my father, Ernán, my brother. Music is a profession that involves lots of work. It’s not a one-way road. It has many ups and downs. Frustrations. I’ve been fortunate to have very strong family support. I remember after I got out of college and did my military service and decided to experiment with other music than classical. I had criticism from the teachers because I used to be a very good student they usually didn’t want me to disengage. At 4 my brother played the piano and at 8 he improvised on drums. As a substitute, I played exactly how I used to be taught at school. At that stage, I had lots of support from my family and my friends, who were ahead of me. I live in a continuing state of nonconformity. I’m never satisfied with what I do. I at all times think there’s something to enhance. Sometimes that seek for perfection can asphyxiate me, but it surely’s what encourages me to maintain improving and learning. That’s one in every of the points of reference with my family.”

Un café con Alicia: Harold López-Nussa y la impronta de una familia de músicos

*(This system A coffee with Alicia is subtitled for our English audience)

Do you’re thinking that that one in every of the albums you’ve released best summarizes your creative personality?

Herencia is maybe one in every of my most personal albums. I recorded it in France in 2008. I feel it’s more intimate due to the compositions and it defines quite well what I’m.”

There are a lot of musicians of your generation who’ve emigrated and have developed their careers in other countries. Have you ever ever considered following those steps?

“I’ve at all times liked the concept of ​​living in Cuba. I’ve been very afraid of getting away from this land, from the people who find themselves here, from my family. I even have a really strong attachment to Cuba. I’ve sometimes considered spending time in Europe, for instance. Other times I’ve considered america. However the momentum has never been enough to take that step, which for me is big. I see it as something very difficult to do. Cuba has its bad and good things. I’m curious about being a musician who expresses himself from Cuba. Living in Cuba and participating in international festivals has its benefits and downsides. To date I’ve chosen to live here and it’s been going quite well for me.”

Many artists discuss their success stories and like to disregard the darkest or most terrible moments. During your profession do you remember a moment marked by frustration?

“I had several moments after I considered quitting music, especially after I was a student. I remember once I went to a contest in Italy after I was like 14 years old. I had won all of the competitions in Cuba and I went and got here in as 14th place. It was an amazing frustration for me. I didn’t understand it. After I saw those guys playing in an incredible way it was frustrating. I wondered if it was really price a lot effort if I couldn’t measure as much as the world.”

Do you’re thinking that musicians who live outside of Cuba maintain a special type of defending jazz?

“I feel they’ve other ways of playing. Being in a spot conditions your way of pondering, living, eating, playing. They play with musicians from other places and interact with other cultures. In addition they take a look at their heritage from one other perspective. Possibly we listed below are looking more outward than the musicians who live in other countries. Whenever you leave you look more inward, to your roots. That was also said once by Paquito de Rivera and he may be very right. There are differences that appear very positive to me. Almost everyone I do know who lives outside of Cuba has successful careers and has made great music. I follow what my colleagues do abroad. They encourage me quite a bit. There are several pianists of my generation with exceptional quality resembling David Vírelles, Axel Tosca, Abel Marcel, Alfredito Rodríguez.”

Lately you might have played ceaselessly in Europe. Do you’re thinking that you might have more audience in those countries than in Cuba?

“Lately I’ve worked more outside of Cuba. Unfortunately, my records don’t come out in my country, although I’m at all times willing to publish with Cuban record labels, but it surely takes lots of work for me. Te lo dije is my third album with a U.S. label. Of those three, I’ve only been in a position to license one in Cuba. I’ve done 7 or 8 with other foreign labels. I’m not famous in those countries but I’ve played ceaselessly in some places in america and Europe, resembling France, Germany.”

Why haven’t you been in a position to present your albums with Cuban labels?

“I never get uninterested in talking to Cuban record labels for them to record them and put them in the shop. I don’t want money or anything, only for the album to be there, accessible to Cubans. But they aren’t interested. It was not for lack of desire on my part. I’ve tried with several of them. I’ve recorded with labels which have the correct to my records for the world aside from Cuba. And I’ve tried hard to get them out here but I’ve had no results. First I used to be recording my first albums with a French label after which with a U.S. one. It was difficult for me to go away the records free for Cuba because at the moment there was a rapprochement with Cuba they usually thought they may sell their records here. But they succeeded. Then I had the album and in Cuba no person recorded it for me.”

Do jazz festivals in Cuba meet the expectations of musicians and the general public?

“I wish to think that the Jazz Plaza is a vital festival. Surely it has its flaws but in its last editions, the programming has been quite necessary and revered. It has proposed special live shows and international artists have come, especially from america, of great impetus. Persons are taking it seriously. It’s a plaza that should be defended and improved. I hope someday they will pay the musicians. On the festival, everyone gets paid, except the musicians.”

How do you’re thinking that the historical censorship of several great artists who left has affected the new generations of musicians?

“It seems to me, an important mistake to censor the musicians who left. You’ll be able to’t mix politics with music. They’ve been erased. For instance, I got to know the music of Bebo Valdés on a visit to Panama. They placed on a record of his and I used to be amazed. From there I began searching for all of his work. Now politics is a little bit softer with musicians who leave so long as they don’t attack the politics here. To me, it appears that evidently it has hurt our musical history since it has caused young people to not know some works.”

How far would you wish to go along with your music?

“So far as possible. I’m sick of self-criticism. I at all times want more. I don’t know if there’s a cap but I feel I still have quite a bit to do and say.”

Cuba is experiencing a time of crisis and uncertainty as a consequence of the intense economic crisis and the new monetary changes within the country, amongst other causes. Are you concerned about something particularly within the Cuban context?

“I’m concerned concerning the economic situation within the country. Living from a queue to queue and that anxiety to purchase something seems terrible to me. There’s lots of uncertainty. And that’s not good for anyone. Hopefully, these changes are for the higher.”

Michel Hernández, michel-hernandez

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