Who’s Pedro Luis Ferrer? a 21-year-old girl once asked me during a heated conversation about Cuban music. I don’t remember the time or the place, but I do know that that query pounded in my head. In the primary place, her query seemed doomed to simplicity, but it surely became food for sleeplessness. Some days I considered who Pedro Luis Ferrer was during those inner dialogues that border on madness.
Perhaps the singer-songwriter doesn’t have that answer about himself either. I say this since it is simply too difficult an exercise to have all of the defining certainties of the personality, there are at all times insurmountable traps within the mined path of life. But we all know that Pedro Luis Ferrer has left his name on the outskirts of existence and has turn out to be a word that seems made for him: a minstrel, a singer-songwriter of the shadows, a taxidermist of probably the most privileged roots of Cuban music. Each one in every of his followers will know the right way to define him as he sees fit, in keeping with what he has seen and heard in his songs. In line with what he feels when the minstrel talks to him about abuelo Paco, in regards to the cow Pijirigua, in regards to the Santeria friend, in regards to the butterfly, in regards to the myths which might be not and in regards to the loss that ultimately put the course of generations on turbulent waters.
Pedro Luis Ferrer has been a life that has walked amongst Cubans despite the silences surrounding his voice, his songs. He has been a person who opened the hand of freedom with songs written with the coherence of the trail he decided to retrace on his own and at his own risk, with no greater pedestals than the guitar, the voice and the cries which have not been heard in the warmth of his live shows while his songs were lost within the media fog.
Only a few singer-songwriters’ legends have been heard as that of Pedro Luis. True legends sometimes, others based on popular rumors that he himself has denied with that humor that has served him to take refuge even at times when mentioning his name in some media space was a ticket to ostracism, or a show of daring or courage, or just wanting to do justice with music that has portrayed us as a nation, which is nothing greater than doing justice with Cuba. Amongst those legends, he laughed jokingly on the one which talked about having a concert suspended and being faraway from the stage in the course of the presentation.
Pedro Luis, let’s say it clearly, is a living heritage of Cuban culture. He has thoroughly studied the contributions of the changüí, the guaracha, the sones montunos, the trova, and has incorporated them right into a repertoire with a strict sense of historical responsibility and with songs dedicated to the destiny of speaking about Cuba from probably the most diverse angles and with all the liberty that permits music composed from coherence and with no other search than being true to oneself.
Pedro can also be a college. In his live shows, he takes advantage of the spaces of silence between songs to speak in regards to the origin of Cuban native rhythms, to make very serious jokes in regards to the musicians and review how he has written several of those songs which have turn out to be emblems as a consequence of time and reason of audience. Together along with his wisdom born inside his family and his connections with the Cuban people, he has incorporated a spicy humor filled with Cuban images which have made his audiences burst into laughter at his live shows, each in the center of Havana and within the bohemian nights of the illustrious Mejunje of Santa Clara, a really Cuban humor that distinguishes him among the many guild, as he calls his singer-songwriter colleagues.
His name can also be directly related to the prohibitions and censorship which have weighed down Cuban culture for a long time. He has mocked the partitions and the silences. For years no official institution has offered him to prepare a concert or some form of presentation. Either by cowardice of some official or by a well-established resolution that once in a while has surrounded “problematic” musicians or one other artist with the identical condition. On one occasion, to make fun of the looks from the opposite side of the sidewalk, he named a tour of his the tour through the patios and rooftops of Havana. He later said that it became one in every of the years during which he sang probably the most in the town.
His themes, it is thought, have been scrutinized in the actual Cuba, within the marks of the country that almost all carry on their backs and which might be for all times, even when the geographical condition is different. “Abuelo Paco,” “100 por ciento cubano,” “Fundamento” are only three of the themes with which he has spoken openly in regards to the country and with which he has also taught to like the true Cuba.
The creator of “Cómo me gusta hablar español” has not been absent from the passage of time. In other words, he has not stopped to rest between the sheets of repetition, which in point of fact is the closest thing to the artist’s death in life, and he has been capable of take the heart beat of the passing years in Cuba. One in all the examples, not so recent, was the song “Ahora que te permiten criticar,” an ironic composition in regards to the Cuban reality that talks about how some artists got together after seeing the institutional green light on the bandwagon of criticism while he had been doing the identical even when the terrain was more inhospitable, and the implications were paid for by sitting down to put in writing with one’s own criteria.
Today Pedro Luis turns 70. The date must be honored within the Cuban state media, within the institutions dedicated to the promotion of music. Perhaps some program will make a small mention and hopefully a piece will appear that goes deeper into his work and that recalls the place he occupies in Cuban culture. But optimism, on this case, is an empty room.
Pedro will rejoice his birthday at a concert in the town of Miami, where he has lived for just a few years and where he has said the identical thing as in Cuba. That’s to say, where it has been the identical Pedro Luis Ferrer that we’ve got met on the national stages. He’ll sing together along with his group and his daughter Lena Ferrer, one other performer and composer with a piece of proven quality that closely follows within the footsteps of her father.
I don’t think that within the memory of Pedro Luis Ferrer the nostalgia for Cuba pales. Because anyone who listens to him isn’t only listening to the singer-songwriter, but in addition to the heartbeat of Cuba, with its native rhythms, its destinies and people hopes for the island that perhaps are renewed in each of his live shows each here and there.
Today his followers on the island will hear his songs again with the hope of seeing him at those live shows that provoke that close communion amongst Cubans and where it’s felt that each one of us are (or have been) that real Cuba that surrounds us and that has been, amongst other things, the sweetest and most everlasting thing that his songs gave us.