An attempt of a ballad, with the guitar on the wrong side

For Javier, David and Carlos Manuel, my moles

“Santi just asks you to listen to him for a moment because he well knows that after a couple of songs, his charm and magic are able to catch, captivate and make you fall in love with his angel forever.”

Carlos Varela

“My heart is an iceberg, my heart is an iceberg, my heart is an iceberg, my heart is an iceberg …” the phrase as an unquenchable echo resounds in my head since I heard the news. I’m not sure why that one comes to mind among so many thousands of his lines and harmonies. Maybe because I’m thinking if Cuba will be aware of how much love and music in Santiago Feliu are. On February 15 we were going to have the opportunity to remember him through a concert he would give in the recently inaugurated Cuban Art Factory; a concert that will no longer be.

The most rocker of our troubadours, the most unruly and authentic of the moles left. He leaves a solid work, an unwavering group of fans and a handful of hymns. None of these will speak of Santi in past tense; none will fall into the rude trap of seeing his death as an absence. And as I detest a lot the liturgy of death, I prefer turning what should be an obituary in an attempt of ballad to his life.

***

No one plays or writes like Santi. Maybe because by dint of giving everything to music, he became the owner of an original poetic based mainly on his -lefty, intricate and rock/&roll- music although his lyric, which seems a literary distillation of the same tunes he composed has been climbing greatness quota over the years.

A couple of anecdotes illustrate the size and precocity of his work:

1978. Feliu attends an audition of the New Trova Movement -one of the jurors is Pablo Milanes. He sings songs, composed by himself, which were deeply engaged with the moment Cuba was living at that time. He was only fifteen.

1992. Silvio Rodriguez is going to offer his then legendary series of concerts in northern Chile. Besides the musicians of Afrocuba band accompanying him, the only Cuban artist he takes with him is a hairy man called Santiago Feliu. But this was not the only time. Previously, Silvio had already offered concerts with Feliu in South America, when this one was just a 23 years old boy.

If this tells nothing, few things will do it.

***
According to Feliu, life is everything that occurs when we are making plans, and he hardly fits that definition because he intensely lived every second of his life, stuttering, playing music, drinking and smoking. He was so vague that he could spend years preparing a CD, but to that parsimony we owe that each of his project to be loaded of exquisite sensibility, or choosing a favorite among his songs to be an ongoing challenge.

When he reached half century of existence, he needed to make an account of his musical journey. And thus a DVD was born, result of a pair of magical concerts offered at the National Theater of Cuba. There is something mystical about the fact that it is been just over a year that Santiago Feliu recorded that DVD summarizing much of his work, one of those clairvoyance that life puts in front of those it marks with death despite they do not yet know it.

But did Santiago Feliu really die? His life belongs entirely to the realm of myth, so let me doubt as a fan, suspect about the story of that death, at least let me narrowly believe he disappeared among the people of this city, that he got lost in the crowd. Maybe we may find him a typical day at El Vedado neighborhood, whispering a tune that will be a track, with his guitar upside down and a cigar wedged in the guitar neck.

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