World Music put downs roots in Havana

Return to the root. It is an idea, practically THE idea that persists in the discourse of Havana World Music (HWM). The root as base, as the first element, as raw material for world music. Root that, moreover, remains hidden, like the music.

“What I see today is a lack of diversity, not only in Cuban music. The songs and singers look alike and everyone wants to sing  alike”says Eme Alfonso, artistic director of the event. “When I hear that I feel empty, I feel I do not know where people come”.

“We are in a globalized world, where they impose upon you timbres, manners, customs,” says Carlos Alfonso, also artistic director. “And yet there is a lot of music in the world that is not marketed, which it is not disseminated.”

Two reasons, one bet. By the identity and ancestral and folk culture, but from contemporary expressions and ways to do: “The concept of world music is very comprehensive, and we want to focus more on one that works from local, but with global languages,” adds Raquel Avila, director of communications. The fusion of the old and new worlds, old and new ways of understanding these worlds, is key in the panorama of world music.

In the previous edition, for example, Eme Alfonso confesses that were tighter in terms of genre theme. “I, as artistic director, wanted a single line of world music. But now I realize it’s something a little wider than I can process. I have been to several international festivals like this and I’ve noticed that they are very flexible in terms of genre. World music is an alternative, where all those typical, traditional defenders of roots bands have their place “.

“The world music has been really quite a controversial concept,” says Raquel Avila. “The bigger producing countries, musically speaking, created that label to encompass all that music that was made out of the system. Also encompasses many countries without strong industries internationally, as is the case of Cuba. “

“Here what happens is that the term has not spread very well” continues Carlos Alfonso. “And there are many people doing what they say world music, even those who make salsa.”

Auntie Flo feat. Zimfoxx / Photo: Michel Pou Diaz.
Auntie Flo feat. Zimfoxx / Photo: Michel Pou Diaz.

Ni diffused or assumed. Typical genres like son, mambo, salsa, rumba are recognized as world music to the world. For us no. You don’t see your own as exotic. Because the music world today is represented precisely for being native, as exotic.

Hence HWM proposes to revise the concept from within. “We thought it was something we could do, collect all the music in one place, and give it to know to the Cuban public. And for other bands to come from abroad so they could see in situ cultural diversity in here. It’s more of a swap space that we found necessary to promote “says Ismael Sayyad, general coordinator.

“We need that feedback. So this year, unlike last, musicians who are not going to play solo with his band, but will interact with the domestic ones, in a sort of meeting the artistic residences they have requested, “says Eme Alfonso . “This is the case of Dj Gotan Project, Philippe Cohen Solal, who will be with pianist Roberto Fonseca; and Samahui Aziz, who will perform with Harold López-Nussa, Rodney Barreto and others. “

On the selection criteria that the festival manages for selection of musicians and groups involved, Eme Alfonso explained that “the quality, originality and contribution to culture, are the first three elements that I follow. It’s not just playing music and getting fame, is also looking into a little hole that makes you unique and special, what makes you different from the rest, as does the Mexican Institute of Sound with psychedelic cumbia, to give one example. In the case of foreign musicians are the ones who apply to be in the festival, we do not make calls. This year we received requests from 10 countries, hence we choose according to these criteria.”

David Walters, one of the foreign musicians who will participate in the event.
David Walters, one of the foreign musicians who will participate in the event.

The HWM also aims at, very ambitiously, not to repeat their bands, because “the idea of the festival is to have completely different dynamics each year. We have to give opportunity to all there is in cultural palette that exists within and outside Cuba “continues Eme Alfonso. Raquel Avila added that “as we understood it, is a place not to go see a concert of someone you like, but to discover new things. If we always present the same, we lose our reason for being. “And close Eme,” We do not want to advertise on playing each group, because we would be making the audience go see those they are interested in alone, and that is not the idea”

Also new is the call First Base to Cuban novice groups: “It’s a call that has been done to help and find that kind of line that shows the festival,” observes M. “I feel that we are giving opportunity to groups they are not so supported, because being in the media today in Cuba is very difficult. If you’re good, go ahead, to the stage “. And although changing the subject a little, she continues: “The HWM is a way to combat the bad music, we are bombarded with. There is no concern for research, people want to make money, and the music is more than that. Right now the situation of music in Cuba is in my opinion a little criticism. It reached a climax at the time, but has fallen to the depths. Its marketing has led to an extreme where I think we lost identity. With the festival we try to take it up somehow. “

“Let´s stop calling it a festival but a project that focuses on music from honesty, not by trade,” says Carlos Alfonso. “In Sintesis musicians sometimes come with prospects of travel, and are wrong, because this group was not made for that. If we travel well, and if we were hungry, well, those are the consequences for doing this kind of music. The same happens with the event. “

It is to make world music, whether Nordic or Caribbean, making music as one, while sharing a common language, it is a risk that has decided to take the Alfonso family with a group of foreign happy to advise and coordinate cultural projects in Cuba. Simply the public to discover other worlds, make small trips to where each artist is born. It is enough if they get the idea.


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