Yissy Garcia: Women Create … music!

The event is scheduled for Saturday October 19 at seven in the evening at the Old Square of Havana’s historic center. A singular concert will bring together the public and lovers of good and newest music. Yusa and Garcia Yissy will star the closing of the Ellas Crean Cuba Festival, an unprecedented meeting regarding the announcement of this event dedicated to celebrating female creativity and organized by the Embassy of Spain in Havana, the Ministry of Culture, the Office the Historian of the City, the Cuban Institute of Music, among others. It is the first time that both creators share a musical project and in this case, the program will be outlined between the strings of jazz and world music.

A few days before the presentation you can see Yissy very restless, expectant. This young lady, only 26 years, holds several awards at the International Festival of Young Jazz players Jojazz and the International Drum Festival in Havana and this year the First Place in the Battery Category of the first edition of the International Competition of Jazz Master Jam Festival held in Odessa, Ukraine, despite the accolades, the expression of modesty doesn’t fade from her face. And it Yissy is a lovely woman.

She grew up with a battery at home because she is the daughter of Bernardo Garcia, founder of Irakere , and Arturo Sandoval’s drummer . Her uncle’s are also percussionists. So, needless question, for she we could not expect anything else. In addition, from 2006 to 2011 she joined the women’s salsa Orquesta Anacaona , appearing on stages across Cuba and in international festivals . An experience that has remained in the memory of Cubans as that “play, Yissi” the orchestra used to ask her. For her, it was the most important school.

Her smile is eternal and harmonizes perfectly with those features straight out of a fashion magazine, but there are no chills in Yissy. Restless by nature and amazing physical shape she hits the battery, achieving a mix of styles that deep taste Cuban. That is fusion she achieves with her group.

In the framework of the presentation that will close the Festival Ellas Crean, Yissy spoke exclusively to OnCuba. The expectation will be with us until next Saturday when she and Yussa take by assault the Old Square. The event is already agreed. Good music is secure.

How was the idea for this concert born?

This idea has been around for some time. The first thing we wanted was to make a DVD in a studio, but this idea has not materialized, I hope next year we can do it. This DVD was going to be by Yusa , Danay Suarez and mine. Then came the idea of the Festival Ellas Crean and to give this concert Yusa and I , because Danay can’t be because of work. Then we will have three very special guests in the concert: Lyda Cao ( electronic music producer ) , Beatrix Lopez ( lead singer of the rock group Tesis de Menta ) and Laritza Bacallao (exponent of popular dance music ) . Also there will be the young and talented performers that make my band, including Jorge Aragon (piano), Julio Rigal (trumpet) and Dj Jigüe (machines).

How did you conceive this concert from the musical point of view?

Here we present songs of mine that I play with my band and Yusa songs. I am honored that she plays bass in my songs and I’ll take the battery and some other percussion on hers. We will do a quite varied repertoire, as the three guests are from other styles; one comes to the electronics, one of rock and roll and other popular music more danceable. We will also make songs they are singing today.

What vision do you have of this festival considering is centered in women in art?

I think that is a very valid festival because it gives the possibility to show the work we women are doing in all forms of art. It’s a great idea to unite women who are creating, to see their work and for the public as well enjoy this feminine creation.

For you what does it mean to participate in this festival?

First is an honor to be invited to show here the music I’m doing. It is very important for me to make the closing of this Festival. Furthermore, it is a great pleasure to share the stage for the first time with Yusa and other guests.

How does being a woman and play the drums have an influence?

The battery is a strong instrument that requires much physical effort. For me it was a very big challenge to get myself in the music world by playing this instrument. It is always impressive for the public to see a woman in the battery, but so far it has been shown that women are able to play an instrument that is strong as well as a man does. I think the battery has much to do with the personality of each individual, not as a woman you have to play softer or more delicate; you play it and feel it. So far I’ve managed to get people to like the work I do and the sound that I achieve.

What is your view of this topic on the island and in the world?

I’ve been to several countries and have played in various festivals, and I’ve found in such events very few women percussionists, almost none, and as I said, it is always striking to see a woman play this instrument both in Cuba and in other nations. Currently I think there are many women percussionists and drummers who are very good; they are managing to be recognized, especially in jazz. I think eventually there will be more women interested in percussion and people are going to have to recognize the work they do, if it is good.

What significance does the International Competition Master Jam Festival in Odessa, Ukraine, where you were first among drummers?

It was a very great experience. It was an award that I really did not expect it because there were other drummers from various countries who were very talented, with great musical quality, but I was lucky. I think I managed this place because I played with a lot of force. I competed without thinking of taking the prize; played to feel good and to interact with other musicians and I think everyone felt very well as I did.

How have your father Bernardo Garcia and the Anacaona orchestra influenced your career?

My dad is a big influence because since childhood I saw the work he has done and has helped me a lot. When I decided to study percussion at school he was always traveling, we had very little time to sit together to study, but he had a lot of musical information at home and that’s how I learned to study. When he could he helped me much, but I can say that I self-taught the battery.

Anacaona was very important to me. In the school what I studied was the classical music; of the popular they only give some hints and Jazz in my time, none at all. I did not know anything about playing popular dance music, especially timba. I was lucky that when I finished school in 2006 the Anacaona director asked me to do social service in the band and so I started. I listened a lot to learn popular dance music style, and that’s how it was.

Anacaona really was my school of folk music, where I learned to read music of a Danzon, a bachata; things you don’t see at school. I’m really grateful for that band because I owe part of my training to it.

How do you handle being a leader of a band and also playing in it?

It is difficult to have a band, but so far the musicians I play with are young, excellent musicians and friends who have been studying together and are very supportive. I get stressed a bit when programming things, but I have an excellent production director that helps me a lot and I think so far I have not felt any limitation because I have many people who support me. That is very important to me.

How do you conceive the music you make with your group? What rhythms or styles you prefer?

What I do is Jazz mixed with other rhythms like guaguancó, conga, Brazilian rhythms and elements of electronic music. It is a fusion in general, but to all genres I play I put a pinch of Jazz, in my group and with other groups that we share, whether they play jazz or not. I always go on this path, but I think I look good because the Jazz is a music so broad and so creative that gives you the ability to mix rhythms. I love to mix beats, do not like to pigeonhole into one. I’m a little worried in that sense. So besides my band, I love playing with other bands of various genres. I always like trying new things, if not, I get bored.

Photos: Courtesy of the interviewee

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