Interview with Eliades Ochoa, star of AfroCubism and Buena Vista Social Club

Cubanow talked to this great figure of contemporary son on his plans for Cubadisco and his future work.

The President of Cubadisco Organizing Committee, Ciro Benemelis, informed Eliades would be offered the Honors Award during the event, "an acknowledgement to national and international personalities with exceptionally significant artistic and cultural contributions. The troubadour of the Buena Vista Social Club has the typical uniqueness of those from Oriente province and he always returns to his hometown for trova and son festivals and all the events held in Santiago."

On this tribute, Eliades said: "I come from the mountain ranges in Oriente and much water had to run under the bridges in our rivers for me to find a respectable space in son. In a closer stage I had to make an alliance with Compay Segundo to give the son the category it deserves. Everything in music demands much sacrifice, a very high price that must be paid.

"In the past you could not live from your music but, you see, everything has its moment and there is time to struggle and time to gather the fruits."

The revival of trova and son with the explosion of Buena Vista Social Club is very gratifying for Eliades: "Musician Juan de Marcos Gonzalez is much younger than us, but he knew which the music was that could take us to the summit. Buena Vista Social Club and the Grammies launched us in the world, with the support of the most authentic and genuine Cuban music. We had a place in which to find true art, top culture," the artist said.

"Buena Vista Social Club is the seal of Cuba. It forever marked our music and also marked us. Cuban music once more acquired the dignity it deserved, the dignity it always has had, since the 17th century, the dignity that in the 20th century gained the world. What happens is that the musical industry – the transnational corporations for example – does not include us in the international circuit. But, nevertheless, Cuban music persists, pushes in and is reluctant to be forgotten," he pointed out.

Eliades Ochoa's last CD, which came out in October 2010, is his last winner. "The album has aché. It won the award to the Best Music in the World offered by the National Geographic Society. It was a real challenge. We hope to get its license in Cuba and have plans to bring the Malian musicians who took part in it to offer two concerts here.

The meeting of Eliades with the African artists takes him back fifteen years ago: "We had a debt since 1996 when Africans could not take part when we were recording for the Buena Vista Social Club, but there's a time for everything. In Rotterdam, Holland, I found them with their instrument, the kora, in the hotel. Then we had a musical exchange: we played together. Music is a universal language and the place was overflowing with musicians and guests. Nick Gold heard about it.

"The Cuban beat is an international means of communication that matches African music very well. We all came from there, but our Cuban traits offer a special touch to our national music. This is the seal, the secret. There are many things in their music that seem taken from the eastern part of Cuba, but it is actually the opposite," he said.

"See you in Santiago de Cuba with our son beat," was Eliades Ochoa's farewell and invitation.

Gertrudis Ortega

To catch Eliades with AfroCubism in London on 27 June see this link

To buy the CD AfroCubism and others see