His wonderful recording of pieces by Nico Rojas – which won him awards both in Cuba and Europe – was the result of a decade's collaboration with this exceptional composer and performer and constitutes a vital contribution to Cuban musical culture (Dickinson transcribed virtually his entire oeuvre) as well as a beautiful homage to a great man and to the ‘filin' genre of which he was a master.
This generosity and openness towards fellow artists is what marks out Ahmed from his contemporaries. This CD (recorded with occasional accompaniment from sensitive violinist Emma Blanco and some tasty percussion from the virtuoso Hammadi Rencurrell) takes the form of a further homage to a single artist – this time the prodigious Cuban guitarist and composer Eduardo Martin. He has chosen well: Martin is a rightly lauded figure on both sides of the Florida Straits, residing in Havana whilst composing for musicians and orchestras the world over. The pieces are full of golden melodies, and range from thoughtful solos to lively, rhythmic celebrations of the Cuban spirit.
The central suite – ‘Canciones del Calendario' (Calendar songs) for solo guitar – is Martin's personal journey through the year. Each piece is a jewel, simple and direct, yet the whole is suffused with emotion and love for Cuba. Other pieces, the evocative ‘Havana Suite' itself, the delightful Yambu (slow rumba) of ‘De la Rumba Son' and the ‘Tropical Diversions' further reveal Martin's eclectic taste and his gift for melody as well as giving Ahmed's exceptionally sensitive and assured playing full rein.
When presenting him with the CubaDisco award for best instrumental soloist and best solo album in 2009, Yarelis Dominguez paid homage to Nico Rojas: "In order to transcend and be free, the magic of music only requires a sensitive spirit and a vocation". Ahmed exemplifies this spirit and has produced another truly magical album.Dave Willetts
This review appears CubaSi Summer 2011,Cuba Solidarity Campaign
This and other CDs available from http://www.cubaconnect.co.uk price £10 + p&p or call 020 8800 0155CD:Ahmed Dickinson plays Nico RojasCD:Canciones del Alma: Ahmed Dickinson Cardenas and Laura Mitchell