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SpanishEnglishEntrevista - 2004 - Stockholm
"That's where the real timberos are"
by Michelle White - Stockholm - 2004
photo by Magnus Lindgren - Copenhagen 2004
Timba.com: You sang Luz Viajera tonight...and in this song and in many of your other songs there are coros that aren't on the CD. How do you work?
Issac: When you record a CD live obviously new things happen and the people… sometimes in the audience, sometimes the musicians, sometimes one's natural inspiration then makes you make a new coro, a different phrase from what is recorded, because when you record, you don't record with an audience but you simply record the song as the composer conceived it, like preparing a rehearsal. But when you are live then things start to arise, things sometimes that are not even in one's mind, but they are born because that's how Cuban music is, the music also has improvisation.
Timba.com: You demonstrated yourself to be a great rumba singer with one of your first NG La Banda recordings, Los Sitios Enteros, and the flavor of rumba is present throughout your music. How did you first start singing rumba?
Issac: Rumba you have to feel it, you have to sing it from the time you're a kid, from when you're born. In my house there were always many rumberos visiting from Los Antológicos, Los Papines, street rumberos who visited my mother's house. And there we listened to very beautiful things by the rumberos. There was a friend, a woman friend of my mother's named Zenaida, well she has died now, who was rumbera, and she taught a lot of rumba personally to me. A friend later ya más grande when estaba in school, a friend named Luisón, we called him Luisón, who was from the orchestra of Tata Güines and taught me to sing columbia, taught me to sing guaguancó. And, well, later came the first Sábados de la Rumba that were done in Cuba and I went to all the Sábados de la Rumba they had, to all of them, all of them, all of them. When the Conjunto Folclórico Nacional started, I went. And I liked rumba a lot. And I feel it, I have it in my heart. Rumba is part of Cuban music, an important part of Cuban music. That's where the real timberos are.
Timba.com: Do you also dance?
Issac: I dance a little bit, a little, a little.
Timba.com: Can you tell us a little about this latest group of musicians you have brought together?
Issac: Bueno, now I've brought together with me as always musicians with a lot of talent. Young people and people with a lot of experience like Germán Velasco, an excellent instrumentalist. I think he's one of the most important saxophone players of the past two or three decades in Cuba. Pianist Tony, a young guy but very talented. I've known him since he was small, since he started, since he was en principios de la música. Alexander Abreu on the trumpet, an excellent instrumentalist. I think that at this moment he is trumpet player number one in Cuba. Also Rodney Barreto on drums who has been with me for a few years now, but has already adapted to my work and understands well my concept of working. I think he's integrated very well in my way of thinking. And all of the others… Papacho on the congas, a conguero muy estable who knows my work very well. I think it's a work group that is well matched for work, we complement each other well. Fundamentally because we have rehearsed, we have learned to know each other during these years of existence. I have a group that has established musicians, there are people who have been with me for 12 years or maybe more and others who have newly joined but have adapted to my work and others who have regularly recorded with me. I think that in our work, the most important thing is that the people like the music that we are interpreting..
Timba.com: How do you work out the arrangements?
Issac: I work out the arrangements with people who, first of all with people who are interested in working fort me, people who understand me, who know me, who are...well...Fundamentally the majority of the arrangements that I'm interpreting on this tour are arrangements by Joaquín Betancourt, Juan Manuel Ceruto and some arrangements now by the orchestras with the first songs that I sang with, arrangements by Giraldo Piloto, arrangements by… bueno …it's that… I have arrangements by many musicians that have worked with me in the last few years. I think that the most important thing of all is that the people who interpret these arrangements and how I work out my arrangements in the orchestra is a little through intuition of personal taste, of the taste of the people, that is to say of catchy melodies, also with a lot of influence from Jazz, influences from guaguancó, from rumba… a combination, a fusion of what we've been working on for many years. I think that the musicians who come to work here bring a lot. The musicians have always contributed a great deal and this is fundamental, that we are all working in a group with a fixed idea that maybe I'm the one who la pongo, you know, but I always accept all the things that the people propose.
Timba.com: In concert Paulo FG uses very specific hand signals to make the rhythm section change. Do you ever use hand signals or calls?
Issac: I don't know. I know my arrangements very well, I know very well my work and the musicians. There are moments when you're working when some gesture is necessary, some position that you adopt or maybe even a sign, a glance is important to realize an effect in a song. But this is natural, it arises on stage. It isn't practiced much, it emerges on stage.
Timba.com: How does the esquema rítmica of your group compare and contrast to Paulo FG, NG La Banda?
Issac: Really I haven't made an effort to analyze how the esquema rítmico of Paulo nor of NG La Banda is. NG La Banda, I had the luck of being there but a lot has changed. It's not the same group. When the musicians change, many times in some groups the rhythmic concept changes, the basic concept. Although NG La Banda has a leader who is José Luis Cortés who is very clear about what he wants to do, and he directs the music towards a road that only he knows where it is going, you know.
And in my case, I'm not a person who needs to look for a pattern. Now we have maybe a form of...a road...a format for where we're going. And we don't want to resemble anyone, neither do we want to be the most original possible. But we are doing the same work as always, the same as ever.
Timba.com: And your new CD?
Issac: Well, in less than 15 or 20 days, it must be in Cuba already, a recompilation of Issac Delgado hits will be released in two volumes. Volum one is coming now and volume two will come in December. I think we've selected a repertoire that is very beautiful, very amplio for these CDs..
But my regular CD after a year and a half without recording, I'm going to try to record it in May. I have a lot of work now on the international level and I'm going to take the opportunity to do a tour now. And later when we leave here, leave Europe for La Habana, we're leaving for Mexico. And we'll see if we have time in May to finish. I already have the songs, I already have the arrangements worked out. Well see if we have time to finish the CD before the summer.
Timba.com: What would you like to say to the people in the US who want to see you perform?
Issac: No, really it's possible that well see each other in America if at some moment the situation with the visas and that whole story softens a little. If we see each other in La Habana or we see each other in some other part of the world where we're always working. And if we can't see each other in person, then through the CDs, through the music. The music travels through space. It's important to maintain contact through the music, through the space of time. And I think this is the most important thing, the most beautiful thing about this work.
Timba.com: Thank you very much.
Issac: Thank you.