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SpanishEnglishSobreviviente (EGREM) Released 3 March 2017

CD Review:  Sobreviviente 2017
by Buena Fe
(EGREM in Cuba)
(Metemorfosis outside of Cuba)

Review by Michelle White , all rights reserved

Sobreviviente - Buena Fe

“Sobreviviente” is Buena Fe’s ninth studio CD and was four years in the making, not counting the recompilation album “Soy”. It is the band’s most highly awarded album to date, having won Best Recording, Best Fusion Album, and also the Grand Prize at Cubadisco 2017. To be honest I was surprised that they didn’t win for CD design as well, because the artwork is by Roberto Fabelo and reason enough to buy the hardcopy.

“Sobreviviente” is quintessential Buena Fe – brains and beauty. The album contains 13 tracks with thought-provoking sometimes serious, sometimes humorous texts. Director and lead singer Israel Rojas is responsible for all compositions on the album with the exception of the final track “Hipibano” – a whimsical song that he co-wrote with veteran singer-songwriter Frank Delgado and the young talent Vicente Alejandro Trigo, director of D’Corazón.  If you’re disappointed in the banality of lyrics in popular music today, you will rejoice in Rojas’ work. “Sobreviviente” is a cross-section of the human condition with songs addressing life, love, marriage, death, betrayal, domestic abuse, happiness and hippie-ness. Rojas is a consummate craftsman and language is his medium.

Buena Fe’s arrangements have always been an eclectic mix and they have alternately been classified as pop, pop-rock, trova-pop-rock, trova-fusion and now finally just fusion by Cubadisco. Even non-Spanish speakers can appreciate the songs simply for the music. The new album includes trova, ballads and boleros, and as always a Caribbean touch this time including Brazilian inspired pop, and a hint of reggae. On “Sobreviviente” the pop-rock stands out clearly, with some great electric guitar playing by Dairon Rodriguez, who tragically passed away the morning of the Cubadisco awards. The album lives on as a testimony to his work, including his collaboration on the arrangement of the title track. 

The CD opens with “Sin Arrepentimientos” (Without Regrets). The arrangement by pianist Ernesto Cisneros begins with acoustic guitar and soft keyboards, the voices of Rojas and Martínez rising above in beautiful harmony until – wait for it – there is a pause and suddenly the first chorus hits hard with electric guitar. As the song ends with the reverb of Rojas distinctive voice, it seamlessly slips into “Sobreviviente” (Survivor) with barely one second between the two songs, cleverly mimicking the pause prior to the chorus. The first time I listened to the album I was fooled into thinking it was one song. This must have been deliberate as “Sobreviviente” is a response to living without regrets but recognizing and asking forgiveness for mistakes made “pero debo seguir sin arrepentimientos”.

“La Tempestad” (The Tempest) and the first of three collaborations on the album, featuring one of the great exponents of the nueva trova genre, Silvio Rodríguez. It was the first video released from the new CD and is about a young man facing the difficulties of life and asking advice from an older man. It has an absolutely beautiful trova-esque arrangement by Cisneros and Rojas. 

Many of Buena Fe’s greatest successes have been with their ballads. “Sobreviviente” contains three: “Si Nos Dan Un Filo” (If They Give Us a Blade), “De Ti Depende” (I Depend on You) – with Yoel Martínez on lead vocals – and “Bodas” (Weddings). “Bodas” is set to become a new standard at Cuban weddings from 2017 and on.

Yoel Martínez also assumes lead vocals on “Besos” (Kisses), which he co-arranged with Ernesto Cisneros. It is a fun, upbeat commentary on the subject of kisses. “Dijo el Diablo” (The Devil Said) and “Alabanza” (Praise) are the other two faster more dance-oriented songs. “Alabanza” gives praise to the things that bring happiness and is especially poignant to the Cuba people who are experts in fining happiness in the face of adversity. The video was dedicated to Dairon Rodriguez who was always a source of humor and fun in the band.

Rojas wording makes any subject beautiful, but “Una Mujer” (A Woman), which he originally wrote for Luna Manzanares in 2013, deserves a special mention for being the most brilliant tribute to women that I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. At a time when misogyny is so often present in popular music, it is uplifting to hear from someone who holds women in such great esteem. On “Sobreviviente” the song has been given a new arrangement by Vicente Alejandro Trigo, and Rojas performs it as a duet with Manzanares.

Rojas takes on darker subjects in “Lágrimas Tras Cebollas” (Tears Behind Onions) and “Bolero Sangriento” (Bloody Bolero). The former is about domestic abuse and the hesitancy of outsiders to intrude on a couples’ relationship while the abused explain away their bruises and go back to making dinner, hiding their tears (in this case) behind onions. The latter is a story of someone who discovers his spouse was cheating on him when he has to go to the hospital to identify her body after she died in a car accident while with her lover. It is a heavy subject strikingly presented and the bolero arrangement is the perfect vehicle – pun may have been intended. It is one of the songs I have had on loop since buying the album.

“Sobreviviente” is available at all the usual digital outlets and as hardcopy from Amazon and Target. Highly recommended!

tr title composer arranger lead vocals
1 Sin Arrepentimiento
Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros Israel Rojas
2 Sobreviviente Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros
Dairon Rodríguez Lobaina
Israel Rojas
Israel Rojas
3 Dijo el Diablo
Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros Israel Rojas
4 La Tempestad
Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros
Israel Rojas
Israel Rojas
5 Si Nos Dan un Filo
Israel Rojas Yoel Martínez Israel Rojas
6 Bolero Sangriento
Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisnero Israel Rojas
7 Besos Israel Rojas Yoel Martínez
Ernesto Cisneros
Yoel Martínez
8 Alabanza
Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros
Israel Rojas
Israel Rojas
9 De Ti Depende
Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros Yoel Martínez
10 Lágrimas Tras Cebollas Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros Israel Rojas
11 Una Mujer Israel Rojas Vicente Alejandro Trigo Israel Rojas
12 Bodas Israel Rojas Ernesto Cisneros Israel Rojas
13 Hipibano Israel Rojas
Frank Delgado
Vicente Alejandro Trigo
Vicente Alejandro Trigo Israel Rojas


Role - Instrument Name
Lead Vocals
second vocals on Besos & De Ti Depende
Israel Rojas
Second Vocals
lead vocals on Besos & De Ti Depende
Yoel Martínez
Piano & Keyboard, chorus Ernesto Cisneros
Electric guitar, chorus Dairon Rodríguez
Maikel Pérez
Israel López
Congas & Minor Percussion David "Suiny" Hernández
Trumpet Lorenzo Molina
Trombones Eduardo Sandoval
Saxophone Michel Herrera
Guests Silvio Rodríguez - La Tempestad
Luna Manzanares - Una Mujer
Frank Delgado - Hipibano
Vicente Alejandro Trigo Junco -
Recorded at  Vieja Linda Records
Musical production Ernesto Cisneros
Israel Rojas
Adolfo "Fito" Martinez
Recording, Mixed & Master Adolfo "Fito" Martinez
Recording assistants Cilio Arozarena
Adrián Rojas
Andy Rojas
Art Roberto Fabelo
Design Gabriel Dávalos
Correction María V. Dávalos
Michelle White - Sunday, 02 July 2017, 03:50 AM