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The Cuban singer Omara and Bethania on tour around Brazil
When Bethania heard of Omara through the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, which, as we know, launched the Cuban diva internationally, she had the same certainty. But time went on and so went one and a thousand eagles over the sea, that big and deep sea that separates both people (but which doesnt keep them apart), so that the divas could make reality out of that beautiful dream.

The good news is that the project has become a reality and at the moment the resulting CD is ready. Both singers are also promoting this CD on a tour around all of Brazil together with a DVD that includes scenes in the recording studios and of the first few concerts.

The tour lasts from March 7 until May 10 and it includes, among others, the cities of Río de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Curitiva, Salvador and Porto Alegre, where they are supposed to finish.

These musical collaborations between both countries are not new. There are too many common cultural roots, out of which have come out already several famous sound registers, such as the one collected by the concert offered by Iván Lins in his first visit tio Cuba during 1997. In that occasion he was accompanied by the wonderful Chucho Valdés and his group Irakere; the one made in 2004 by our wonderful female vocal sextet Sexto Sentido together with Joao Donato (Cuban Bossa, on the line of Sergio Mendes), in a repertoire that went even beyond the nations implied in order to cover international referents; the frequent recordings of the young Cuban Yusa in studios from Río de Janeiro with her colleagues from that country; and now the CD show that these two symbols of music from both countries have prepared for the pride of everyone, whether from one side as from the other one, from Latin America, from all the people in the world who love true art: Maria Bethania and Omara Portuondo, accompanied also by Cuban and Brazilean musicians.

About the CD

The album titled simply with the name of both singers, will be part of a book which is currently being prepared by the Nova Fronteira Publishing House (one of the most impressive ones from Río) in collaboration with the Music Record Label from the bahiana which is to be found there for a long time, Biscoito Fino. This book will include articles by Cuban and Brazilian intellectuals around the traditional links between both countries, making emphasis of course, in both artists.

The sound register, as well as the life concerts that are taking place right now, are made as people might expect, on the base of the musical heritage of the two big musical trenches of its main characters, even though some of the pieces that are included are not common in the repertoire of them both, who sing solo and interact with each other.

They interlink titles that are true classics, for example Para cantarle a mi amor (To sing to my love) by the legendary Orlando de la Rosa (1919-1957), sung in Spanish, Só Vendo que Beleza (Marambaia), by Rubens Campos (1912-1985) and Henricao (1915 -1984), a song which became popular in the voice of Carmen Costa (1920-2007).

The singer from our nation includes several titles which had already been recorded by her, such as El amor de mi bohío (The love of my hut) by Julio Brito (1908-1968), Y tal vez (And maybe) (Juan Formell) and Palabras (Words) (Marta Valdés), which in this case will be joined together with the Brazilian piece under the same name, composed by the deceased Gonzaginha, sung by the voice of María, together with the poem LXIV by Dulce María Loynaz. The Cuban selection includes Lacho, a rare duet between its authors, the piano player Facundo Rivero and the flute player Juan Pablo Miranda, which is the song that opens the CD. There is also Mil congojas (A thousand sadness) a bolero whose version by Omara is very well known and Nana para un suspiro (Semillita), by Pedro Luis Ferrer, which ends the CD.

On the Brazilian part, Bethania chose Caipira de Fato (Adauto Santos), Menino Grande (Antonio Maria), Arrependimento (a forgotten bolero by Dolores Durán and Fernando César) as well as Voce, by Hekel Tavares (1896- 1969) and Nair Mesquita better known as Penas do Tie.

As it can be observed, the repertoire is very representative not just of the kind of music (even if in some cases, as we mentioned before, they hadnt incorporated it before) of both singers, but also of the musical heritage of both Cuba and Brazil, structuring the album and the presentations (bigger and with many more songs) which was qualified by Bethania as very humane, before adding about her partner: "Omara is one of the best singers I have ever known, that I know, she has a musicality, an intelligence, a musical comprehension that is not very common."

The woman, who is called by many Filins Girlfirend said about her Brazilian colleague: "The voice of María Bethania has a color, a density, a certainty, a subtlety, she feels us..."

Of course, and even though we havent heard the CD yet, nor have we seen the show (we hope it wont be long before they arrive here), this encounter has produced a relevant cultural event which goes beyond the diameter of the countries involved. It is, without a doubt, an event of universal magnitude, since two universes, two mega-powers (the singers as well as the music from both places that they interpret) come together to exploit something which is certain to classify among the most important things that is offered to us during the first few years of the 21st century.


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