Issac Delgado has adapted well to the USA, he said
Cuban superstar Issac Delgado walked across the Mexican border to Laredo, Texas, with his family three years ago to defect to the United States. He had no illusions that he’d pick up where he left off back home.
In Cuba, Delgado was considered a musical treasure. He joined pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s jazz band in Havana at age 18, before going solo and winning fans and awards in the United States, South America and Europe for salsa and timba hits sung
with a voice that is part honey, part hot peppers.
Once settled in Tampa, Fla., with his wife, two young daughters and piano-playing son, he realized that continually adjusting was going to be the name of the game.
The family and our little girls have adapted well,” Delgado said from Las Vegas in Spanish through a translator. “From a creative point of view for me, it’s been a little harder. Even though I came here with a name, it feels like I’m starting from zero.”
Not exactly zero. Delgado has signed with Univision’s La Calle Records, racked up Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations, and was in Vegas to perform at last week’s Latin Grammy awards, where he was a nominee (but not a winner) for Best Salsa Album for “Asi Soy” and Best Tropical Song for “No Vale La Pena.”
This week Delgado is in Boston where he is Berklee College of Music’s artist-in-residence. Tonight he performs at Berklee Performance Center with his son, Issac Jr., and a band of Berklee faculty, alumni and students led by bassist Oscar Stagnaro.
One adjustment Delgado has had to make since moving to the U.S. is putting more emphasis on salsa than timba, the lightning-paced, rhythmically complex style that has rendered salsa old-fashioned in Cuba. As a member of the Cuban band NG La Banda, Delgado helped pioneer timba.
“The polyrhythms of timba aren’t of as much interest to radio programmers here,” the 47-year-old singer said, “even though I feel if people listened to the music they would like it. So I’ve had to adapt. But I’m not here to impose my music on anybody. I’m not frustrated, just learning and adapting.” It’s part of a continuing life story Delgado said he planned to talk about with Berklee students.
“I’m not going to Berklee so much to teach as to transmit my experiences and emotions,” he said. “I want people to come away understanding that my music is very simple in a way. The music is all about my personal feelings, and I want my listeners to understand them.”
I come from a small town in Cuba and what I play has authentic roots in folkloric and African music