Pablo Santamaría: An authentic musician from Cuba
- Submitted by: manso
- Editorial Articles
- 09 / 29 / 2011
2011.09.28 - 09:11:03 / radiorebelde.icrt.cu / Havana, Cuba.- Pablo Santamaría has become, thanks to his own merits as a musician, in one of the most universal and authentic Cuban artists who has always defended our sonority. His wide successful career includes the Cultura National distinction, the Nicolás Guillén order as well as some international prizes.
His perform through the Cuban music has left indelible memories in the musical history of our nation. Prestigious orchestras such as the Astros, The Violentos and the Irakere received a wide influence from this virtuoso singer and percussionist in some periods of his musical work.
Modesty and friendliness features the personality of Pablo Santamaría. Moreover, his children constitute for him a real bliss and not a way of perpetuating our inner fears, dreams and happiness. The friendship, on its part, is strengthen when he recalled proudly personalities such as Gilberto Smith, Rocillo, Julio Pulido and Pedraza Ginori who shared some periods of his life.
When does your musical interest start exactly?
I was really curious and restless since my childhood. My mother used to sing when she was ironing our cloths and that was like a medicine as I used to listen to her with a blissful look on my face. Nuca, my mom, could never be a singer because of her parents did not allow her to carry out her dream. However, she had certainly an exceptional talent in that sense.
I was born in the 10 de Octubre municipality, but I did not live there a long time. My family first moved to Lawton district when I was two or three years of age and later to the Cerro municipality where I resided during 40 years which is a place of which I treasured many good memories.
It was on the Santa Rosa Road between Infanta and Cruz del Padre streets where was running the famous Sirique cultural activity, which was one of the busiest places in the city of Havana, visited by prestigious personalities of the world of arts such as Errol Flynn, Elena Burke, Marlon Brando, among others.
There were countless occasions in which I escaped from home to watch them singing, that occurred when I was 13 or 14 years old approximately, and I truly believe that deeply marked my like for music.
How did you manage to study in the Amadeo Roldán conservatory?
I went there to do the compulsory aptitude tests in order to be accepted in the conservatory and I did pass them. I had outstanding professors since the very beginning like in the case of Salabarria who was a professor of music theory, junco and clarinet. I heard González Roing playing several times as its band used to rehearsal in the back section of the conservatory. I also treasure really good memories from my student period in that school.
I became a percussionist and continued my studies in the National Arts Academy (ENA), where I had as classmates Elpidio Chapotín, trumpet player of NG la Banda band, Carlos Puerto Caballero, bass player of Irakere band and Ana Nora Calaza. All were great stars of the world of arts. After that, I began the military service which constituted a tremendous school for me in which I became a member of the musical band of the General staff of my unit until the year 1968. The professional rigor was truly high and that made me to improve continuously. The Revolutionary Arms Forces helped me to become in the man and musician I am.
You studied percussion, however, you are better known as a singer. Tell us about that transition in your career.
Once I could reincorporate myself to the civilian life, I was part of some bands such as the ones of the Tropicana, Martí Theater and the orchestra of the ICRT. Later on I became a member of the Llamas group from 1969 to 1971 and officially became member of the Bucaneros quartet; some years ago I used to play drums. Therefore, I became a singer unofficially without stopping playing the aforementioned musical instrument.
I never ever received singing lessons; however, I was regular with my guitar in many local descarga activities. I still remember that a Chilean band was in fashion at that time and Germaín´s who was the main singer of that band, used to sing fantastically. Then I tried to imitate him in a party with the song entitled Y volveré and everyone there liked it. After that the members of the band included that song in our repertoire without telling me about it. Then, just a few days later, they asked me to sing that song and I accepted. It was in the Riviera hotel where I made my debut as a singer which was only possible under the agreement of allowing me to play the drums. My hands shook as well as my legs; however, little by little I began to lose my fears on the stage and finally had a warmed welcome from the audience there.
The director of the Bucaneros´ band advised me to continue improving as a singer, and then I decided to receive singing lessons devised to modulate the voice without affecting the vocal cords. My teacher at that time was Marcelino del Llano who had been the first tenor of the Madrid´s opera.
When did you decide to start your career as a soloist?
There were some people who encouraged me to start a career as soloist singer; however, I was not truly interested in singing at that time, but in the percussion. Therefore, I began to sing without the band in 1974. I attended the program justo a las nueve where I sung from Santiago de Cuba province.
I had the opportunity to have very good friends such as Adolfo Guzmán, Eduardo Rocillo, Germán Rocillo and Germán Pinelli, who taught me a lot. I consider myself as a person who knows how to listen and from that ability part of my success comes from.
Which musical projects are you currently taking part in?
I spent some time overseas; however, I have returned to some programs in the national radio and television since three years ago. I was invited to the program Entre tú y yo as well as to la descarga television program. Now I have just recorded a single entitled Corazón (heart) where a great producer like Juan Manuel Seruto and executive producer María Elena Sierra also participated. Great Cuban musicians took part in the recording process of the album.
There were 50 songs first selected for the album of which 14 were recorded and 12 were later on selected. The recording took place in the Abdala studio under the Colobri musical brand. It is a musical and personal proposal in which I did not vocalize loudly taking into account that we wanted to pay homage to the great Cuban musicians and composers of all times. There are songs of Osvaldo Farrés, Frank Domínguez, José Antonio Méndez, among others.
You have received some international prizes. Tell us about your musical experience overseas.
I was selected in 1975 to represent Cuba at the song Festival held in Dresden where I attended with Argelia Fragoso and Rember Egues.
We won that year all the prizes and Argelia even won a scholarship to study chorale direction in Germany. I participated in almost all festivals that existed during that period such as the Sopot 78 from Czechoslovakia, Golden Lira from Bratislava, festivals from the former Soviet Union and song Festival from Dresden in 1975. The ministry of culture from the former Democratic German Republic granted me a special prize due to my long working career. I felt really moved by their kindness in that sense.
I was lucky enough to visit some nations such as New Zealand, South Korea, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia and many others. I also shared the stage with personalities such as Julio Iglesia, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Massiel and Andrea Bochelli.
It was just a few time ago when I had a beautiful experience in Africa. I had never been there and I really loved its audience. The public there is so musical and rhythmical that is able to appreciate the good music and arts. The Aragón band also attended to the Black Arts (Artes Negras) festival held in Senegal, while, in my case, I will have the opportunity to visit once again the African mainland in the upcoming month of November.
Do you have still any dreams to come true?
I do think that I have come true all my dreams in the professional side as a musician in my life. I wanted to sing dancing genres and I did it with the Jorrín orchestra. Another of my goals was to sing with the Aragón band and I did take part in the La Charanga eternal CD which was nominated to the Grammy prize with the songs Brusca by Arsenio Rodriguez and Vereda Tropical. By Livhy Barceló Vázquez and Translated by: Juan Carlos Caballero Puig