I recently came across an intriguing song—“El pilón—by a Cuban singer/songwriter that I had never heard of before; I was impressed by the originality and rhythmic combinations of this young musician, so here I share excerpts from an article and interview of the troubadour William Vivanco:
William Vivanco was introduced as a promising figure within the Cuban music a decade ago. Meanwhile, he became increasingly popular among young people. This singer-songwriter is today one of the leading voices of a generation that is giving life to contemporary Cuban music. Vivanco joined the troubadour tradition which is already essential in Cuba’s identity. His music is a reflection of the old song performed in his native Santiago de Cuba but it also has a lot of the urban spirit from the minstrels of Havana. The city is another character in his songs. Everything is mixed with a myriad of eastern Cuban rhythms like the montuno or changüí as well as the folklore of those countries visited by the artist. In other words, Vivanco has absorbed everything around him.
His song “Cimarrón” makes him popular and everyone associates him with the verse: “Lo tengo tó pensa’o.” At the moment, William is launching his third album “El mundo está cambia’o”, Bis Music record label. “El mundo…” is an experimental album. [. . .] Many elements are combined in the CD: intimate songs such as “Alondra” or “Por donde andes”. Others are chronicles of his city; for instance, “Olokum”, which speaks of the endless religious faith felt in Santiago de Cuba. “Que guapanga” is a guajira-joropo, inspired in Venezuela. “Anaconda”is a song he made along with Eduardo del Llano that has a lot to do with his taste for poetry. The bonus track is special: “Cajón de muerto,” played together with Eliades Ochoa.
During the CD launching, at the Cultural Center Submarino Amarillo, William Vivanco spoke with Cubasí.
This album has a lot of the research you’ve made on traditional Cuban rhythms. You have said that you’d rather delve into the folklore than popular music. Why? Wisdom is always in the past. I need to connect with older people. I have learned from older musicians. What I want to convey is that we need to learn to understand the world, to keep creating. I´m very tied to the folk music of other countries. When you know the old music, you realize where the popular music comes from.
However, you put a lot of modern trends in your music alongside these traditional rhythms. How do you combine both? I would say that it happens almost spontaneously. We are in a time of fusion music. We are more connected to the world and we learned about everything. That gives a modern hint to my music, but I always support myself on the knowledge of older music, the advice of the old people…
You consider yourself as a street musician. What has the street give to you? Everything. “The Street University,” as we say in Cuba, has given me everything. I envy a lot those musicians who have studied in schools of music. I would have liked to do so but it was impossible to me. When I learned how to play the guitar, I started to play for tips in hotels and ti taught many things. I came to Havana and it was the same, learning from the streets.
But you had a background in choral music in Santiago. What positive things did that experience give you? When I finished my 12th grade, I entered the Madrigal choir and there I learned some techniques of singing. I sang in several languages. It was very important. Due to my economical situation, I decided to sing in the streets as well and therefore, I learned some of the classics as well as traditional Cuban music.
How has Santiago de Cuba influenced on you? Santiago is present in everything. Rumba is played differently here. Santiago is a very strong, very patient city.
You have done a song to Havana or some taxi cars in Havana. Do you feel you belong to Havana already? I´m Cuban, I feel great patriotism. The more I travel the more I like my country, my weather. I like the potential we Cubans have. We are really special.
Listen to Vivanco’s “Olokun” here:
For full article and interview, see http://www.cubarte-english.cult.cu/paginas/actualidad/caraAcara.detalle.php?id=3455