“Classically Cuban Concert” with David Virelles: “Danzón is cubanía”


Cuban Research Center (CRI) of Florida International University (FIU) is hosting the “Classically Cuban Concert,” with Cuba pianist David Virelles, on Sunday, December 8, at 5:00pm at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center. The Cuban Research Center is also celebrating 15 years since its founding at FIU. Olga Connor (El Nuevo Herald) writes about the forthcoming performance. The article also includes a taste of two of David Virelles’s albums—Un granito de arena and Igbó Alákọrin (The Singer’s Grove) Vol I & II. Connor writes:

“Danzón is cubanía,” says David Virelles, praised jazz pianist and composer, who will bring us a trove of the most famous danzón piano pieces at the Classically Cuban Concert.

[. . .] This year the concert will be dedicated to danzón, since “the danzón is considered one of the most representative and important genres of Cuban musical identity, and had great influence on other genres that were subsequently developed, such as the mambo and chachachá,” says Virelles.

In addition, “it has a very particular musical form, and it left us with the French or typical charanga format that has so much inspired creators. Many of our great composers and performers have ventured into this genre, from the Romeus to the López family (Los Cachao), Arcaño, Chepín, Urfé, Caturla, Zenaida Manfugás, Chucho Valdés, and Emiliano Salvador.”

Danzón has a choreography that has allowed it to be favored in many places outside of Cuba, such as Veracruz, in Mexico, and in regions of Spain.

[. . .] Virelles will be joined by drummer Hilario Bell on the timbal [kettledrum], an instrument used in typical orchestras, and by José Armando Gola on acoustic bass. It is the first time he will work with them in the United States, although he has known Bell since he was a child in Santiago de Cuba and they worked together at that moment. “Both are great musicians whom I admire very much and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share with them,” he says.

The program that Virelles and his companions will follow in Miami will offer diverse samples of the danzón. “We will interpret classical dances going through different eras and styles of this Cuban musical genre,” he notes. “But our interpretations will have a personal touch, since we will integrate elements of improvisation and modern music into danzón.”

[. . .] In his opinion, classical music is not only European, but it is all the folklore of the people. “I like all classical music,” he says. “But within this group I not only include the great European composers, I also consider the classical music of Afro-Cuban rituals and campesino folkloric music, traditional and popular Cuban music, jazz, the singing and ritual drumming of Haiti or Salvador de Bahia, flamenco, the music of the roots of any culture or country .”

Currently, the pianist resides in New York, and performs in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the entire United States. His first concert in Miami was at the WDNA jazz radio station, in collaboration with Cuban painter Arturo Rodríguez. Born and raised in Santiago de Cuba, his whole family is musical. “My parents are musicians, my mother is a flutist and worked for many years with the Symphony of the East, and was a teacher of art schools in Santiago, and my father [José Aquiles] is a singer-songwriter and guitarist, with national and international recognition.”

35 years old and away from the island since 2001, he confesses that he is not very aware of today’s Cuban music, but defends the virtue and creativity of Cuban musicians of all time. “Many have not been recognized, and have even been forgotten, after having achieved great success and making important contributions to universal culture,” he objects. “In addition to being a faithful follower and eternal student of the last representatives of our native music, I am inspired by young talents such as pianist Rolando Luna or the Santiago sonero Maikel Dinza. But there are also many other names in the Cuban diaspora, with powerful representations in many cities around the world. ” [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see https://www.elnuevoherald.com/entretenimiento/ent-columnistas-blogs/olga-connor/article237960299.html

For more information on the concert, go to https://15th-classically-cuban-concert.eventbrite.com or call (305) 348-1991.

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