Arnaldo Rodríguez TALISMAN: musician or entrepreneur?

Arnaldo Rodríguez TALISMAN: musician or entrepreneur?
Fecha de publicación: 
24 March 2023
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Since TALISMAN’s first hits, Arnaldo Rodríguez warned that he was “on fire” and twenty years later, he still causes tongues to wag. He is a creator in every sense of the word. Thus, without quitting the stage and performance, the native from Ceballos undertakes new projects, all related to music, which is his living space.

Recently, he announced on social networks the creation of MSMEs Mambo S.R.L. We talked about this issue in his most recent visit to CubaSí:

What is Mambo company all about?

"Mambo is a project that has popped up in my creative universe for some years and it is not just about an action, it is being ramified into many things. It started with a festival: in 2021, in the midst of COVID, Habana Mambo Festival was born and we were able to carry it out in-person last year with resounding success. The CD Habana Mambo Orquesta — which EGREM launched — also arose from this creative idea and now a company has been born with the current trend in the country, where the new forms of non-state management contribute with the socioeconomic development of Cuba.

I have always had this feeling of curiosity. I am, in essence, an artist, a creator, a musician. This is what I am good at. But I have always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and this came to fruition with Mambo. There, some professionals who have been working with me in events organization and production, cultural activities, converged. Besides, we also add gastronomy. That is, everything we did randomly, is finally achieved as a whole in the company, which has also led to a Local Development Program (LDP) in the municipality of Playa. Along with the government authorities of the municipality, we will be working together with the Municipal Directorate of Culture and cultural institutions in everything related to entertainment in the community.”

Is the Lucecita sociocultural project also part of this new venture?

Lucecita project is the most tangible side of the social contribution that Mambo is making as a company, as an umbrella, where it contributes free of charge, directly, to social development. There, we held workshops of different artistic expressions for children in the community, the choir that many have seen lately shine on important stages thanks to the dedication and talent of teacher Carmen Rosa and we are now starting a job that I am sure will go to be very nice with people with intellectual disabilities.

Arnaldo, despite these new ventures, you remain linked to the state company that has represented you for decades. Why?

"Of course I am not going to "break up" with my representation company, because I have never conceived it as an entity that only "looks for jobs". I have another concept about the mission of these companies, with a vision of comprehensive work with the artist. I mean, for example, sound and audiovisual production, advice, administrative support, etc…

 "On the other hand, I believe that artists should relate to our companies as "partners in the same business" and with a common goal. It doesn't matter who looked for the job. We share the percentage of profits because both, from different positions and functions, contribute to the success of the artistic product in general. That is the way in which I have related to EGREM and MUSICUBA for 20 years and, the truth is, it has gone well for me with the logical ups and downs."

What would you change or improve so that the artist-company relationship become more profitable?

"I would start by providing music companies in Cuba with more material and professional tools. Then, they would have to be downloaded from the bulging artistic catalogues, which sometimes do not fulfill any function: neither artistic, nor patrimonial, nor commercial. And then, with this selected catalog, I would encourage the creative groups of the companies to generate strategies for the creation and commercialization of cultural products, whether they are artists or artistic units."

Then, despite your positive experience, do you think the music business system should be reformed…?

I believe our entrepreneurial system must be reformed, but within a deep analysis and a sincere, professional view on our problems as well as their possible answer and solution. There are issues and obstacles that such transformation cannot solve. Let’s make no mistake. The music industry is there in the same socioeconomic context, like the rest of economic players in Cuba. Therefore, it faces the same challenges to achieve its goals.

Neither do I believe that turning all framework of institutions within the Ministry of Culture into private companies may be the solution. It would be actually a huge mistake. We must strengthen the role of the socialist state-owned company as the primary way to boost the Cuban economy. And I am not talking about strengthening it with words, but with concrete actions.

What space would then be left for non-state management initiatives?

"All the role they have earned by working and contributing, each one from their perspective. I would never bet against private initiative. In fact, I believe that we can interact with forms of non-state management to relaunch our purposes, but we must not privatize the industry.

"Right now, there is a severe situation with the employment of our musicians at the national level. The country must inject financing into the system to regain a hierarchy in the main public spaces of the country. This space today is being occupied by the indisputable immediacy and competition from private management, which, in order to obtain positive economic results, sometimes the best of our music and Cuban culture is not promoted. Furthermore, they are playing the role of "cultural programmers" without being so.

"Here I stop, because the cultural policy of the country is at stake and the breach is open for the promotion of anti-values, ideological subversion and the advance of the cultural colonization that invades the world nowadays. We must not veto artists or musical genres to promote others, but draw up intelligent and effective strategies, seek balance in the design of cultural programming, respect hierarchies...

"We must look after all these elements of music, the market, and society as if they were the results of what we have done; namely, our identity, our values as a nation, our international recognition in terms of art. We must feel that with this problematic, the culture of the Revolution is at stake."

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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