Son Kayori, from Panama to Havana

Son Kayori, from Panama to Havana
Fecha de publicación: 
23 January 2022
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Son Kayorí is an Isthmian group that cultivates «Caribbean music, traditional salsa, a lot of traditional Cuban son music. We’ve been around for about ten years now doing things, among them, we have come two or three times to the Piña Colada Fusion Music Festival in Ciego de Ávila, and we have made a production here called Original and Sincere, which we recorded a few years ago in the Studio 18 of Egrem and the producer was Arnaldo Rodríguez”, said Adalberto Bazán, leader of the group, whom music recently brought back to Havana.

«We recorded two new songs that don’t have a commercial touch, just saying. One has a lot to do with the Panamanian colonial era, it’s a tribute to the indigenous chief who was called Urracá, very representative of the province of Veraguas, in Panama. A late composer, Edwin Silveras, offered me the song to record it. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it at that time due to financial reasons; however, now we had the opportunity to come and we did it, first as a Tribute to Urracá, which is precisely what the song is called, and also as a recognition, a posthumous tribute to the architect Edwin Silveras, who was a great Panamanian composer.

«The other song is mine called Song for an Absent Friend and it has a lot to do with the friends who left us in the pandemic. For example, the arranger of the production that I did here died from COVID, and some other fellow musicians there in Panama also died, and this is a tribute to them.

Musically, both pieces are also very different: «The Tribute to Urracá has the rhythm of salsa itself, logically with the touch of traditional Cuban music, because I love that. The other is a kind of fusion of Caribbean music. At first, I saw it as a very Panamanian rhythm called "tamborera", but there has been a small change due to the characteristics of the arranger, who is Cuban, and the musicians, so it’s a fusion of Caribbean music, but it’s within the essence of Afro-Hispanic music, and I like it a lot, I think the song matured».

Adalberto Bazán has lived in Panama City for many years, but he has island blood. He was born on one of the islands of the Pearl Archipelago, in the heart of the Gulf of Panama. “Most people there are Afro-descendants. What they call the rumba here in Cuba, there are the bunde, the bullerengue, the congo games, which are part of the Afro-Panamanian culture », he tells me.

Matamoros, the Sonora Matancera, the bolero, and son music, the timba, the Cuban musicians and the Cuban public, definitively conquered him: «The Cuban is an audience, in my opinion, of great quality, because it’s a very receptive audience, but at the same time it has the skill to know what’s right, what’s wrong, and one very important thing: it’s an audience that contributes and teaches you to respect; not to discriminate; not to think that, because the spectator is not on stage with you, he is ignorant of what’s going on. The Cuban public goes to concerts or shows because they know what they are going to see, and if it’s not what they were sold, they are going to say: this was not what I came to see. Thank God, the one we’ve met there in Ciego has been a very receptive audience and that’s why we have come several times, because I am sure that if we had done it wrong, they wouldn’t have invited us again».

At this point he reminds me that he’s been to Cuba about 17 times, and comments on the colleagues with whom he has worked and shared here: «I have a lot of confidence in Cuban musicians. I like the work they do for the feeling they put in it... well, for me Cuba has always been a cultural, scientific, educational reference... I love the work that’s done here.

«I became friends with Arnaldo since the moment we met. An excellent person, an excellent musician and also an excellent producer, very responsible, that's why I made my first production here with him, and I've come back because I have a lot of confidence in the work that Arnaldo and his team do. I feel very satisfied with the result, with the quality of the musicians who work here, despite the fact that they are quite young. When you listen to the work, it seems that they have had any number of years in this environment, so that shows that the Cuban musical school is a school that teaches music seriously, and I love that, because the result will be of that traditional character that I like to put in what I do».

Although only a two-hour flight separates us, Panama is “right there”, much closer culturally than we can imagine: “We Panamanians, despite the fact that we are on mainland, we are also Caribbean, just like Cuba. The other thing is that we are all Hispanics, we have the colonial heritage of the Spanish, but also that African essence, so these two cultures come together and the result is the seasoning, which is the same as that of Cuban and Panamanian food; the talkative behavior of the Cuban is the same behavior of the Panamanian people... because that is also expressed in music. Of course they are different cultures, but there are always points of conjunction due to that historical heritage».

And Adalberto quickly says that he himself is an example of that connection between our idiosyncrasies. We talk about rhythms and he lets me know that if a timba plays and he remains still, it's because he's dead: «Cuba is a musical benchmark. Everything that’s happening at the level of Afro-Hispanic popular music, the reference is Cuba: the bolero, what they call salsa, many don’t agree, but it’s a derivation of son music. There are many people who are trying to do timba, but that was where Cuban added a very strong key, as if saying: let's see if they can do what we do. I've always said: to make timba you have to be Cuban. It's has so many things... timba is a combination of so many things... it has jazz, it has son music, rumba, so that's complicated».

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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