Adalberto Álvarez: “I make the authentic music of our country”

Adalberto Álvarez: “I make the authentic music of our country”
Fecha de publicación: 
1 September 2021
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The Cuban people regretted on Wednesday the passing of renowned composer, arranger, and bandleader, Adalberto Alvarez due to COVID-19. He was 72. We remember an interview we did with him in 2018, as a tribute to such an extraordinary Cuban musician.


And I specify, he really is an authentic Cuban: talented, kind, talkative, an exceptional musician who carries very well his “Gentleman” title to the beat of the most genuine 'son'.

You recently stated “I am not willing to sacrifice the prestige of the music that I make”. What message would you give to younger Cuban musicians?

“You must feel well with what you do. It’s very sad to see a boy who has spent years in an art school, making a kind of music that has nothing to do with the knowledge he owns and says Maestro, I don’t like what I am doing, but I am here because I need to earn my money. That makes me very sad because guys with huge potential who could manage to be great musicians are losing all the time they spent at school doing now something that is worthless…

“And Cuban music has so many possibilities to do what you want to do, good Cuban music allows you to develop yourself in every way. When you see musicians of the stature of Rolando Luna, Alejandro Falcón, virtuous musicians, who really value what they do, that brings you joy.

“I think that a bit of blame attaches to many people who have let this thing happen. A bit of blame attaches to the media, to some of those who play music in the different places, to those who handle popular taste in their own way, also to the lack of spaces to listen to authentic Cuban music. You realize this happens because when an orchestra like ours plays or Van Van, Havana D' Primera, as well as that of the new boys who are playing now Maykel Blanco, El Niño, in short, you arrive at the dance and it is full of young people who want to dance casino, then you say: but they do like it. I think that it is not the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Culture to create places easily accessible so young people can dance with our music, but of the State as well…

“And I tell you, I am not going to give up to what I make because what I make is the authentic music of our country, I won’t give it away to anyone.”

You are “The Gentleman of Son” in Cuba and in the world…

“I was very glad when they nicknamed me like that. It was in Venezuela, I remember that we were making a record, many years ago, that included songs “¿Qué te pasa mami?”, “Dale como es” and a Venezuelan journalist who was interviewing me talked about the versions of my songs made in several places in the world and started to mention the people who had sung my music, Oscar de León, Gilberto (Santarosa), all those who have made my music and tells me, what allows those people to make your music are your lyrics, because you do not use vulgarity, they’re international lyrics and should there is a “Gentleman of Salsa” in Puerto Rico, then I would say there is a “Gentleman of Son” in Cuba, does it bother you that I tell that? I replied: no, it does not bother me, quite the contrary, I am proud that you tell it to me and even more for the reason why you are telling it to me and hence Adalberto Álvarez is always “The Gentleman of Son”. When I meet Gilberto abroad it is always an encounter among gentlemen, we’re thinking to do something together…”

So do you like to be defined like that, as a son singer?

“Son singer is a pride. Anyone cannot be a son singer, one must know how to play ‘son’, to know how to feel it, it has many tricks, it has many complexities that people do not know. Being a son singer is a pride. Right now, I am stating that the House of Cuban Son should exist. We have “Rumba Palace” (El Palacio de la Rumba) and “El Submarino Amarillo” (The Yellow Submarine), which I find it very well, but the “House of Cuban Son” should exist and be a really emblematic place of our country.”

Among so many songs, anyone special, lovely?

“There are some songs that mark you, others that you make and you do not think about the results it will have, look, when I released “A Bayamo en coche”, I never thought that it was going to have the result it had and from then on, all the songs that I recorded, “ Son de la madrugada”, “Tu fiel trovador… but what surprises me a lot is that I still have to close my concerts with a song that I wrote in 1993, “Y qué tú quieres que te den”. I cannot leave a dance without playing it, should I do not do it, people protest, so it’s a song that I appreciate very much, because it is not only famous in Cuba, it is the song that closes concerts all over the world.”

Your latest record, “De Cuba pa’l mundo entero”, was awarded at “Cubasdisco 2018”, which has been the key to success of this production?

"First it was a very thoughtful album, it’s very balanced, I always think about the one who is at home listening to an album, there’s a moment in which he/she does not want to dance, he/she wants to sit down to listen to and I think about both the Cuban and the different ages, that’s why, we even used a bit of urban music with the theme by Enrique Iglesias. I tried to make a bit of everything in this album, a bit of trova with a theme by César Echevarría that is called “Rienda suelta” and this same theme “De Cuba pa’l mundo entero” that has a lot of timba and rumba… We worried a lot about the album, recorded it and went to a special studio to mix and master it.”

And Adalberto’s secret to remain for so long in the preference of Cuban public?

“I think that one of the things is just to keep your principles. I have a public that follows me, the orchestra has a public that follows it and that we do not disappoint that public. To keep, to defend, to believe in the public, to listen to people on the street when you go out and they tell you “maestro”, we liked your last song a lot”, the consultation, I write a theme and call my children, my friends, the person who never studied music in his/her life and is pumping gas at a gas station, but the main thing of all that is not to let trends or dirty words run away with me, not even the lyrics that say nothing, I think that we should always have a message in every lyrics.”


“I am a bit in the rescue of anthological songs, applying the new technologies and I am writing, of course. That is, I want to do two things, a rescue album that can be entitled like that or “aged”, we’ll see, it is about choosing the songs that I think are important and to dress them again and I also want to make an album of songs completely new. In addition, I am in a very important project that has to do with “La Tropical”, in which I may have a lot of responsibility with what is going to happen at the most musical “Hall” in Latin America in a while, we’re seeking the way so it can actually be the Dancer’s Palace”.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

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