Chamber music and all non-commercial music have huge barriers to bring down in the face of the mass consumerism and banal material seen on the international market.
Yelena Rodríguez Velázquez
Many young groups on this side of the island will know the triple black veil, especially if it’s in the context of a string quartet from Cuba that’s mostly made up of women.
Nonetheless, those who attended the latest Work Music Expo held in Spain were able to see for themselves the musical quality that Cuba boasts, which was represented by one of its most promising musical groups, Frasis. Gran Canaria, where the event was held, welcomed around three thousand participants from over 90 countries, including young instrumentalist Roxana Iglesias, director of the group and invited artist from EGREM (Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales), Cuba’s national music label.
Frasis’ debut at the competition brought new opportunities for the musical group and showcased its excellence in the unlikeliest of formats, leaving the audience stunned.
Participation in this event offers an incredible opportunity to exchange experiences and see how the international panorama functions on a musical level, the artist commented exclusively to Prensa Latina.
The unusual characteristics of the Cuban market make it difficult to access the major festivals around the world; we are lacking slightly in vision in terms of investing in new and talented groups.
Luckily, good things always stand out, and Frasis is proof of that. Despite their youth, the group follows their own strategy to overcome any obstacles and strengthen their rhythmic and harmonic base, and always with a strong Cuban flair.
The string quartet (two violins, one viola and a cello) with percussion, guitar and bass has dazzled producers, managers and musicians alike thanks to the risks they take and their unusual way of experimenting with sounds. None of this is surprising to those who are familiar with the group’s work, which since its inception in 2010 has been interpreting the subject matter of Cuban music in updated contemporary versions.
In live and up close, the images and impact made by the music are unforgettable, completely breaking with the traditional ideas one may have of chamber music.
Choreography and music, the combination of three guitars and percussion instruments, aspects of Danzón and songs all come together to make up Frasis’ unique performance, one that is not afraid to break new ground at a time where ease of production and commercialism reign supreme.
The group’s authenticity has even appealed to prestigious local artists, including Waldo Mendoza, Eliades Ochoa, Hernán López-Nussa, Liuba María Hevia, Buena Fe, Ivette Cepeda and Michel Herrera.
Other international musicians have also been impressed by the group’s magic, leading to collaborations with Hungarian singer Bela Mavrak, Russian composer Alexander Radygin, Spanish folk musician Julia León, and North-American jazz player Sage Lewis.
They have also played at concerts around Latin-America, including the International Festival of Mayan Culture in Mexico, and the Caribbean Night project in cities around Venezuela. Eight years and three albums later (Enifrasiando, 2011; Parafrasear, 2013 y Para no parar, 2017), they dare to experiment with all possible variations, styles, genres and rhythms.
Visuality is a significant element of their creative work, not only in terms of their stage performance, but also in their audio-visual production. The most recent example is the music video for Para no parar, which was directed by José Rojas and nominated for the Lucas Awards 2018 in the category of video music fusion.
The group is currently working on a new phonogram and a DVD for their ten year anniversary, and their single Luces in now a reality, recorded on an album with the EGREM label in homage to the 500th anniversary of the city of Havana. (PL)
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Prensa Latina