Havana, Wonder City of the World, was taken over by the visual arts including sculptures, graffiti and artistic installations and its streets became a photo opportunity for passers-by wishing to leave with a memory of its 13th Biennial.
Text and photos: Yelena Rodríguez Velázquez
For just these few days, an event dedicated to Latin American composers was held in the Cuban capital; and music, like a good work comrade, strived to support this initiative which reached the main highways of the city with an unusual offering.
Pepe Gavilondo and the Interactive Ensemble of Havana (EIH), enjoyed another great adventure and followed one of the P2 bus routes with instruments in hand, delivering their harmonies and sublime vibes in the outdoor arena without a single sheet of music in sight. The impromptu party happened on the occasion of the Casa de las Américas Composition Prize, an event that draws on the inspiration which gave birth to it, occupying public spaces and making use of new technologies to interact with society.
“There is no stage restricting our creativity – the good thing about all of this is that you don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Gavilondo, smiling as he prepares to tell of how the eccentric initiative was born.
“Ensemble … arose precisely to showcase the unusual; and it aims to fill a spiritual and material void with less commercial sounds that composers of contemporary concert music were not even interested in,” he explains.
“That does not mean we make elitist music,” he explains ipso facto. ‘What’s happened is that music has become very compartmentalised and addresses distinct audiences, but we want to show how diffuse the lines between these types of music are.’
This is how it works whenever the group of multi-instrumental musicians, formed just four years ago by young students and graduates of the Higher Institute of Art, meets.
With classical and Andean music as its starting point, his musical project can reach inhospitable places and people who are not used to digesting this type of artistic offering. This is the tradition they have followed since their beginnings and, in Gavilondo’s opinion, it is not something that can be learnt in school, nor is it a skill that can be taught. Ensemble … is life played out in music, theatre, expression, dance and sculpture.
Although the performances are captured on video to promote the group’s work and memorialise the moment, you can’t find one performance the same as another because each is freely improvised in real time.
A demo with Swedish folk music and the Caracol Nocturno (‘Nocturnal Snail’) summit project – a tribute to Cuban poet and novelist José Lezama Lima – form part of the recording that this exceptional new collection boasts.
However, the private cast of ten musicians does not prevent other artists from joining in with the experience and enjoying the spontaneous nature of the event.
The collaboration with Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and American group Tenth Intervention were two memories to joyously behold in the collection, although of course many others were invited to join in.
Spaces for interaction and professional development aimed at promoting an exchange of ideas and practice sessions between colleagues are usual each year during the Casa de las Américas Composition Award, where EIH is the leading participant. SoundFarm, another of its projects based on experimental music and guided improvisation, took the prize in this, the eighth edition of the contest, opening the way for creativity.
“Music is freedom,” asserts Gavilondo, sure in his belief that EIH represents a refuge for those who are escaping (or simply wish to give their ears a break) from the more commercial beats that dominate popular tastes.
With his feet firmly on the ground and his heart in the clouds, the young musician with his creative Ensemble supporting him has his mind clearly set on future projects.
‘There’ll be an opera and a musical composition for a circus: it will be a contemporary and fun performance,’ laughs the young pianist, already envisaging the partying and craziness on stage. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear)