Perfume de Salsa in Cuba
|From: Oye¡Listen!, Netherlands
magazine on salsa, latin-jazz, afro-latino music, march '98
All female salsa group Perfume de Salsa recently visited Cuba. They performed, took lessons, but above all they got a lot of energy and inspiration. Oye¡Listen! talked to bass player Simone Croes and singer Beatriz Aguiar.
The trip to Cuba fitted into the orquestra's policy perfectly: they intend to work constantly on improving their individual qualities as well as the sound of the group as a whole. Their gig on the isle of Curaçao some time ago was an important experience: instructive but also confronting according to bass player Simone Croes. Back in the Netherlands they decided to take some measures. They invited experienced latin musicians like bass player Leslie Lopez and percussionist Gerardo Rosales to lead their rehearsals and to advise them on several aspects of their show.
A study tour to Cuba was among their plans. A plan that began to come true after a conversation with some members of Cuban all female band Anacaona.
Ah, the Dutch salsa band!
After a gig of salsa orquestra Anacaona in Amsterdam, singer Jazmin Saavedra - a cuban living in the Netherlands - and Simone had a talk with the members of Anacaona in their dressing room. It was a nice encounter, the Anacaona ladies being just as interested in Perfume de Salsa as the other way around. When Perfume mentioned its plan to visit Cuba, they were invited immediately by the Cuban band. They wrote an official invitation for their Dutch collegues and helped them to make a program with gigs and rehearsals.
Of course Perfume de Salsa needed funds for the trip. Finally they found them at the Prins Bernhard Fonds and on 28 december '97 the whole group departed to Cuba to stay there until 16 january '98.
~ Anacaona and Perfume de Salsa together ~
"They original idea was to do a gig with Anacaona, to rehearse with them and to attend to some workshops. But as soon as we arrived in Cuba we met so many people and the attention being paid to us was so overwhelming that finally we performed twice with Anacaona, twice with Las Chicas del Sol and once at a party in Habana Vieja organised by Jazmin.
And we were invited at about eight different radio programs. Taxi drivers usually asked us where we came from. When we said we were from Holland, they immediatedly replied: "Ah, the Dutch salsa band!" People in the street addressed to us as well. We could have performed more often but we had come there also to see other bands and to take lessons, so we simply didn't have enough time."
At first Uruguayan singer Beatriz did not feel at ease. "I knew that the musical level there was very high, so I wondered how they would react. But the people were very curious to hear our music and they did appreciate it. Many people called to the radio to say hello to us and to tell us that they enjoyed our music. We met a great lot of musicians and everyone was very nice to us."
"They gave all they had; you don't find that here usually"
The trumpet players took lessons with their collegues of NG La Banda, the pianist visited the pianist of Havana Ensemble (a band consisting of ex-Irakere musicians), Simone took lessons from Roberto Riverón, the bass player of Klimax, and the conguera visited Klimax' conguero 'Papiosco'. And some of the ladies attended rehearsals and a recording session of Klimax. "We saw that Giraldo Piloto is a real perfectionist. He let his trumpet player play on the top of his lungs whole morning, until it was exactly like he wanted it to be."
At the rehearsals they noticed that the musicians are really coöperating. "They are watching each other constantly and they give eachother energy. They're more together than here in the Netherlands. And they play with much more intensity Of course the general level is quite high there, so you'll have to work real hard if you want to attract attention. But above that, I really appreciate the attitude of the musicians there. For example, we went to a concert of Klimax on new years eve. They performed for a small audience, mostly tourists who weren't really interested in the music. But nevertheless they gave all they could . You don't find that here usually."
Perfume de Salsa was also confronted with the new Cuban style of playing which is being called timba. "You don't hear anything else there", according to Simone. "Klimax' bass player explained to me how the bass patterns of timba fit into the clave. He wrote it all down for me." Beatriz didn't have much problems with this relatively new way of playing. "The rhythm is so strong and clear that it simply takes you along. It's not so difficult to follow it. We don't have to master it in detail because we won't be playing timba all of a sudden after this trip. We're not a Cuban group, but we do want to make use of the influences while developing our own style."
"I want to sing the songs that we write ourselves"
The cuban adventure has conferred a benefit on the band members in many ways. They are enthousiastic to put the things they've learned into practice and everyone's very inspired to make new songs.
They already received an invitation to visit Cuba again. In november they're welcome at the songfestival in Santiago de Cuba. For Beatriz and Simone, that's much to far away in fact. "Besides the musical experience, I found it a very beautiful experience personally as well. People there are fighting so hard for so little. When you're at home again, sitting in front of your television, you feel guilty not to be working on your musical career. The influence was not just a musical one, we also gained a lot of energy and we're going to use it well here."
Simone and Beatriz are not afraid that this positive energy will fade away within a few months and that Cuba will seem far away. "This band is well organised and we rehearse every week. And above that, we intend to work on an own repertoire with our own sound. Personally, I do not want to play La esencia del guaguanco for the rest of my life", says Beatriz. "I want to sing the songs that we write ourselves. Original material!"
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Last modified on 19.12.98