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Cubanismo! in the Press

Jesús Alemañy, hombre-arte


Ariel Avilés Marín - Periodico Por Esto - Merida Yucatan - Junio 2016

Yucatán ha sido, históricamente, cuna de músicos, poetas y artistas en general; también ha sido patria adoptiva de figuras que dejaron huella en el panorama de la cultura local, tal es el caso de Halfdan Jebe o Samuel Martí; este fenómeno continúa dándose en nuestros días, y así, hoy tenemos entre nosotros a un músico cubano de primer nivel y de trayectoria internacional, Jesús Alemañy Castillo, genial ejecutante del más brillante de los instrumentos de aliento, la trompeta.
La trompeta es un instrumento de larguísima tradición, ya aparece en grabados muy antiguos provenientes de la Grecia clásica, numerosos pasajes de la Biblia la citan como presente en históricas batallas o derribando con su ensordecedor fanfarria las murallas de Jericó. Compositores de todas las épocas y períodos han escrito obras para el brillante instrumento; ejemplos de ello son los conciertos de Vivaldi, Telemann, Torrelli, Haydn o Mozart; Beethoven le da un protagonismo de primer orden en Fidelio, y así ha figurado y figura en las salas de concierto.
Jesús Alemañy ha seguido un largo camino de formación profesional para llegar a ser un trompetista reconocido internacionalmente. Inició sus estudios a temprana edad en Guanabacoa, en el Conservatorio “Guillermo Tomás” y los continuó en La Habana, en la escuela provincial “Amadeo Roldán”, para alcanzar el nivel profesional en la Universidad de La Habana, en el Instituto Superior de Arte, donde fue discípulo de Jorge Rubio, solista de la Sinfónica Nacional. Con ese bagaje profesional inició su vida activa formando un grupo que caminaría con él durante quince años, el conjunto “Sierra Maestra”, agrupación que inició su camino con la asesoría del reconocido músico cubano Rafael Ortiz “Mañongo”, director del Sexteto Nacional de Alientos de Cuba y del famoso trompetista Lázaro Herrera “Pecoso”. El grupo inició su trayectoria como grupo universitario y participó en festivales de este carácter, se afiliaron al Movimiento de Artistas Aficionados de Cuba y pronto se presentaron en la televisión cubana. El año de 1979 marcó un punto importante en la carrera del grupo, pues ocuparon el tercer lugar del certamen “Todo el Mundo Canta” y de esa forma saltaron a la fama con temas como: El Guanajo Relleno, Dame un Traguito y Juan Almeida Bosque, tema en que se rinde homenaje al héroe de la revolución.
Alemañy, en forma individual, incursionó en otros campos; así en 1981 ingresó, sin dejar su grupo, a la orquesta Big Ban, del Tropicana, donde por diez años fues la primera trompeta y alternó con músicos de la talla de Luis Alemañy y el “Guajiro” Miraval, trompetista del Buenavista Social Club. Participó también con otros grupos, como: Los Reyes 73, N. G. La Banda y el conjunto de Roberto Faz.
También ha tenido labor docente, pues fue maestro de trompeta del Conservatorio “Guillermo Tomás” de su natal Guanabacoa de 1981 a 1992.
En 1987 vino por primera vez a México, al Carnaval de Veracruz, como integrante del show del Tropicana y con el conjunto Los Reyes 73. Al frente de su conjunto “Sierra Maestra” ha realizado giras por muchos lugares del mundo; en 1986 realizó un gira por catorce países de África, ese mismo año visitó con “Sierra Maestra” Alemania e Islandia, en 1987 llevó a cabo una gira por los países escandinavos y en 1988 lo encontramos tocando en Japón, en 1991 con “Sierra Maestra” concurrió al Festival de Música del Caribe, en Cancún, Q. Roo. En 1992, viajó a Londres, al Festival de Arte del Caribe, donde tiene una permanencia de veinticuatro años. En 1995 formó la orquesta con la que sigue hasta la actualidad, “Cubanísimo”.
Al frente de la orquesta “Cubanísimo” ha realizado una fecunda labor artística, pues ha realizado giras por los Estados Unidos y Europa. En 2002 hacen giras por Australia, Singapur y Japón; en 2004, va de nuevo a Australia donde realiza tres conciertos en el Cine Ópera House, gira que repite en 2006.
Su producción discográfica es muy amplia; ha grabado desde 1986, en su gira por África, donde en el Congo grabó su disco “Congo Carabalí” con su grupo “Sierra Maestra”; ese mismo año con ellos, grabó en Alemania. En 1993, conoció en Londres a Nick Gabd, productor de Buenavista Social Club y grabó para él con su grupo “Dum Dum Bang”, que tuvo un éxito inmediato. En 1995 firmó con Hanibal Rayko Disc, ya con la orquesta “Cubanísimo”, y con la producción de Joe Boyd, grabó cinco discos; el primero de ellos, a su salida, vendió de inmediato doscientas cincuenta mil copias. Ya en 2008 grabó en La Habana con la compañía australiana Australian International Music, con la producción de Peter Noble, su disco “Greettins from Habana”, el cual fue nominado al Grammy de música tropical. Este disco fue grabado en Estudios Abdala de la capital cubana. Sus discos de mayor éxito han sido: Cubanísimo (1995), Mabenbe (1996), Reencarnación (1999), Mucho Gusto (2000) que fue un tributo a Bob Marley y en el que participan Ernest Rondgland a la guitarra y con la voz del jamaiquino Luciano. En 2002, en Nueva Orleáns, grabó con “Cubanísimo” “Mardy Grass Mambo” con la participación de músicos del propio lugar y donde es autor de los arreglos de la producción.
Ha incursionado en otros géneros, como en el caso con la banda The Cure, donde toca y arregla en rock pesado y luego con el grupo Tenders Stick, donde incursiona en rock combinado con música clásica, todo ello en su estancia en Inglaterra. En 2010, en Holanda, con “Cubanísimo” graba su disco “Life in Europe”. Sus más recientes grabaciones son en California, USA, para María Matías Music Company.
En 2015 llegó a nuestra ciudad, donde fijó su residencia y donde, de inmediato, empieza a desarrollar gran actividad; primero le encontramos en Cumbanchero, conocido restaurante de comida cubana; ese mismo año participa en el Otoño Cultural, en el Teatro Fantasio, con el espectáculo Cuba Songo y luego en el FIC Maya, donde se presenta en el Teatro Peón Contreras y acompaña el concierto por los cincuenta años de carrera del cantante Alfredo Bolio. A principios de este mismo año participa en el Mérida Fest, con “Cubanísimo” y acompaña a Rubén Albarrán, vocalista de Café Tacuba. Este mismo año, en marzo, realiza una gira de cuatro conciertos, en San Francisco, California, en el Jazz Center.
Mérida tiene en Jesús Alemañy un elemento que puede dejar profunda huella en el panorama de la música, y su presencia entre nosotros viene a consolidar los lazos de unión que existen entre Yucatán y Cuba, lazos de hermandad que nos han caracterizado y que tienden un puente permanente entre la península y la mayor de las Antillas.

 

Cubanismo means a "word or phrase, which is specifically Cuban, something unique to the island and not common to the general Spanish culture of Latin America". And 'all Cuban' is Cubanismo-the very talented, very successful Cuban band, which is comprised by an all-star line up and led by Jesus Alemany, the former trumpeter of Cuba's prominent Son group Sierra Maestra.

Cubanismo was originally a recording project put together in 1995 , upon the insistence of Rykodisk/Hannibal founder, Joe Boyd, with whom Alemany shared few conversations about the US trade embargo on Cuba and how it is, at times, still keeping the island's sophisticated musical treasures from the American consumers. Boyd knew the potential such project has, especially with Alemany in the lead; what he might have not anticipate is that, in just two short years, Cubanismo would become the hottest export out of Havana.

Since that time, there have been three CDs. All recorded in Havana and with Boyd on the production end. The first, self titled CD was released in 1996 and broke record sales in Europe and the US, naturally making it the Top 10 List of Billboard and Latin Beat magazine. Melembe came out in 1997 to solidify the band's position as one of the most powerful and influential bands to come out of Cuba. Reencarnacion was just released on September 15th of this year giving Cubanismo the added designation of a leading Latin dance band.

With all three CDs, Cubanismo's success has been immensely large. The band was able to break into the world's market like no other Cuban band has before. Largely due to Alemany's great leadership and musical contribution but also closely related to the presence of such Cuban music legends in the line-up-Tata Guines on Congas, Orlando 'Maracas'Valle of Irakere on flute, saxophonist Yosvany Terry and bassist Carlos Del Puerto to name a few.

Their success, however, is attributed in part to their originality. Their music does not attempt to take the listener back in time to a past era of Cuban music, nor does it make any apologies for not following Cuba's new dance craze, Timba. Cubanismo pays tribute to the traditional rhythms of Cuba and stays faithful to them. The son montuno, the mambo, the descarga, guaracha, guajira, abacua and chagui are all revisited, but they are put forth, with no hesitation, in a bold and refined fashion producing a modern Cuban sound that is widely appealing to Cubans and non-Cubans alike.

In addition to the success of their music, Cubanismo has also emerged as a touring force on the world music scene. Two extensive, and unprecedented for a Cuban band, world tours have followed the release of Melembe and Reencarnacion. Alemany and his group have been to so many countries that one can arguably say, aside from Cuban cigars, Cubanismo has conquered more cities around the world than any other Cuban thing since the embargo began 35 years ago.

Through Europe, the Mediterranean, the Far East and the US, they have taken something that is so authentically Cuban to New York and Hong Kong, Croatia and Slovenia, Beirut and Tel Aviv, Paris and Istanbul all on the same tour. In doing so, Cubanismo has become the good will ambassadors for Cubans wherever they go.

A TIME FOR CUBA-NISMO!

March 21, 2016

By Rebeca Mauleón 


Jesús Alemañy History was made earlier this week when President Obama became the 2nd sitting American president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years, and while all eyes (and ears) continue to await the results of the recent thaw in US-Cuban relations, it is clear that the Bay Area has had a long-standing love affair with Cuban music for decades. SFJAZZ has presented a great number of artists from the island, and although Cubanismo’s appearance came as the result of a last-minute cancellation of the Afro Cuban All-Stars (due to illness), it is no less an important continuation of our goal to share the wealth of the island’s many musical treasures.  
The 1990s seem like a faint memory, but for Cuba they represent some of the harshest economic times in the island’s history, referred to as the “Special Period.” However, the decade also marked a turning point as European producers, filmmakers and record labels took an interest in traditional Cuban music following the successful launch of a newly-formed project aptly named ¡Cubanismo! Trumpeter and founder Jesús Alemañy established the band following his first international tour with another veteran ensemble, Grupo Sierra Maestra, all of this a few years before the height of the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon, when the world swooned to a nostalgic look back at the Cuban sounds of the 1940s and 50s, expertly packaged for foreign markets, with a lineup of septuagenarians who captured our hearts and our imaginations. Cuba was still “forbidden fruit” to Americans, and the Buena Vista Social Club signaled a dramatic moment in a slow move toward rapprochement. But Alemañy is quick to point out that ¡Cubanismo! was really the first Cuban band from the 90s to enjoy the international acclaim as well as national success, when the band’s first album on the Hannibal/Rykodisc label achieved top-ten status on the 1996 Latin Billboard charts, and the band toured the US frequently.
This weekend we will get to relive the excitement of a musical generation that straddled the line between a resurgence in popularity of the traditional Cuban sound, and the more aggressive and intense genre developing on the island in the 90s known as timba. I corresponded with Alemañy as he prepared to depart on a brief US tour, and asked him to reflect on his early years as well as his more recent mission of bringing Cuban music to the world:

 

RM: Tell us a bit about your musical development and the impact of the Cuban art schools on your generation. You were pretty young when you first began touring professionally, and joined Sierra Maestra when you were 15.

 

JA: "I had the great fortune to study and develop as a musician in Cuba at the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, where I focused on the trumpet following my beginnings at my local music school in Guanabacoa (a suburb of Havana). We had amazing teachers and expert training that was completely free, which is something I feel privileged to have experienced. My professors were dedicated, and all they asked of us in return was dedication. Sure it’s important to have talent, but you have to work at it! I graduated early from the Roldán Conservatory and immediately joined Grupo Sierra Maestra at age 15 (in 1978), and that’s when my immersion into traditional Cuban music really began." 

 

RM: Cuba has a long history of churning out extraordinary trumpet players, including Félix Chappotín, El Negro Vivar, Jorge Varona, Guajiro Mirabal and Arturo Sandoval. Who were some of your greatest influences, both on and off the island?

 

JA: "It was (trumpeter) Lázaro Herrera 'El Pecoso' who really gave me the mentorship I needed to achieve the authentic sonero sound. My years with Sierra Maestra were an important part of my development, and I also was lucky to have the members of the Septeto Nacional as musical godfathers. They wanted to make sure the traditional flavor of the Cuban son would continue on in the hands of the next generation. Of course I was always inspired and influenced by many of our great trumpet players, including the amazing ones you mention, as well as the late Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros (who recently passed)."

 

RM: ¡Cubanismo! was formed during a cultural “opening” between the USA and Cuba, right before the pinnacle of success for the Buena Vista Social Club project. Please give us an idea of the contrast between witnessing this nostalgic international love affair for authentic Cuban music while a more hardcore, contemporary and intense music (known as timba) was exploding on the island.

 

JA: "At first it was somewhat of a musical 'shock' to experience this level of success, in particular during a time of economic challenges in Cuba. Here we were touring the world and seeing our record sell over 250,000 copies, and the public was eating it up! I couldn’t have imagined that our traditional Cuban music would be so loved and appreciated, and keep in mind this was a few years before the Buena Vista Social Club [film and recordings] had come out. Many of us younger musicians felt strange about turning back time so to speak, especially when the popular music at home was so much more intense, and such a contrast from the traditional sound. But it also made us appreciate our roots music even more once we saw how much Cuban music is loved around the world."

 

RM: Since you have lived abroad (in London and now in Mexico), have you been back to Cuba? What musical projects have you been involved with since?

 

JA: "I go back to Cuba quite often, not only to visit my family but also to nourish myself musically. Many of the band members in Cubanismo still live in Cuba, and others like myself have migrated elsewhere, but as you know a touring musician’s life is always on the go - we have been to over 50 countries! Living in Mérida [Yucatán province in México] has opened new doors for me musically; there is such a rich culture, in particular Mayan culture, which I find fascinating. And México has such a wealth of music, of great composers, and of course the trumpet! Mérida is somewhat of a second home to many Cubans, and I find musicians here are willing to experiment with both traditional and contemporary genres; it’s a very creative atmosphere."

 

RM: And last, please tell us a bit about the line-up you’ll be bringing to the SFJAZZ Center.

 

JA: "First of all, I want to thank SFJAZZ for bringing us back to San Francisco. We have had such a wonderful time when we have played here in the past, and there are so many people who have made this possible, it is impossible to acknowledge them all. I also want to wish Juan de Marcos (of the Afro-Cuban All-Stars) a speedy recovery; we know his fans will want him to rest and also look forward to the band’s return next year. Our lineup will feature Alexis Baró (trumpet), Jorge Maza (bari sax & flute), Osmany Collado (alto sax), Daniel Ortiz (trombone), Gilito Piñeira, Evelio Galán and my wife Alina Vila on vocals, and a great rhythm section with Gabrielito Hernández (piano), Cristóbal Verdecia (bass), Pablosky Rosales (tres), Jorge Torres 'Papiosko' (congas), Aris Montenegro (bongo), and Pacha Portuondo (timbales). I also want to acknowledge our soundman Mark Peters, who is one of Cubanismo’s founders. And finally, I want to thank all of Cubanismo’s fans in the Bay Area for coming out to support us this weekend; we know many of you couldn’t see us last time when we sold out in Oakland, so we look forward to seeing you at the SFJAZZ Center!"  

1- Artículo sobre CD Cubanismo año 1997 http://www.afrocubaweb.com/cubanismo.htm 

 

2- Artículo sobre el primer y segundo Cd Cubanismo y Cubanismo Malembe, año 1997 http://www.anapapaya.com/impres/i_alemany.html 

 

3- Artículo 1997. Jesús Alemañy´s Cubanismo http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/jesus-alemanys-cubanismo/Content?oid=893282 

 

4- Artículo sobre el Cd Reencarnación. Año 1998

http://mx.globedia.com/cubanismo-reencarnacion-cuba-usa-128k 

 

5- Artículo en Houston 1999. Cubanismo  http://www.wmdproductions.com/ArticlesCubanismo.htm 

 

6- Articulo Música desde la Habana. Jesús Alemañy y CD Reencarnación. Año 1999 http://www.salsasf.com/havana/havmusic.html 

 

7- Entrevista Jesús Alemañy. Año 1999

http://bombmagazine.org/article/2378/jesus-alema-y  

 

8- Artículo  The New York Times. Año 2001 http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/01/arts/music-there-s-another-big-band-from-cuba.html 

 

9- Entrevista a Jesús Alemañy. Febrero 2002 http://www.americasalsa.com/entrevistascu/cubanismo.html  

 

10- Artículo sobre la trayectoria de varios músicos. Jesús Alemañy 2002 http://www.semana.com/on-line/articulo/los-musicos/53857-3 

 

11- Artículo sobre nominación del Grammy 2008 http://www.aiminternational.com/awards/grammy.html

 

12- Lista de nominados al Grammy 2008. Mejor álbum Latino Tropical.               Cubanismo por Greetings From Havana
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anexo:Premios_Grammy_de_2008#Latina 

 

13- Nominaciones al Grammy 2008. Facebook con video https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=122024328788&id=143478246202 

 

14- Articulo junio 2009. Jesús Alemañy y Cubanismo http://gonikus.blogspot.mx/2009/06/jesus-alemany-y-cubanismo.html 

 

15- Articulo Cubanismo. Enero 2011 http://chumanceralatinjazz.blogspot.mx/2011/01/cubanismo-malembe.html 

 

16- Artículo sobre el CD ¡Cubanismo ¡ Live in Europa. Año 2011 http://www.cubanismo.nl/Home.html 

 

17- Artículo 6 de diciembre 2011. ¡Cubanismo! Live in Europa http://timbapati.blogspot.mx/2011/12/cubanismo-jesus-alemany-present.html 

 

18- Artículo sobre varios discos de Cubanismo http://www.rhapsody.com/artist/cubanismo 

 

19- Artículo sobre Nueva Orleans. Octubre 2014 http://ciudadcriolla.gladyspalmera.com/ciudad-criolla-20-ida-y-vuelta/

 

20- Articulo Jesús Alemañy y Fernando Ferrer. Año 2014

http://salsaonu.com/shows-brasil/2014/9/14/show-de-jesus-alemay-e-fernando-ferrer-no-bourbon-streetde-so-paulo 

 

21- Articulo Cubanismo en Paraty Latino. Brasil 2014 http://www.paraty.com.br/blog/jesus-alemany-e-fernando-ferrer-levam-o-cubanismo-ao-paraty-latino2014/ 

 

22- Artículo de propaganda al concierto Paraty latino 2014 http://pousadadocareca.tumblr.com/post/97897967897/programacao-paraty-latino-2014-jesus-alemany