Danay, Wichy and the new Cuban generation …

I have not had as much opportunity as I would have liked to dip into the underground music scene in Havana but sometimes I find, the good people in life, just come your way ….  I am realising that I have been lucky to have already met some major players and maybe 2013 will be my year of going underground.

Sometimes life as the wife of the director of the film school is all-consuming and added to that, three children under 8, who speak 3 languages.  They speak Spanish and French better than me so I have to make a stand and make sure their strangely accented English is kept up to date.  Needless to say I am kept very busy, and have to remind myself of a few little goals that I have of my own.

So far my experience with the new generation here in Cuba is a good one.  Not everything in Cuba is easy but when you meet these people you feel that the future is bright.  They are smart, educated, articulate, friendly, open and more than anything unpretentious (the thing I love the most about Cubans).   And although I am nearly old enough to be their mother, they don’t make me feel like that, and if I was their mother I would be quite proud of them.  Incidently, Danay and Wichy I think both live with their mothers!

I first discovered Danay Suarez last year, not long after we arrived, in a documentary on Cuban TV and was immediately smitten.  Her music, her look, her voice and her attitude.  I thought this girl is definitely well on her way and THIS is the kind of Cuban music I want to hear more.  I had already been lucky enough to hear the incredibly talented keyboard player Roberto Fonseca at a concert at the film school and was not so surprised to hear that Roberto was one of Danay’s mentors, friends and accomplices.  On top of everything Danay just has one of those voices that you would recognise anywhere and already I do.  She is definitely not just another hip hop artist.

Bumping into Gilles Peterson at the Biennial was another stroke of good fortune and I got to see both Danay and Wichy at the Cultura Habana party.  Check out Danay’s video of her track Yo Aprendi.  and her interview on Havana Cultura.

“I never said I was a rapper,” Danay points out. “I can rap and sing, but my real desire is to be a jazz singer, to develop that style. I haven’t done it because I don’t have the musical skills, but I’ll get there some day. I’ve got it inside of me.”

The next time I got to see Danay was at an intimate concert in Casa de Las Americas in Vedado thanks to Darsi Fernandez of SGAE who invited us.  She is certainly more than getting there in her musical ability.  The mixture of her petite frame, pretty dress and undeniable raw talent and soul, it was hard not to compare Danay with the great late Amy Winehouse.  But a little bit of me thinks that Amy must have known or heard Danay, rather than the other way round.  There was a lot of Cuba in Amy Winehouse.  I’m not sure if she visited Cuba, but if she had she would have fitted in just fine, and just maybe, just maybe, the Cuban way of life could have saved her life …….. who knows.

I met a young Cuban photographer Alejandro at the film school a few months back.  I liked his work so much that I asked if I could buy one of his photos.  Since then we have kept in touch sharing ideas and gossip.  Through a contact of mine, Alejandro is now working a lot for Cuba Absolutely (a good English language online magazine) filming and putting together some great interviews for them.   One sunny afternoon Alejandro called me and said he was in my neighborhood doing an interview and he could pass by to say hi.

We ended up having a late lunch and coffee and talking until he had to leave.  It was only then that I discovered he was on his way to Santa Fe to interview DanaySanta Fe is a little town on the beach just outside Havana close to my house.  I asked if I could tag along.  And this was how I found myself sitting on Danay’s bed looking at all her press clippings and chatting about her career.  Alejandro spent a couple of hours interviewing Danay in her mother’s little apartment and I was absolutely charmed.  As we all got into my car to drive back into town after the interview, my only comment was …. que linda persona.  What a lovely person!  Later that night I was hosting a party in the house and there was a call for me.  It was Danay to apologise for not making the cup of tea she had promised me in her house.  Don’t worry I said I hope we will have plenty of time to share a cup of tea in the future.

Wichy de Vedado has an equally friendly reputation.  The amount of people in Havana who have told me that Wichy is their friend. I was beginning to think this guy is the most popular man in town!  Check out the music and the comments in the Havana Cultura page ……

Wichy de Vedado is a really nice guy. Yes, you expect him to be dangerous or obsessive or at least to have a giant ego, but he isn’t and he doesn’t. Wichy is friendly and open-minded and, yes, he’s modest when it comes to his mixing skills and to the success he has achieved because of them.

 Do you see why such information should never be shared? If people knew what Wichy was like they would no longer be content to admire him from a polite distance. They would rush into the DJ booth and attempt to shake his record-spinning hand. Instead of dancing and looking aloof they’d slap him on his back and tell him how much they enjoy his music. And his reputation as one of the sub-zero-cool pillars of Havana’s underground electronic music scene would be damaged beyond repair. And his records might skip.

As I am not very cool.  I am the person that jumps dances behind the decks to shake his hand, or at least give him my opinion on his good music and how much I have to share with him.  And the thing is about Wichy, I think he actually does want to listen to this seasoned British raver and share a bit of my music.   Or maybe he’s just too damn polite 😉

Anyway, we are having a big party in our house on Friday.  It’s been a while. The graduation party of the students was the last one in June.  So with this party I am hoping to bring together a few new and old friends from the film school, the visiting teachers, my friends in international press, Habana friends and a few musical talents.  Rafa has promised me that he is trying to get hold of a new 17 year old Cuban singer called Annie to see if she will sing in our back garden.  So lets see.  I promise I will report back.  In the meantime check out Danay and Wichy with your super fast internet connections …. they’re worth it.

I just called Danay to see if she was coming and she told me she will be in Brixton.  So anybody reading this in London.  Get your spontaneous selves down to Brixton on Saturday night and think of me when you are dancing!