Roberto Fonseca – A Deservedly Lucky Cubano

Roberto Fonseca’s incredible recent shows at WOMADelaide 2014 reminded me of two things about Cuba and its music:

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Roberto Fonseca – Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

1. Cuba is a small island filled with a huge number of phenomenal musicians and amazing music.Festival del Fuego - Santiago de Cuba

2. Most of those phenomenal Cuban musicians, and most of that incredible Cuban music, never find the opportunity to leave Cuban shores.

You’ll only find them and their music by visiting Cuba – or if the right people outside of Cuba bring those artists and their music to the attention of the rest of the world.Festival del Fuego - Santiago de Cuba

Roberto Fonseca and the Cuban artists he collaborates with, are just a few of them.  Roberto Fonseca’s music, is just a bit of it.

A Lucky Cubano

Roberto Fonseca is one of the lucky Cubans who’s had the opportunity for the world to hear his music.  He became well known through his membership of the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra – and then his worldwide tours with two of its stars Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo.

He has also established himself as a player and composer in his own right – releasing a number of solo and collaborative albums.

Deservedly Lucky

Roberto Fonseca has very much earned the opportunities he’s had.

Born and raised in Havana, he’s been playing piano since he was 8 years old.  He is a phenomenal musician.

La Habana - Cuba

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Roberto Fonseca is also a gifted composer – creating innovative and magnificent contemporary fusion music like none other inside or outside of Cuba.

His album Yo, first released in 2012 and which I was lucky enough to buy a copy of from WOMADelaide before it sold out, is the most recent example of this.

Roberto Fonseca - Yo (2012)

Yo (2012) – Roberto Fonseca

Yo – I, Roberto Fonseca

 “I wanted to delve deep into my roots in light of my experiences and show the diversity of my musical universe, all these ideas which I had put aside, unable to use until now.”

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

In Spanish, ‘Yo’ means ‘I’.  The compositions on Yo are a reflection of the life Roberto Fonseca has lived and his musical influences throughout.  That means his Cuban and Afro-Cuban roots, and all the music he’s been exposed to during his upbringing in a musical family and his travels around the world playing music.

The songs on Yo are a beautifully-blended fusion of sounds from jazz, classical, Cuban Son, Afro-Cuban music, North and West African instrumentation (especially ngoni & kora), soul, funk and electronica.  The music on this album is incredibly refreshing – each song a unique, diverse and fluid journey from start to finish.

Cherif Soumano with Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014Cherif Soumano with Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Fifteen very talented musicians, singers and producers from Cuba, Africa, Brazil, the U.S.A and U.K have contributed their artistry to the songs on Yo:

Baba Sissoko (Mali); Fatoumata Diawara (Mali); Seckou Kouyate (Guinea); Munir Hossn (Brazil); Etienne M’Bappé (Cameroon); Ramsés Rodriguez (Cuba); Joel Hierrezuelo (Cuba); Faudel (Algeria); Mike Ladd (USA); Assane Mboup (Senegal); Gilles Peterson (U.K).

Listen to these compressed mp3 versions of two sample tracks from Yo – and imagine the other wonderful sounds you’ll never hear unless you buy the real album yourself…

Roberto Fonseca - Yo (2012)

Yo (2012)

80’s – Yo (2012) – Roberto Fonseca

Gnawa Stop – Yo (2012) – Roberto Fonseca

Close your eyes for this one, and listen carefully…

The Not-So-Lucky Cubanos

So many other gifted Cuban artists don’t have the same opportunities as Roberto Fonseca. To find them and their music you have to go looking in Cuba’s streets, restaurants, bars and music shops. It’s a very fun music mission- with excellent rewards, I promise.

So then, inspired by Roberto Fonseca and his incredible accompanying musicians at WOMADelaide – lucky enough to have the opportunity for their beautiful music to be heard by the world –  I start this series on Cuban music with his album Yo.

Roberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014La Habana - CubaRoberto Fonseca - Live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Most Cuban artists I share with you after this won’t have had the same opportunities for their music to be heard by the world.

This post, and every one after in my Cuban music series, is dedicated to my ever-so-dear, recently departed, music loving friend – mi abuelo Cubano (my Cuban grandfather) – Elio. Rest in peace Elio – te quiero mucho. 

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