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Juan Almeida’s love for the homeland and music

juan almeidaMusic ran through not only Juan Almeida’s veins – as the saying goes – but in his very existence, which had all the ingredients for a good bolero or guaracha. The humble young bricklayer, who at 26 years of age joined the revolutionary struggle, managed to live one of the most unique love stories known today: love for the homeland and music.

There was no shortage of bards, poets or troubadour Mambises during Cuba’s 19th century independence wars. Whoever has doubts need only recall the passion history noted when our National Anthem – authored by Perucho Figueredo with music by Manuel Muñoz Cedeño – was sung for the first time, which, to the homeland’s pride is established as National Culture Day.

The Bayamesa, created by Céspedes, Fornaris and Castillo, came to hold a place in patriotic hearts with its special lyricism, and has become one of the most beautiful songs from the intransigent Cuba that fought Spanish colonialism.

But Almeida’s musical work not only conveys his revolutionary fervor and the people’s inspiration. The Comandante was able to fill it with a unique touch of Creole mischief and humor without neglecting, at any time, the important responsibilities he had in the nascent Revolution, all assigned directly by Fidel. Almeida knew how to lead and demand with dignity, all the while composing and capturing our idiosyncrasies. Thus, his extensive musical production – and also written – were, and are, an essential reference in understanding the consistent, correct, and at the same time, very Cuban man, including his songs which, over the years, have been performed by the best voices in Cuba.

His musical work was based primarily on son and guaracha, songs of complex harmony in many cases, which is only possible for those with a special gift for composition; and I cite as examples “Me acostumbré a estar sin ti,” “Dame un traguito,” and “Vuelve pronto que contigo quiero estar,” that certainly give us an idea of the scope of his compositions – including more than 300 songs.

Nor could he rest until the Siboney Studios were inaugurated in Santiago de Cuba, as the perpetual symbol of his idea of ​​how art should be committed to the Revolution.

Based on his writing, his friends, his polemics and more, much has been written by those who had the good fortune to know him, watching him work tirelessly in the defense of the country; by his side while finishing a song; or accompanying him on his adventure to climb the Turquino when his health was no longer the same. Thus, let this serve as a tribute to his good art, to reiterate – in the words of an old friend’s song – “This is how we remember you, Comandante!


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