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Los Van Van and Martí: A great delight

Van Van discvoIn 2014, the José Martí Cultural Society and Egrem studios released a CD/DVD that, with full intentionality and exquisite musical work, would mark a new direction in terms of the re-contextualization, today, of Martí’s thought. With the ideas, coordination and musical concept of Israel Rojas, the new project’s premise was to provide an approach to Martí, not only through musicalization per se, but based on a thematic thread as the only requisite, so to say, which was to use a phrase, word or leitmotif from any work or thought of the Apostle. Thus Motivos Martianos was born, and with the musical and stylistic variety achieved by Israel and others involved, recognized as clearly unique.

The CD consists of 13 tracks with a wide-ranging panorama of sounds, and, for many, remains largely unknown, while the DVD unfortunately includes only five tracks from the album. Thus, only a part of the album could be promoted, the part featuring the biggest hit, without a doubt, “Me dicen Cuba,” by Alexander Abreu and Habana D’ Primera, with a videoclip directed by Pablo Massip, who would assume several productions within the project.

The album’s creators, however, sought musical balance, and included other important works that deserved – and deserve – better diffusion, beyond a video clip, which does not detract from the importance of the project or a specific track, a factor that must be considered when thinking about a harmonious communion of so much collective effort and talent. Among these jewels that Motivos… also contains, and are still little known, is the song Dicha grande, composed by Juan Formell and Israel Rojas, and performed by Los Van Van, inspired by what Martí wrote when he landed in Cuba at Playita de Cajobabo: “We arrive at a pebble beach, the little beach at the foot of Cajobabo, I stay in the boat as the last to get out. I jump. Great delight.”

Within the arcane and capricious aspects of the story, is that this is perhaps the only direct reference by Formell to a quote of Marti’s, in a song dedicated precisely to the Maestro. To add emphasis, or as a public declaration and commitment to his admiration of Martí, it is Formell who performs this song to assume, with his greatness and talent, the historic challenge of leaving us his voice in what he perhaps imagined would be his last collaborative production and recording. He died in May 2014, the same year the album was released.

In Dicha grande (Great delight), Martí is reinterpreted with a beautiful text that begins: “I have before me my land, my people, my childhood, my truth, my pains, my roots, my reason, my essences: the entire Cuba of my loves.” The text continues with the complicity of the band’s particular musical language, without renouncing the well-known Van Van cadence, thanks to the arrangement conceived by Formell, who also invited guitarist Dairon Lobaina, from Buena Fe (who unfortunately also passed away shortly thereafter). The sonority achieved pleased Juan, who had previously shared a similar experience with Elmer Ferrer in several of the band’s collaborations.

It would be worthwhile to revisit the album, and make it more visible, and to disseminate the other songs included, especially this one by Los Van Van, a precious gift left by the great Formell honoring Martí and moreover, producing an audiovisual to accompany the track would perhaps be valuable as well, a genuine tribute of profound human and musical relevance.

(Taken from Granma)

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