Interview with Maykel Blanco 2018 “Somos Mayores”
Wednesday, 18 April 2018, 09:13 AM Published by Timba.com
You keep working non-stop. The new DVD “Somos Mayores” is about to be released. What date can we expect it in the market?
The DVD is already finished and delivered to the companies that are going to distribute it. They are: BISMUSIC and PLANET RECORD, both are working on the launch of the product for its release as soon as possible. In Cuba you can find this DVD in the stores and also in the media it’s already being promoted. I can’t say the exact day because it does not depend on me, nor is it in my hands, but what I do know is that It will be very soon and you will be able to get ahold of it through these companies.
Tell us a little about that special concert – where did the idea come from?
The idea arose from the need that Salsa Mayor always has to do different things. Previously we had another show which also led to a DVD called “Cerrando Filas” which set the bar very high. So I was wondering what we could do that would surpass this previous CD “Cerrando Filas”. I came up with the idea of doing a concert or a show where the music was 80% of the whole show and what could be bigger than bringing together for the first time an orchestra that plays timba, songo, that is, in short, popular dance music with a symphony orchestra. I mentioned the idea to my work team, friends, family, and everyone went crazy about it. It was something distinctive, different, and that musically was going to contribute a lot, for me as arranger, orchestrator, and so on. Although I have to emphasize that because of a time problem, because it coincided with an tour that I was doing in the United States, I had to rely on an excellent musician and friend, also so that everything got done in time, named: Arturo Cruz. In short I think that this way we had a show where music would be the main character again and then the rest of the elements that make up a show would be there, but would not be as significant with this strong union between a symphony and an orchestra of popular dance music of the characteristic of Salsa Mayor.
I imagine it was a big job: writing arrangements for all instruments, rehearsals, etc. How did you handle the work?
That’s right, very laborious and in a short time when the idea came up I told the maestro Enrique Pérez Mesa director of the symphony: Maestro, I’ll do the arrangements and you the orchestrations to make it faster, and he said bluntly: Maykel I don’t have time huffff. Well that’s when the rushing around began, as I said before. But it got done in the time we needed. The rehearsals – we really didn’t have suffiient resources to rehearse this combination very much, and really we did rehearsals by section, that is, by separate sections and for the dress rehearsals we only did two in the theater itself: one day before the show and the day of the concert. But the truth is that everything flowed very well.
So you rehearsed with the two orchestras apart first and then a dress rehearsal to unite the band with the symphony orchestra?
At first yes, and layer two dress reherasals. I would have liked to do more rehearsals but those were all that could be done.
Are there some special people who helped with this porject that you would like to mention?
Yes of course, this part always scares me because I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I would have to mention all my team such: Helena Etienney, Octavio, Loisset, Cuba, Damián Rivero, Julio Benites, my parents, my children, the National Symphony, the people of the theater Artex, Musicalia, the musicians who paraded on the carpet and gave their opinion about what they thought of this musical union such as: José Luis Cortes, Lázaro Valdés, Papucho, El Noro, among others, the photographer who left memories in unforgettable images named Natanael who traveled from France to take these photos, another person who helped us with the costumes from France also Begonia Prada of Fresh Brand among others and the audience of Salsa Mayor who for so many years have not let us down.
In addition, in February the third Festival de La salsa was held in Cuba. Maybe you don’t it but many people refer to the “Maykel Blanco festival” because you are the enthusiastic person who made it a reality with a lot of work. From what I saw on social networks it was a success even though Mother Nature didn’t always want to cooperate. How do you think the festival is evolving?
I think first of all that the festival is growing every year and so our level of commitment with the public increases, and we try to always improve and offer things that we hope will be interesting. It is imoprtant to clarify that although I am the president of this festival, I don’t have absolute control of everything like many people believe, becasue now it is coordinated and it is made possible through the organizing companies that carry out the work. Logically, each company has its regulations and rules which can’t be violated, not even by me, and maybe there are things that are out of my hands or that I can’t control simply because the situation does not allow me to. But we are all very happy and working on it to keep growing every year.
How are you working at the festival to include Cubans? Or let me explain. I know that many Cubans go to the concerts, but is there also interest among young Cubans in participating in dance classes and how do they also promote casino, son and other Cuban dances among Cuban youth so that they don’t fade?
The workshops are open to all Cuban and foreign participants. What happens is that dance in Cuba is usually learned at home, at school, and is a part of our lives, so it is very difficult for a Cuban to be interested in taking classes in something that, in one way or another, he has been absorbing since he was born and that he does empirically.
In terms of people who don’t live in Havana, what can be done so that the big events don’t only favor the people of Havana? Have you thought of ways to try to make the festival more accessible to people from the provinces?
No, that’s something that is beyond my reach. The festival is held in Havana because it is where I live and where it was born, and in the provinces there are other types of festivals and activities to meet those needs, and yet I know many people from the provinces who look for a way of being in Havana through family, friends or another type of lodging so they can participate during those days.
Maykel Blanco y Su Salsa Mayor also played at the Havana Rhythm and Dance Festival. And apart from the weekly concerts in Havana, are you going to take the orchestra to the romarías or carnivals or are there plans for a national tour?
We like to work, we have played at all the events that you mentioned and we will continue to do it every time they invite us and we are able, and yes, we have plans for a national tour through Artex, but later I will be able to give you more information on the subject.
You have a very full calendar. At the end of April you leave for South America with concerts in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. I know that Peruvians are asking when the band will go to Lima. And in the autumn the orchestra returns to Europe.
That’s right, we are also looking at something for Asia that we will soon reveal, and Peru we are negotiating right now. It is a country that really loves La Salsa Mayor and we always keep it in mind. For sure we will be there sometime during in the rest of the year.
I know that it has been important for you to continue looking for ways to promote and increase the audience of Cuban popular dance music. Do you feel satisfied now or do you still have ideas to fulfill?
I’m happy but not satisfied, I think there’s still a lot to do, and that’s what we’re working on.
I understand that you are collaborating with the great orchestra of Adalberto Álvarez and also with Papucho and Manana Club in the organization of European tours. Can you tell us a little about that?
We have a work team in Europe and in Cuba that have been working for Salsa Mayor for some time where we have achieved excellent results, and my Cuban company seeing this asked us if we could collaborate with other orchestras in this sense. The truth is that we never had the intention of something like this, but we agreed and we are working on it with great affection, and we expect good results and most of all I think it is very useful for Cuban music and art. And of course I want to thank these orchestras and their directors for trusting in me and in all my work team, as well as the Cuban institutions that have put these artists in our hands.
How is the situation now with concert venues? Some years ago Maestro Manolito Simonet said that there were not enough venues and that this was a problem for all orchestras, especially a problem for new groups. I know that now there is the new Cultural Center La Plaza de 31 y 2, there are places like En Guayabera and Herradura de Boyeros. Do you think it is improving or do we still need more places for dance music?
I agree with Manolito and there are certainly new places to work, but as a bandleader I like to concentrate more on bringing together a lot of people in the places where I have my presentations, rather than working in thousands of places to say that I did it without any results.
I have seen that your brother Maichel is also working now with his own orchestra Combinación Cubana. Forgive me but it must be that your parents love that name…hehehe. What is it like to watch him taking that same path you’ve walked?
Hahaha, yes, my parents to keep the family tradition only changed the (k) for (ch), but I think he is a young man with interests and desires to do things and I really support it. But I also let him take the hits and learn, and more than anything it’s imoprtant that he achieves his results by his own efforts. You can’t put anything over on the audience and it doesn’t matter who you are: family, son or brother, with the audience it is always about the strength of the music and a job well done. That’s why I think the the best way I can help is to help him learn.
Thank you very much for the interview and may the successes for Maykel Blanco y Su Salsa Mayor continue.