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"Todo O Casi Nada" from Yusa
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Yusa is perhaps Cuba's finest export! This singer/songwriter has a lot to offer the world of music with her unique blend of Cuban influences as well as jazz, folk, and roots. Although her debut self-titled album on Tumi Music is all done in her native language (Spanish), Yusa's unique vocal style immediately captures your attention as well as your heart. Yusa is an artist to watch. Here is what she had to say…

How are you?

I feel fine. Especially now that I am home, with my family and friends, after a tour in Europe.

Can you tell us a little about how old you were when you got interested in music and what first interested you?

I have loved music for as long as I can remember. There aren’t any musicians in my close family, but my mother once composed a couple of songs that earned her some regional fame. The fact is that I have been studying music since I was 9 till now, and I will never stop.

Who are some of the artists that inspire you?

Uhhh, there were several stages; when I was very young and was studying at the conservatory, I loved to hear and even imitate Michel Camilo, Chick Corea, and I loved classical music and many of the American pop singers and instrumentalists. From Cuba I was very inspired, in the 80s, by Santiago Feliú, Gerardo Alfonso, SINTESIS, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lucía Huergo, also my mother’s Silvio and Pablo. From around the world. I’d like to mention Brazilians Iván Lins, D’Javan, Caetano, Chico, María Bethania, Hermeto Pascoal; also a lot of American funky music like Kool and the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lionel Ritchie, Michael Jackson and I must recognize that I took my share of MOR. Nowadays, although I listen to all kinds of music I’m touched by people that I feel are sincere, honest, strong and original: Björk, Meshell N’Degeocello, Lenine, Chico Cesar, and my fellow musicians , which are my main musical inspiration: Roberto Carcassés, Pável Urquiza, Francis del Río, Telmary, Haydée Milanés, Gema Corredera, Descemer Bueno, Raúl Ciro, among others.

What , would you say, is your biggest lyrical inspiration? Many artists write about what they see around them, others write more personal songs that reflect their own lives, and still others write fantasy purely to entertain the masses.

I do not pretend to entertain anybody, I just make songs like a vital need, like breathing, beyond my existence. Songs just arise as if they had their own road. It is not planned at all, no method. In fact, it takes me a lot of time to compose, it has to do with my mood at the time, thoughts rolling around my brain, that frame and shape my sensitive and thinking being.

Jan Fairley says that you offer "a whole new way of hearing Cuba". That’s pretty high praise! Would you agree with that? How do you feel about peoplesaying such things about your music?

I think that Jan meant that I’m a part of something different that’s happening in Cuba, a country that, by tradition, has always been plentiful in music. These days, there’s a contradiction between the music that is made in the island and the one that, unfortunately, is mainly heard abroad. What are the new expectations? Which is the new paradigm? You can never reduce Cuban music to a stereotype. Many of today’s young musicians like me "have drank from all waters" no matter if it comes from the tubes or directly from the waterfalls…If someone as smart and knowledgeable as Jan Farley says that I represent a new way of hearing Cuba, I’m glad because it may provoke a change of that attitude.

You also play a number of instruments as well as singing. Do you have a particular instrument that you enjoy playing more than others?

Thanks for the compliments about my playing. I love to play instruments because of my classical training. I wish I could tame all the acquaintance I have with the instruments of which I’m especially touched. Right now I’m living a relationship with my bass; even my guitar has been my roommate since I was 7 years old. And I have in mind a reconciliation with the tres, while i’m flirting with the (percussion) boxes, the piano and what or whoever makes me happy….

What was the hardest instrument for you to learn to play?

Instruments are just tools. There’s a technique, a general way to play them, and that you should learn. That is not too hard, but the rest is definitively up to you. There’s only one instrument I don’t feel completely satisfied with and that’s my voice. It has biological limitations that I can not change. I’m trying hard, you know , and I think I should quit smoking…..

As an American who only knows Cuba from our news programs, what could you tell me about Cuba (something you love about it) that I probably won’t ever hear about (unless I visit!)?

Well, this is common place, but it’s the absolute truth: What I love about Cuba is precisely the Cuban way of being, and I mean, even, Havana’s architecture, the poverty, the bureaucracy, And many people like the Cubans, there must be a reason. The only way to comprehend a country, any country, is living with its people, and I say it especially for those that believe they can summarize a country after a visit of just 10 days, that’s bullshit.

I can live anywhere but I’m essentially proud of being Cuban.

What is the music scene like in the area you are from? How do you think you fit into it?

It’s a little bit difficult to explain, but I’ll try. Where do I start? First of all, you’ve got to be in the middle of things, there’s no other way to explain them. Although in Cuba there’s no such a music industry like in other places, there’s a strong music scene. We are too many, some are musically trained and some are not, but everyone’s ideas matter the same, that’s what makes tough for journalists the task of labeling (troubadours, jazzists, performers, singers-songwriters, etc). We are not pure. We’re just people who like each other and I think we take advantage of the opportunity of sharing each other’s ideas, and we enjoy it. In fact, this idea has become the core of a common project named INTERACTIVO. The musicians who jam together around it may be unknown for the moment but their level matches everyone imaginable and unimaginable. For instance, Telmary, the female rapper, has a flow of her own, a unique poetry, there’s no one like her in the universe. She’s my friend.

Each one of us has our own career, record label, our own story, but we love to play together. That’s why we meet very often, just for the fun of it. We are very close friends, inspiration and partners in resistance, and I mean its fun and tough at the same time to live in Cuba.

Not many people can share the same feelings in this way. That’s a shame, as its up to them alone. Everything we create, we do it out of respect, professionalism and honesty. We don’t push anybody, and no one ties our hands.

Parting thoughts?

I think a lot about the relativity of things. Every time I travel and do interviews, it comes back to me once and again. That’s why, in my opinion, one has to be humble, we are no more than a tiny molecule of the universe interacting with the others. Death doesn’t scare me at all, what really scares me is to quit living this gorgeous life, at my own pace, my own rhythm, just because of the fears of life. I’m very enamored, and I think love moves everything.

I may not be original, I’m not perfect. I’m better making music than talking. Thanks.

 11/01/03 >> go there
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