"Listening to the bitter-sweet lyrics of new Cuban singer Yusa and the simple sophistication of her music one knows one is finally hearing 21st century Cuba. Her cutting-edge songs map the contemporary emotional lives of urban Havana. Fused inside her music are traces from further afield, from iconoclastic jazz and rock to today's Brazil. Full of the vital energy of experimentation and the textures of musical exchange gained in intimate venues, Yusa offers a whole new way of hearing Cuba." --Jan Fairley
Yusa is living proof that not everyone in Cuba is making music like their granddaddy! Yes, of course there are urban echoes of classic trova songs, but it's offshoots like bolero and notably 'filin' that inform this true voice of the 21st century whose songs break down the labels usually imposed on the island's music. As a modern troubadour Yusa, like others in her peer group, is as influenced by Spanish and North American pop and jazz as by 'nueva trova' and son. After all Yusa grew up with her ear stimulated by everything Cuba had to offer as well as a legion of international musicians including Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea and Jaco Pastorius. And she¹s of a generation whose musical world owes as much to their contemporaries in Brazil Lenine, Chico Science, Chico Cesar, Carlinhos Brown as to anything home grown.
Born in the Buena Vista district of today's Playa and growing up in the modern Alamar housing community of east Havana, Yusa's childhood was spent between music and the sea, cherished by her economist mother and her sailor father whose eyes always have, 'the gaze of the sea in them'.
Yusa started with guitar, went on to Cuban tres guitar, taking piano and bass in her stride. What inspires this debut disc are vital creative years spent jamming in the hallways and classrooms of the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory exchanging musical ideas with contemporaries such as Roberto Carcasses, who is now the arranger of many of the songs on this disc. Then there's Yusa's time improvising female quintet Quasi-Jazz at that crucible of Cuban music, 'El Zorro y el Cuervo', the basement night club on Havana's central La Rampa street which has been at the cutting edge of Cuban jazz since the early 20th century.
A key phenomenon of 1990s Cuba was the emergence of contemporary duos revitalizing in totally unexpected ways the older fashion of singing two part harmony with guitar. In the same way as Gema and Pavel had before them, Yusa and Domingo made waves among their urban milieu in the small corner bars and neighborhood clubs where for centuries new Cuban musics have always been dreamed up.
Yusa and her musical accomplices recorded in the late nights and early mornings of a sweltering Cuban winter in the big old house of Vedado's Once (11) street. Here in the intimate atmosphere of singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes' studios, with a couple of tracks in the Amadeo Roldán Theatre, they have created a disc which breaks boundaries. [Producer Pavel frames certain pieces with 'found sounds' from percussive traffic to trains, camera clicks to children's cries, music box melodies to the crash of sea waves for Yusa's call to Yemayá, the Cuban 'Orisha' Goddess of the sea, texturing captured moments.] The enigmas of Yusa's bittersweet lyrics are realized in a music full of simplicity and sophistication as befits modern Cuba.