August 29, 2003

From the island full of song

Cuban singer Noel Nicola celebrates his 35 years on stage by touring México

By Mariana Martinez

Guitars sound ripe and clean while a Cuban man in the audience, hides his tears and story between his eyebrows and his rough hands. He blinks, quickly trying to evaporate his nostalgia, while on stage, two men pick on his sorrow: Noel Nicola and Manuel Arguín are two lovable Cuban singers who tell stories both with their lyrics and guitars. 200 people with candles and wine came to see them.

Noel Nicola is one of the founders of the New Cuban Trova —along with Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés— he had gone eighteen years without singing on a Mexican stage, but he decided to tour this country to celebrate his 35 years as a singer.

Nicola, who is also a composer, said he had not come to México for family reasons but “México has always been my love besides Cuba, it’s the place where I have the most friends and the audience is most enthusiastic and welcoming.”

Last year he was a special guest at the Guadalajara Book Fair but this year he is touring not just in Guadalajara but also Monterrey, Hermosillo, Tijuana and ending the tour with a series of concerts in México City, most likely at the famous Zócalo (the capital’s major plaza) “all are part of an intimate party I planned with the audience that has followed my work for so long” said Nicola.

During this tour, Nicola is playing with fellow countrymen Manuel Arguín, musician and composer who has lived in México for many years. Their on-stage chemistry and presence is clear from the start; between songs they share, stories, anecdotes and jokes, besides interacting with the audience, which is requesting songs written on cocktail napkins.

Cuban Trova is a sign of the revolution, not just in its native country but in Latin America in general, a kind of music that still has great precedence on Mexican stages.

Mostly the audience is made up of middle aged men and women who remember their past youth with the stories told by the music, but this music is also seducing young kids in search of less commercial music, with a stand in today’s political ground.

About Trova, Nicola said it isn’t just one but like many things it has stages and unique expression within itself. “Trova was born along with our sense of nation, a concept that is very young in Cuba, in comparison with the rest of Latin-American countries” tells Nicola “The Trova Cuban song is linked with the very base of our nation’s principals, and is part of a long chain of identities within it. In a global world, like the one being established, we have to guarantee that in the future we can all keep our diverse identities, and as the environmentalists say, keep our bio-cultural systems.”

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