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Laritza Bacallao: the secret of success

Laritza Bacallao: the secret of success

She always knew what she wanted and her path was clearly laid out. At the age of ten she had already recorded with the emblematic Aragon Band with which both her father and grand-father had been singers. (Unfortunately this CD was never released….maybe someday….) She gained her professional experience as a performer with the Aragon Band, a child among adults. Her first trip to Japan is a bitter-sweet memory because she remembers almost starving to death: her inexperienced palate wasn’t able to get used to the strange tastes of Asian cuisine. Then she visited Venezuela, again with the Aragon group. She took formal musical training and graduated as a pianist. When she was 18, she did a solo tour of Germany and subsequently spent a year in Italy under contract for a version of Bizet’s “Carmen”, playing a part specially created for her. Then she returned to Cuba for a holiday but made the decision to stay on the Island to launch a solo career from her origins.

Once she was established in Cuba, Barbarito Torres, one of the Buena Vista Social Club stars, invited her to work with him and Osmani Espinosa wrote some songs for her that are going to be a permanent part of the Cuban musical tapestry; the success of “Mi Carnaval” and “Suenan los Tambores” clearly bear witness to that statement. She moved on to the PMM music project (the initials stand for Por un Mundo Mejor…For a Better World), taping videos, creating her own group and recording an album called Solo se vive una vez including songs by Osmani Espinosa and Martin Freddy along with a bachata by the very talented Descemer Bueno.

Laritza is unpretentious, wears hardly any makeup and dresses in form-fitting clothes that play up her gorgeous figure. Absent are the sparkles and sequins that are practically de rigueur for some Cuban artists. This naturalness in the midst of a world infested with fakes is a virtue in itself, but it is not her only strong suit. She has a powerful voice and a captivating stage presence, attracting men and women, children and their grandparents. She has triumphed in Cuba, an island that has more music than seawater and where the most popular singers are usually men. Laritza is all over the place: on the street, in the buses, in homes, on the radio and on TV. This mulata is funny, adores pasta, pizza and sleeping. When she sings, she is a match for anybody else on stage with her. She is happy in her relationship and hopes to have a baby as soon as the time is right.

As we leave the place where she rehearses and where we did this interview, she runs into a group of teenagers who recognize her. They all want to take photos and they approach her with their cell phones in hand. Laritza is all smiles and patiently submits to the impromptu photo session that seems to go on forever. “I need a hamburger,” she says. That’s about all she has time to eat as she dashes off to tape a TV show. This is the life she has chosen and she loves it. She goes through life with joy, holding the key to success: to always be herself, a young, lovely Cuban woman.
April 2015 This article formed part of the March 2015 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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