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A little history… Everyone who knows Cuba knows that music is an essential and vibrant part of her national character. Of predominately Spanish and African roots her music has infiltrated and influenced most styles ranging from classical, ragtime and tango to jazz, rock and roll and rap. In more recent years, the old son and bolero classics of Buena Vista Social Club exploded onto a world stage and, more recently, a number of more alternative, contemporary artists have been recorded and toured abroad. And inside, as you wander around the city of Havana, you might be forgiven for thinking that all is rap, reggaeton, jazz fusion, son, salsa, timba or trova – and all played with full–on Caribbean exuberance.
But there is another city here. It is less visible, less known. It is mainly young and very hungry for something new and something more experimental. In this part of the city you can find musicians listening to Norwegian avant garde beats, mixing electronic/acoustic sounds with a bódhran (traditional Irish drum), recording and re–mixing small, odd, live sounds and trying, trying, trying to create something new. It is to this part of the city that QUIET NIGHTS is committed.
Our vision is that this concert will be first of a series of annual concerts. The focus will always be on experimentation and cultural diversity and will feature both Cuban and international artists – presenting their work and sharing a stage together. The latter may be from Europe, Africa, Asia etc. – musicians who would not normally be seen here and whose styles might be quite unknown. Each year will have a particular theme – ie, singer–songwriters (SONGNIGHTS), electronic pop (ELECTRONIGHTS) etc. – and we hope to involve young artists and designers to work on experimental visual concepts.
We want to encourage young Cuban musicians to experiment more (with concepts, sounds, styles) and then offer the best of them an event – a NIGHTS – to show the best of their work. We want to invite prominent or up–and–coming overseas musicians who are themselves experimenting (from within more traditional forms to the more electronic and avant garde) to come here and to show their work. We want both sets of musicians to meet up and have the chance to play something together. We want to present this annual concert in the most exciting and artistic way possible – and we want Cuban youth to see, hear, and experience all of this. We want to build cultural bridges between individuals and countries and initiate a new climate of musical and visual diversity and experimentation for the future. We want, and we want you, to have an EXPERIENCE, not just go to a concert. We want you to experience the WOW factor!
WHY? One of the driving forces behind the QUIET NIGHTS concept is this wanting to do and see something different. We want to offer something that musically, visually, and conceptually steps right outside of the normal music concert “box”. Why? Because as artists, we crave experimentation and we don’t get nearly enough of it here.
Our first performance is called QUIET NIGHTS and is a concert with British, Cuban, African American and Irish singers – plus Cuban musicians – interpreting the songs of Havana–based, British composer Sue Herrod. Date: Dec 7–8, 2010 Duration: 1h 20 mins (approx.) Theatre: Teatro del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana.
Composer and songwriter Sue Herrod, born in the UK, has lived for several years in Vedado, in beautiful Havana. Trained (Royal Northern College of Music) and also self–taught, she is particularly drawn to creating intimate, delicate yet intense atmospheric and fragmented sounds which form the background for her equally intimate and expressive voice. An experienced artist, Sue has worked slowly and quite privately for the past few years and this artistic debut in Havana will demonstrate the contemporary and experimental style which has made her a strikingly original artist within Cuba’s contemporary music scene.
Before coming to Cuba Sue worked with Trinidadian composer Dominique LeGendre and Japanese composer Mieko Shimizu [Mico] writing lyrics and music for BBC Children’s TV, video, dance, and for various BBC and Channel 4 documentaries – including the award winning Mixed Feelings (APT production/C4). Music for theatre included a new Alan Ayckbourne Theatre production (Wild Iris´s The Farmers Bride) and Lorca’s Yerma for the National Theatre Studio New Director’s programme.
In Cuba, Sue trained further with composer/concert pianist Andres Alén and has composed for Mariella Boan’s contemporary dance group, Danza Abierta, plus various multi–media installations. She opened the 2008 Rotilla Festival – Cuba´s alternative music event supported by Serbia’s Exit Festival – with Yusa and Danay Sanchez. A 2006 demo of songs to the poetry of E.E. Cummings, with Cuban singer Diana Fuentes, was heard by Silvio Rodriguez who offered free recording facilities at his studio, OJALA. This demo – Up Into the Silence – went on to win Cuban TV´s Cuerda Viva Best Alternative Music Demo in 2009.
The concert is named QUIET NIGHTS in order to communicate that, although there is often great intensity in the music, the majority of the songs are very intimate and atmospheric – quiet in feeling. There will be 16 songs performed by 7 singers. Two songs are from an earlier period – to poetry, for piano and solo voice – and the more recent ones can be described as experimental pop, using many small, detailed and intense, fractured and layered sounds and effects.
Sue has also arranged an Irish song, two acapella pieces – one Appalachian, the other African–American – plus two contemporary Cuban songs (written by young, prominent composer/singer–songwriters Descemer Bueno & X Alfonso). Sue will sing 4 or 5 songs and the remainder will be performed by the invited Cuban, African–American and Irish singers.
Much of the music and effects have been created digitally using music programmes and recorded live/natural sounds. We will therefore reproduce some of these as they are – pre–recorded. Other parts will be played live on 2 keyboards – using 2 laptops – so that when the musicians are playing they will be working with the exact pre–recorded sounds and instruments. Percussion, double bass, bass, Irish bódhran and whistle will all be played by live musicians.
We want that when you, the public, walk into the Bellas Arts theatre on rd23 October, you are transported into another world and experience. We want to envelop you in new and beautiful sounds, in deep colors (perhaps the audience and artists bathed in blue) and create strange and beautiful images (back–lit panels where the artists are silhouetted; proyected small, slow–moving fragments of images – maybe parts of the body or color–changing roses). And we want to assault all your senses in the most striking and exquisite way possible (using 6 or 8 speaker surround sound). We also want you to see and hear wonderful voices from Cuba, the UK, US and from Ireland – artists interpreting music that is outside of their “box” and collaborating together.
The home MUSICIANS
We were looking for excellent players but, more than that, as with the singers, we wanted people who were inspired by Sue’s music, the concept of the concert – and who were very open in their musical taste and style of playing. So we´re very pleased to have with us the excellent percussionist and sampler, Michael Olivera, (Eme Alfonso, Sintesís), the very young, multi–talented double bassist and composer Alberto Miranda (NG La Banda) and the fine, even younger, bódhran and whistle player, Alexander Diaz.
Sue has brought together a very special group of musicians, producers, designers and experienced technicians. What has mainly drawn people to commit themselves to this project is the music, the creative concept of the concert – the “something different” – plus the other people already involved. We feel that we are on the same page in our vision and how we want to go about creating it. It´s very important to us that we work well together, that the team and the project has “heart” and that we create a happy, cooperative and vibrant environment in which to work, play and experiment.
MUSICAL DIRECTOR is the inexhaustible DENIS PERALTA – pianist, composer and arranger, graduate of Havana´s best music school (ISA), ex–Musical Director of the Liz Alfonso Contemporary Ballet Company and very recent recipient of a special scholarship to the prestigious Berklee Music School in the USA.
GRAPHIC & STAGE DESIGN will be under the direction of IDANIA DEL RíO, a brilliant young designer, graduate of Havana´s prestigious Instituto Superior de Diseño Industrial (ISDI) and already with a portfolio full of nominations and prizes for her extremely innovative work. Idania was the founder of the graphic design group Camaleón which marked a new phase of radical experimentation in Cuba. She has also studied Art Direction for Cinema and we believe her to be the best young designer working in Cuba today. TECHNICAL TEAM
MUSIC PRODUCER & LIVE SOUND
ALEJANDRO LUGO is someone who likes to work privately and out of sight but without whom this project could never have been realized. Lugo is the facilitator, producer–recorder and distorter behind all the weird and wonderful sounds that can be heard in Sue’s songs. He will be organizing and mixing sounds live in the concert. VENUE & SOUND DESIGN/STUDIO MIXING & MASTERING
DELIO FERRERO runs the small but exquisite Scorpio studio in Vedado, Havana, with Alfonso Peña and Carlos Hevia. Seasoned sound specialists, this team brings maturity and solidity to the project with their vast concert hall and studio experience. Their idea is to use 6 or 8 surround speakers so the sound will need to be carefully designed. This way of working will be a first for us all – and our aim, to produce something unforgettable. LIGHTING DESIGN
JOSUÉ GARCIA is one of the best known and respected creative producers in the Cuban music scene. Apart from this he is a genius lighting designer and it will be in this role that he works with us on QUIET NIGHTS. Collaborating with both set and sound designers his aim is to produce something delicate but powerful, strange but beautiful.
HIRAM GONZALEZ Originally studying/researching Microelectronics Engineering as applied to Nuclear Physics (!) and working as head of IT and Systems in various companies, this multi–talent then thankfully moved over into the Arts. He has worked as a musician, arranger and producer but has more recently dedicated himself to film and video –TV spots related to HIV/Aids, the documentary Con los ojos cerrados (screened in Havana´s Latin American Film Festival, 2007), plus a short about Sue and her work with the Rotilla Festival. PRODUCERS
YOANA GRASS y DARSI FERNANDEZ are two names which are an integral and inseparable part of the very best of Cuban music productions. With impressive and extensive curriculums and with equal amounts of energy, passion and professionalism, their commitment to their work and its quality is remarkable. Their most recent achievement was to organise and produce the March 2010 concert of famous Puerto Rican band, Calle 13, which took place on Havana’s Malecón in front of a public of more than 200,000.
A TASTE OF THE FUTURE IDEAS FOR 2011/12 We already have many ideas for the future of the NIGHTS project. Just a few of these are:
* UK CUTTING EDGE POP
* AFRICAN CONNECTION
FINANCE We are looking for people willing to support our project and to fund our concert, its filming and recording.
Please don´t hesitate to contact us for more information:
Darsi Fernandez/Yoana Grass (4C Productions)
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Sue Herrod 8337326 05 297 1982.
Although Danay Sanchez has been around for some years – and she´s still only 23 – it´s only in the last 12 months that she has started to make waves here in Havana and, more recently, in Europe. Completely self taught, she started out as a rapper for Los Aldeanos (one of Cuba´s most radical hiphop projects) before moving on to work almost exclusively – as backing vocalist – for X Alfonso. This year has seen the new diva of the alternative scene spread her wings – writing more of her own songs, working with acclaimed pianist Roberto Fonseca and, most recently, being chosen to feature on UK producer Giles Peterson´s latest project – Havana Cultura Live – a compilation CD of contemporary popular Cuban music. This project was taken to France and the UK where Danay received a very enthusiastic press for her exceptional voice, described as…´r ´n b/Neo soul á la Erykah Badu, a lo cubano”. These developments have encouraged her to go solo and she is in the process of producing her first album.
Although only 25 years old, this fine, young singer is already a very popular and respected artist in Cuba. Formally trained in both music and dance Diana first gained wide public exposure when she became part of the legendary Afro–Cuban group, Síntesis. Known for her professionalism, musicianship and the purity of her voice she became the preferred studio and backing singer for many prestigious musicians. During this time she also worked as vocalist for Carlos Varela. In 2007 Diana began pursuing her solo career and released her first album, Amargo pero dulce (EGREM). The album features songs written by Descemer Bueno (who also produced the CD), Carlos Varela, and by Diana herself. Winner of many vocal awards, she has collaborated, recorded and sung with some of the best musicians and groups on the island. Her work on Up Into the Silence (a demo of songs by Sue Herrod to the poetry of E.E. Cummings) won them the 2009 Cuerda Viva Award for best, alternative demo.
Self–taught, African American singer–songwriter Jasmine Mitchell (aka J. Mitchell) was born in Seoul, Korea and spent much of her childhood in Asia and Europe before relocating to the USA. She studied at the prestigious Fullerton Community College and there began to develop a particular and innovative musical style. Her sensual and soulful voice, eclecticism, wide vocal range and charismatic stage presence have begun to attract much attention in the USA. She has graced club and festival stages, worked with the best in the contemporary/alternative scene in LA (Project Blowed, Exile, T A´Raach, The Rebirth, Snoop Dog) and is presently working on her first solo album.
LIAM Ó MAONLAÍ
Born in Southern Ireland, into a musical family, Liam began by playing his fathers piano and being taught by him to sing in his native tongue. This expression has informed his musical career, rooting a deep committment to his own and other traditional cultures. Liam´s beautiful, haunting voice and expressive bódhran, tin whistle and piano playing have won him many awards and made him a unique and exceptional artist. In the mid 1980´s, with colleague Fiachna ó Braonain, he formed a rhythm and blues group with all songs written in Irish. Hothouse Flowers went on to become one of Ireland’s most successful rock bands, releasing seven albums. Liam now records on his own label (Rian Records) and has performed in Australia, Japan, India, the USA, Europe, Scandinavia, Morocco and Mali – playing there with well–known artists and tribes people. He visited Cuba for the first time in 2010, performing and leading workshops in the first Celtic Music Festival in Havana.
Singer–songwriter and accomplished musician, 23 year old M Alfonso is beginning to attract much attention on the Cuban music scene. From one of the most famous musical families on the island, her work with Síntesis, founded by parents Eme and Carlos Alfonso, has provided her with a solid base of experience that she is now developing in her solo career. Her brother – acclaimed musician, composer and video maker X Alfonso – has also been an important inspiration and support. As a soloist she tends towards a more r ´n b style not that common in Cuba. But she is also keen to experiment and her 2009 debut album –Señales (EGREM) – demonstrates her interest in alternative pop and jazz, as well as in the fusion of Afro–Cuban styles, son and feeeling. Aside from numerous performances and recordings with Sintesis she has also toured with Yusa – as pianist and backing vocalist – and co–writes and produces with her partner, percussionist and sampler Michael Olivera.
Born into an artistic family (his mother a painter and his father co–founder of the politically progressive 60´s funk/soul band, Amnesty), Phillip found his voice early on, singing in church choirs in the US mid west. He later studied Art & Design at New York’s FIT and began his musical career in theatre – appearing in off–Broadway productions such as Dreamgirls and No Way Out. As a session artist Phillip´s strikingly powerful, but sensitive, tenor soul voice has contributed to the projects of various artists – from Michael Jackson´s 2000 album, History, to Earl Blaze’s hip hop Anti Pop Consortium and a Donny Hathaway compilation tribute. Self–taught, he is now, with his first album Love me Good” released in 2009 (AbelRecords), studying piano and preparing material for a further album.
Singer, folkloric dancer and Cuban–trained doctor, with roots in Kumasi, Ghana, Sarpoma Sefa–Boakye is now based in Los Angeles, USA. She has been singing since the age of 3 and her beautiful, rich and expressive voice has won her numerous competitions and prizes. Sarpoma grew up in Southern California and later lived in Accra (Ghana) where she studied Dance and Midwifery. More recently she spent 6 years in Cuba – graduating in Medicine and also studying Afro–Cuban folkloric tradition in Matanzas (east of Havana). She is now working on her first album (inspired by various styles – nu–soul, old soul, jazz, Cuban) whilst preparing her Medical Practice in the USA.
Multi–talented singer–songwriter, acclaimed guitarist, fine pianist, tres and bass player, Yusa has been at the centre of the contemporary Cuban fusion scene for over 15 years and was co–founder of the groundbreaking band, Interactivo. Formally and rigorously trained she has continually experimented to develop a unique style. Her expressive voice ranges from delicate and light to more heavy and staccato and encompasses various genres from Brazilian–Cuban to a more free jazz/pop. Signed to the UK label, Tumi Music, Yusa has played to worldwide audiences – appearing at Tokyo´s Blue Note, London´s Ronnie Scotts and touring throughout Mexico and South America. She toured in the UK with Susana Baca and Lila Downs (Latin American Voices Project) and in 2007 appeared with Lenine and Jorge Drexler at the opening ceremony of the Panamerican Games in Rio de Janeiro. Yusa has released three albums –Yusa (2001), Breathe (2004) and Haiku (2008), as well as the DVD Yusa live at Ronnie Scott’s. Oct / 2010