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Omar Sosa: Bringing The World To The World

By Published: May 10, 2011
AAJ: That was when you were about eighteen, nineteen?

OS: Pretty much, well about sixteen, seventeen, because the way I grew up I graduated from school at eighteen. So, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, more sixteen that seventeen.

AAJ: That was the music school, the Nacional School?

OS: Yes. I studied at the National Music School of Havana [Escuela Nacional de Musica Havana] a real good school, man... my time there was "Woa." I want to say thank you to all my teachers, my composition teacher, because they have a clear idea of what they try to pass on. In a lot of our cases, they passed the message. A lot of people of our generation, they love to write music, they love to play, they love to discover things—more than discover: they like to enjoy themselves in the beautiful world of music, man.

AAJ: People say that you don't follow too much the Chucho Valdéz line of playing. Was that type of music taught to a great extent?

OS: Well, Chucho is one of my heroes, he's a great friend, he's a great father. Every time I go to Cuba I go to Chucho's house, I talk to him. Everytime I have a new record I pass it to him, but if you think you'll find your own voice why imitate your father or your teacher? What is the reason, because when you just pass on the music he says, "Well, it sounded good" or "Oh yeah," but when you come out with something that is part of you, when you think you've found your language, you can discuss things with him. You know, "I did this here because I feel this." It's not like I reproduce or become a clone of him, in a way. It's something that's not possible, because everybody's individual. We're all individual human beings, so we all have the opportunity to create, to discover the gift of creating some music. If we have the opportunity, wow, it's a blessing, man. It's a wonderful blessing. This is what I've tried to do until today. I have my new record, Calma. It's a solo but it's not really solo piano.

AAJ: No, it's not, it's not at all. It's piano, plus Fender Rhodes, electronic effects and samples.

OS: Everybody thinks you mean, "He plays solo," as in only the instrument. No, I play solo on what I play [laughs].

AAJ: Yes, because with the piano, the Fender Rhodes, the effects and the samples, it was done live too, in real time with no overdubs?

OS: Yes, it was real time—the samples, the Fender Rhodes—because the foundation of the record was I wanted to have a single moment in the studio and play. And this is what I did. I had my Fender Rhodes, my samples and my effects. I played just what I felt, what came through me. I played two hours. After listening to those two hours we decided, Roy [Moisa] and me—actually he's a friend—to use the first hour, because it was more in the mood of what I tried to express in the moment I arrived at the studio. I tried to present some peace and calm around my life, some "calma" around me. In a way, Calma is one moment of my life, and actually it's the moment I live today. I think we need calma man, we need calm. We need peace. Everything is too crazy, man. And in a way we are addicted to the stress.

Eeverybody has stress in one way or another, because the whole world is moving fast. There's no way to sit down. For example, just saying "I love you." Simple things. How fast the world is moving, compared to sitting in your apartment and simply seeing some rays or something, and this is something I feel today. I need to sit down sometimes and actually this is something I had the opportunity to do in Minorca, and when I discovered this I said, "Wow, you know music needs to be like this," man [laughs]. -I tried to reproduce this in music, in the way I feel, and Calma came out like this. The first hour of recording was like this, this kind of relaxed mood. The second hour was more of an anxiety; the second hour was dark. I don't think I'm going to put it out, because it was completely yin and yang. After healing myself with all this melody and this space, I tried to create some colors too, as regards the second hour. I take a break after one hour, I come back, and it was completely different [laughs]. It's not the scene I like-it's too much. It's reflected in the music.

This is what I like a lot in African music, because if sometimes it's a drum, it brings me to a dimension, to a deeply spiritual dimension, and this is what I look for in music.

I'm happy with Calma because now, when I listen to the music, I hear it in front of the sea. I say "Thank you God," for giving me the opportunity to translate this wonderful, beautiful scene to music—in my view, because maybe, for other people, they say "I don't like it," but for me it's like this.

AAJ: When you were in the studio, did you have the Fender Rhodes set up at your left?

OS: I had the Fender Rhodes set up at my left hand. This is why if you listen to the record, you can see that most of time I use it as the bass of the piano. I tried to use it as the bass of the piano and, at some moments, I tried to use it as a pad—some kind of background, harmonies. I didn't put the Fender Rhodes in as a main instrument. And I tried to play with it with a bass color. I love the color of the Fender Rhodes. For me it is a wonderful round sound, and a lovely instrument. Of course, I love the sound of a good piano, and together, I'm happy with this.

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Download jazz mp3 “African Sunrise” by Omar Sosa