Omar Sosa: Bringing The World To The World
AAJ: You also play inside the piano, or you used to do it, and you even brushed the strings with coco shells.
OS: Yes, I used to do it, but I don't do it so much now. It was a period when I had a lot of scenes. I would fantasize, and we would have some different instruments inside of the piano together. But now, I have the samplers I can manage, and I play sometimes inside, but not all of the time. On Calma, sometimes I play insideI use my hands, sometimes I play with a malletbut it depends what I feel. It's the moment, man.
Live In Rome, from left: Mola Sylla, Omar Sosa, Baba Sissoko, Childo Tomas
AAJ: Some of the things you were doing inside the piano, like on albums like New Life (Otá, 2003), sound like Scriabin or other classical composers.
OS: John Cage is cool, no? John Cage is cool [laughs]. But it depends, because New Life was a moment and Calma is another moment. Maybe I'm more reflective or contemplative now. It's what it is. Calma (calm) is the answer where I live, and it's where I want to live, with this peace. That's it man. That's all [laughs].
AAJ: I hear a little Satie, maybe a bit of Albeniz.
OS: Yeah, I listened to Satie, Chopin, I love Chopin. I love Satie, actually. I listen to Stravinsky sometimes. Now not too much. It was back in the day. Debussy, Vivaldi, Bach, but it was back in the day. Now mostly what I listen to is African traditional music. And I listen to a lot of Tuva music; I am crazy about this. Actually, in my records, one of the songs has a sample of a throat singer from Tuva. It's this region close to Mongolia. I love this music, and the African music, all African music. Actually, Africa's too big, man [Laughs]. I'm only going to listen to one percent of the music I want to listen to from Africa.
AAJ: I was reading that there can be several different languages in one small region in Africa, like in one town...
OS: Yes. In Mozambique, in Senegal, in Mali, in Togo, in Ghana. This is one of the most beautiful things if Africa. You go to one village, and you drive five minutes to the next village and the people speak a different language, a different dialect. And the music, sometimes, is different. Their tradition, sometimes, is different. I don't say I travel too much to Africa, but I try to find music and talk to people, and listen, listen to a lot of music. I discover new things every day.
With the internet and all this stuff, you can be in any part of the world without taking a plane. Because you see the image now, everything is in the computer, but I always say it's nothing compared to when you go there and touch the earth, feel the energy, because a computer is what it is. It helps you to do things. But you can never touch the earth with a computer. You can never touch people with a computer, not yet, maybe one day [laughs]. But now, you need to pick up the plane, man, and go and touch the earth and feel the community and feel the reality and feel yourself inside of the reality, even if you like it or not, but feel yourself inside of this.
AAJ: Back to classical, I think that some Chopin sounds a little like popular music, but deeper.
OS: Music is music, man. When the music comes deeply from your heart or from your soul, some people may not like it but other people are going to like it, because it comes from the bottom of your heart. The only thing is, you need to be honest with what you say, based on what comes to you. This is an interesting process. Don't let what comes around you move you to a different direction.
AAJ: Often, when you're playing live, you play through several moods or feels, and then finally you break into a clearly Afro-Cuban line on the piano. Is that something that you are always drawn to eventually?
OS: No, to be honest sometimes it's a jokesometimes, I don't say every time. And sometimes it's to show your passport [laughs]. It's like, you go to immigration and they say "OK, give me your passport. Ah, you're Cuban." I say, "Yes, I'm Cuban." "Ah, OK." No, sometimes it's because I feel it, or one of us feels it. Most of the time, the idea when we play is we always need to enjoy and try to play for each other, based on everybody's roots. This is the only condition to be in the band. Keep your roots. Don't try to come to my roots. Keep your rootswe need to share what we have. And based on this, something comes out.
Because I only tell Marcus Gilmore, the drummer, I say, "Man, don't worry. If you want to go to Cuba, please go, but I don't put any pressure on you to go to CubaI say it in the way of playing. "So be you. If you're the drum and bass, be the drum and bass." And when we listen to each other, we respect each other, in that kind of a way. We have a good time. I enjoy the concerts.
We don't try to impress anybody. We don't pretend to do complex, crazy or extremely difficult music. We don't make it for people to think it sounds difficult, but we try, most of the time, to enjoy and play what we like to play. I think this is the main thing. When we don't do this, this is the moment in the concert when I say "Well, the concert we did today was funny." Maybe some people liked it, but when we don't enjoy it, we smile and pass the bowl to each other; we move from one feel to another to arrive at another musical place. We move in another direction. I love these moments. We say "Wow, we played a good concert today." I'm not even concerned about whether the solos are amazing or virtuosic. No, it's if it's all together. If we don't enjoy it together, I don't care if the trumpet player played an amazing solo, or the saxophonist did a ripping solo. No, a solo is a solo. The most beautiful thing is playing together, playing in an ensemble.