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Interviews

Omar Sosa: Bringing The World To The World

By Published: May 10, 2011
AAJ: On your duo albums, you've played with three different percussionists. (John Santos
John Santos
John Santos
b.1955
percussion
, Gustavo Ovalles and Adam Rudolph
Adam Rudolph
Adam Rudolph
b.1955
percussion
). It struck me that the duo was a great way to communicate, like one-on-one, and I wondered if it was a favorite format for you to communicate, because you can really hear the other person. It's like a conversation.


Afreecanos Quartet, from left: Mola Sylla, Omar Sosa, Childo Tomas, Julio Barreto

OS: Well yes, but you have interesting conversations between three or four or five. The only thing, in my opinion, is everybody in the conversation needs to be ready to listen, because if everybody talks at the same time it's a piece of garbage. Nothing comes through. But if everybody listens to each other, everybody is going to have his moment to say whatever they feel, and this is the idea when we try to play music. Of course, we need to play together because it's on the paper I composed, but that's one part, and most of the time the part I really love is the part that's not on the paper. [Laughs] Because it's a new part. That's the part that always surprises me in one way or another, because I never expected this, because I know what I wrote, what the sound is supposed to be. But when we create something based on some melody that's come before, sometimes we come out with some really good music, a scene, and I really enjoy this.

When you let the musician respect and play their tradition and you don't force them to play what you write on the piece of paper, everybody's going to say "What's that?." When we listen to each other and we play together, something happens. Something happens because everybody says what they feel, what they want to say. The only thing you need to do is put all this thing together, and listen to each other and love each other and play together. It sounds easy, but it's hard to do because everybody comes with their own problems, their own situation, and we need to feel this kind of energy, to arrive at this. It sometimes happens and sometimes not. But we need to fight all the time to arrive at this kind of energy.

AAJ: You said in an interview about Crossing The Divide that you were traveling across Africa to find the traditional unity, so when you are traveling across Africa or playing African music, are you trying to find some kind of unity or single thread, or feeling or spirituality?

OS: Yes, can I tell you something? You ask the question, and you give the answer too! [laughs]. The end of your question is the answer. You look for feeling, you look for a thread, you look for something to become a part of your big bag that you hold, with information and roots and tradition and scenes. Every time you go to a different place, of course, you look for this, these kinds of scenes. It's going to make you a better person; it's going to make you deeper, inside the context of what you are looking for: traditions.

AAJ: Your father was a history teacher or history professor.

OS: Yes, the profession of history. Some of the first information I had about jazz music was from him—Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
, Nat "King" Cole
Nat
Nat "King" Cole
1919 - 1965
piano
.

AAJ: I hear a little bit of Ellington sometimes in your playing.

OS: To be honest, I don't know. When I play, I just play what comes to me. And I'm open to everything. I think I have influences from a lot of musicians—in a way, this is something wonderful, because in the end you're part of this big message that comes from the elders and you try to take a little bit of the legacy of these masters. Even if you don't play their music, something in your music will come from their music.

AAJ: Randy Weston
Randy Weston
Randy Weston
b.1926
piano
is an amazing player.

OS: Oh, Randy's a teacher, man; actually, we're good friends, too.

AAJ: Did you listen to him in Cuba?

OS: I listened to a bit of Randy in Cuba, but when I moved to Ecuador, that was the first time I listened to Randy, Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill
1937 - 2007
piano
, Cecil Taylor. I tried to go in this kind of area. And when I had this opportunity, I said "Woa." Actually, Monk, too. I discovered this and I said "Woa, this is something!"

AAJ: What does Monk mean to you?

OS: For me, Monk is one of my heroes. His philosophy—playing just what you feel—it is a philosophy of freedom. Every time I listen to him I say, "Wow, he is a big guy. He plays what he feels." And today, if you listen to Monk, he is unique. No one can play like Monk, man. His language, his vocabulary was different. Different words. Because jazz, in one way or another, has one big dictionary. But Monk, he is something—it's a different vocabulary.

AAJ: Mulatos is a really great album, its authenticity—for example, the oud that opens "El Consenso:..

OS: Well, thank you brother. Well actually I need to say thank you to the spirits and... and their sisters because they bring this. I analyze what they want to say, and this is pretty much what I try to do.


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Download jazz mp3 “African Sunrise” by Omar Sosa