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Ramon Valle: The Amsterdam transplant remains rooted in Cuba

Joan Gannij By

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When he first landed in the Netherlands, nobody cared. "The confrontation was something I had never felt. After my first appearance at the North Sea Jazz Festival, people hugged me afterward and I felt proud. I thought, wow, this feels special." One gig led to another and Valle was soon playing the Bimhuis and other venues. Through another series of fateful occurrences, he crossed paths with 'a beautiful Dutch woman' who would become his life and music partner, and the mother of their son and daughter. Ramon Valle remains beloved by Dutch audiences and during one of his spring gigs at the Concertgebouw (in an improvised jazz cellar), he improvised a whimsical version of a Dutch folk classic, ''On the Canals of Amsterdam'' that turned into a spontaneous singalong. Afterwards as the well-wishers departed, he reflected on his second home and said: "I've learned many things here, to live in a country like the Netherlands with its wind and rain, and to come from a warm summertime country like Cuba. But both of them are right, and when you combine the power that each brings, you get really strong. Yes, the light and the sun makes a difference, but you need the structure in the Netherlands. You have to prepare for the winter or you die. In Cuba, you're always in the present." He illustrates his point by doing a spirited intro to Beethoven's Fifth, Duh Duh Duh Daah! And then segues into a verse of the Buena Vista Social Club hit, Chan Chan. It's like yin and yang."

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