Born July 16, 1988, the troubadour from Matanzas Celestino Esquerre is one of those artists who live and breathe music.
Their presentations, full of dynamism and a bit of humor that characterizes us as born on this Island, are a true party to dance and think.
Havana Music School had the opportunity to interview this young Cuban trova value … although pigeonhole him into one genre is difficult.
Question: Celestino, how did you start in music?
Answer: My story is quite particular. Since I was a kid I liked music, although in my family nobody dedicated to it. When I was studying pre-university I learned a couple of chords on the guitar, and then my parents gave me one for my birthday.
From there, I was lucky enough to learn from Rubén Rodríguez, one of the great troubadours of Cárdenas, my native land. And for each chord I learned, I wrote a song.
Q: Why trova and not another more commercial genre?
A: I define myself as a troubadour at 110%, but I do not consider trova as a genre but as a life style. It is not just making love songs, it is expressing yourself freely about anything and it is a commitment to be consistent with society and what you decided to be as a person.
Q: Who are the musicians who influence you?
A: If I show you my playlist right now, you’d think I’m crazy. I like all kinds of music: lyric, classical, rock, pop, salsa, trova, son … as long as I like it, I hear it. I am very marked by the Cuban trova, not to mention any in particular because from all I have learned. I also have some rock & roll, flamenco rumba, reggae and Brazilian music.
How do you choose your repertoire to go on stage?
That depends on the audience I’m going to sing. For example, I have just returned from Guantanamo, where I went to support the victims of Hurricane Mathew, and I had to play in primary schools, pre-university schools, and then make a concert for the whole town. I try to adapt the repertoire to my listeners, but I compose without making concessions or getting along with anyone.
Q: Do you play only your songs or include those of other musicians?
A: No, all the songs I play are my own. Of course, in the creative process, my group has a lot to do with it. Eight years ago I founded my group with Johan Medina (percussion, chorus), Ofrey Febles (bass, electric guitar and vocals), Alina Maria García (chorus and minor percussion), and I on guitar and vocals. I can compose, but after the musical arrangements the songs belong to everyone.
I also like to have guests to the concerts, but just, in some songs, I prefer to stay alone with the guitar. With her and my voice, a different intimacy is achieved.
Q: What are the themes you tackle in your work?
A: They are very varied, because I like to feel free when it comes to composing. But Cuba is always in my work. When I say this I speak about society, the beautiful things and also the problems that Cubans have. The love, my joys, the sense of humor that I always try to take to the audience … because every Cuban has a little humorist inside.
Q: There are those who think of the creative process as the fruit of inspiration, while others work daily in their music. What group are you in?
A: In both. There are times when I’m watching a football game and I have to run away before I get the idea. But I firmly believe in the daily work to perfect myself as a musician, studying harmony, in the musical arrangement that comes after composing, in the essay until everything goes well. As Picasso said: “When the inspiration comes, let her find my working.”
Q: Do you consider that geography limits the potential of musicians?
A: Yes, absolutely. A friend told me not to take it personally, but the capitals are the capitals in all countries. Havana offers a lot in matters of media, opportunities, promotion … although there are many young people and not so much doing 5-star art in other parts of the Island.
Q: Do you consider that there is an adequate structure that favors the promotion of the musicians and their work?
A: He cannot speak for all the provinces, but I can talk about my case. I am a Cardenian and yes, there are concerts that are even massive. But to make a career in music as a professional singer-songwriter, you have to move to Havana.
Q: Tell us about your future plans and projects
A: In a little while, just over a month, we will start recording our first production with a Cuban label. I can tell you that it will have twelve songs, with a lot of audiovisual material, which will collect a lot of what we have done in these 8 years. There will be a lot of Cuba inside, a lot of Cuban music fused with other rhythms. After so many models and demos, it was time to take something seriously.
I just returned from a concert tour in Italy, ten concerts in two months in Rome, where I recorded the video clip of a very special song call it “Starting point”, under the direction of Lavinia Inciocchi.
Q: You have also just returned from a tour of Guantanamo…
A: Yes, that tour was special for me. Hurricane Mathew also affected me … not because I was in Guantanamo when it happened, but because I am Cuban. It was the opportunity to give what little I have, which is my music, to relieve for a few minutes the situation of those affected, to convey to them that hopeful capacity that art has. I thank all the Guantanameros for the welcome and the hospitality. I hope that when I finish the album I can go there and share with them again.
Q: In a single sentence… Who is Celestino Esquerré?
A: A young, worker, familiar, cheerful fellow, with lots of faith.