Born July 16, 1988, the troubadour from Matanzas Celestino Esquerré 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.
Celestino, how do you get started in music?
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.
Why trova and not another more commercial genre?
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.
Who are the musicians who influence you?
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.
Do you play only your songs or include those of other musicians?
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.
What are the themes you tackle in your work?
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.
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?
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.”
Do you consider that geography limits the potential of musicians?
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.
Do you consider that there is an adequate structure that favors the promotion of the musicians and their work?
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.
Tell us about your future plans and projects
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.
You have also just returned from a tour of Guantanamo…
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.
In a single sentence… who is Celestino Esquerré?