Exclusive Interview with Son Yambu

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Son Yambu brings the fire of Cuban music to the forests of Malaysia!

London-based Cuban expat band Son Yambu http://rwmf.net/performer/son-yambu/ will be bringing the red hot rhythms of Cuban streets straight to Malaysia, during the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching this weekend! See my coverage of earlier editions of this outstanding festival here http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/rainforest-world-music-festival-day-three-a-celebration-with-dance/.

They play authentic ‘son Cubano’ – the essential Afro-Cuban music that originated in the streets of eastern Cuba at the turn of the last century. Son is a fusion of Spanish and African rhythms and is the root of all salsa music. Formed in 2011, Son Yambu feature a new generation of mainly Cuban musicians who are all passionate about maintaining the traditions of the genre, continuing the Buena Vista legacy that put Cuban music back on the map in 1997. Son Yambu have recently released their debut CD – ‘La Maravilla’.

Most of the band members hail from Santiago De Cuba, the birthplace of Cuban son, and have the effortless musicianship that only professionalism and passion bring. They join Jazzuality in this exclusive interview on their music, instruments and creative journey!

What was the vision behind founding of your group?
The aim of vision on the band was to keep Cuban son alive to move it forward and develop the Buena Vista tradition. At that particular time in London, there were many Cuban musicians but none of them were playing son Cubano and the world needs more of this beautiful music which is why Son Yambu came together.

Son refers to the genre of the music. Yambu is a rhythm taken from Cuban Rhumba and reflects the African element of Cuban music. We all met on the London music scene where there’s a growing Cuban ex-pat community. Through playing together, our music is quite improvised.

Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?
Benny Moré, Arsenio Rodríguez, Sierra Maestra, Los Van Van.

 

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What is the profile of some of the artistes you perform with?
On vocals, and minor percussion, Yuri is an accomplished international singer with a sparkling personality, having performed with the likes of Cachaito of the Buena Vista Social Club. She is a born entertainer, and aficionados have likened her to a young Celia Cruz. The brilliant Oscar Vazquez Romero on trés and backing vocals is another high-class performer.

Yambu’s rhythm section boasts the extraordinary talents of Reynaldo Crespo on bass, Rene ‘Menique’ Savigne on congas and Toby Herschmann on timbales. They’re the force that drives the music along. And soaring above it all, there are the trumpets of Victor Hechevarria and Jaro Barnik. See more details on our website http://www.sonyambu.com/epk.html.

How would you describe your musical journey and genres over the years?
We are maintaining the legacy of son Cuban music. There’s room for everything in the industry – for purists and fusion. Music has constantly evolved by absorbing different outside elements but it is also important to preserve the music in its traditional form.

What new album or video are you working on now?
We’re working on a new album which we hope to record in July. We are currently editing a video which was recorded live at BBC Radio 3 studios in London.

What have been your previous highlights in playing at live concerts?
There have been many concerts but some of the highlights would include playing at the Shetland Folk Festival. It was an amazing festival and an amazing small island community. The Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland and The Africa Oyé Festival in Liverpool were other highlights.

Which musicians from other countries have you collaborated with?
During the Shetland Folk Festival, in the evenings, all the musicians would get together and play. There were some fantastic collaborations. We played with bluegrass musicians from the Southern United States and folk musicians from Ireland and Canada.

How does your composition process work?
Typically, a band member will bring an idea to a rehearsal. We’ll then kick it around for a bit. Our bass player and musical director would then arrange it and we would develop it further through playing in rehearsals.

Do you also teach workshops for students/musicians?
Yes, we love to teach and do so on a regular basis in various schools.

 

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What can we expect to hear at your upcoming performance in Malaysia?
Some songs will be from our forthcoming release, some will be from our old album ‘La Maravilla’ and some will be re-arrangements from our traditional repertoire. It will be a varied programme with songs that will reflect the rich diversity of Cuban music!

Tell us about the more unusual instruments you have in your ensemble.
We have the trés which is like a Cuban guitar or mandolin – sometimes referred to in Cuba as the poor man’s piano) – playing the distinctive arpeggiated figures that give son its distinctive sound. The music also features percussion (congas/ bongos / timbales) – which reflect the African heritage of son.

How has the Internet and mobile media affected your music?
It’s easier to communicate directly with and reach a wider audience, and that has changed the music industry greatly over recent years.

What kinds of messages do you convey in your music?
Our music is about life with its every day ups and downs rather than being political as such.

Do you have any piece of advice you want to give to aspiring musicians?
Stick with it, follow your heart, study its traditions — and most of all enjoy it!

Interviewed by: Madanmohan Rao
Editor & DJ; World music & Jazz
Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com

Photos are taken from Son Yambu’s EPK: http://www.sonyambu.com/epk.html

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