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questions about socialism and government’s now 55-year-rule.
‘‘ I can tell you that some Cubans hate Cuba and want the American dream, and that other Cubans are crazy about the place. For me it’s about music and family.’’ Fonseca recently married his long-time girlfriend; both live with his mother, a singer and former dancer, in the modest three-bedroom home he grew up in.
‘‘ My mum always told me that music must be studied continuously, endlessly. It is like an eternal bride for a musician.’’ A smile. ‘‘ My wife is very understanding.’’
Fonseca’s musical leanings were nurtured early; his father played the drums. His mother was previously married to Chucho Valdes — the great Cuban pianist, bandleader, founder of supergroup Irakere and, arguably, of the Latin jazz genre (‘‘He’s the guy that really put Cuba on the musical map’’).
His two elder half-brothers are a drummer
Castro and a pianist now based in the US and Mexico. ‘‘ My brothers used to play a lot of funk and soul and my mother would be singing bolero and son (the precursor to salsa) all day long. I started off playing drums, and my first job was as a drummer in a Beatles cover band. But what I really loved was heavy rock.’’ He beatboxes a riff. ‘‘ Iron Maiden. Quiet Riot. AC/ DC. I loved the energy, the bass lines.’’
So it was that the adolescent Fonseca got about after school in tassels, tight jeans, a studded Cuban army belt and, quite possibly, his mother’s eyeliner.
‘‘ Then one weekend I was in the kitchen having lunch and listening to heavy metal, really loud,’’ he says, ‘‘ when suddenly the cassette clicked off and I felt this peace. I was like, ‘ Whoa, what was I just listening to?’ And then my tastes changed; I discovered the piano, and Keith Jarrett, and jazz.’’
And while at present he’s listening to a lot of electronica and dubstep (‘‘I’m trying to compose some acoustic dubstep; it’s a risk’’), he’d still like to make a big stompy rock album one day: ‘‘ An Emerson, Lake & Palmer kind of thing, but don’t tell anyone.’’ Just as he wouldn’t mind getting into movie acting; there have been several offers, but he says he is biding his time.
‘‘ I want to be the guy who saves the world with a couple of words and a look,’’ he jokes, arching an eyebrow. ‘‘ The quiet guy who resolves everything, and doesn’t talk too much.’’
I suggest he is more political than he’d have us think, what with tracks such as 7 Rayos paying homage to the Palo Mayombe religion of the Yoruba people, who were taken from Africa to Cuba in the slave trade — and featuring some sonorous spoken words by the proudly Afro-Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen.
Fonseca nods, smiles. ‘‘ I love the poetry of Guillen, but not only because it is political. I love it because it is rhythmic; it has a wonderful cadence.
‘‘ 7 Rayos is the most important song I have ever done in my life,’’ he says, ‘‘ because it is the song where I change the way I compose.’’
He fishes his smartphone from his jeans pocket, searches for the song and presses play. ‘‘ I was feeling the melody and the impulse and the vibe and trying to create a bridge between African tradition and electronica,’’ he says as music — his own music — blares around him.
‘‘ So I added African instruments like the ngoni (lute) and kora (harp) alongside percussion from Cuba; I used some of the classical influences I have, and the voice of Guillen. I put all these things in one track. Now every time I hear the song, I think, ‘ This is where I moved forward.’ ’’ He pauses, smiles. ‘‘ Do you like it?’’ I love it, I say. ‘‘ Si,’’ he says with a grin. what I do.’’
‘‘ So do I. I love