Alain Pérez. Pure Cuban Style in his DNA

THE CUBAN SINGER AND MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST WILL SHARE THE MU­SIC THAT RUNS IN HIS BLOOD DUR­ING THE 20TH EDI­TION OF THE HA­BANO FES­TI­VAL

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - CONTENTS - BY / ANA MARÍA DOMÍNGUEZ CRUZ PHOTO / AN­TO­NIO HERNÁN­DEZ

He was born next to the ham­mock his grand­fa­ther used to swing him in while singing lul­la­bies and smok­ing cigars. That's by and large one of the fond­est child­hood mem­o­ries he cher­ishes. “That aroma al­ways takes me back to those days when I was sit­ting on his lap, lis­ten­ing to his songs and sto­ries,” he says.

In Manaza Iz­naga, near Trinidad, he dis­cov­ered –when he was just a kid- that mu­sic was run­ning in his blood. And even though some peo­ple are sur­prised to­day by his pow­er­ful pitched voice, the fact of the mat­ter is that be­fore he learned to play coun­try­side mu­sic on a gui­tar his par­ents gave him as a gift –and long be­fore tak­ing stud­ies on gui­tar and other in­stru­ments se­ri­ously- Alain Perez cut his mu­si­cal teeth by singing songs.

He was only nine years old when he trav­eled to Cien­fue­gos to put his vo­cal skills to the test and he never came back home. He started there in the chil­dren's group Cielito Lindo, at a time when he didn't know that mu­sic calls for sac­ri­fice, ded­i­ca­tion ef­fort and dis­ci­pline. As time rolled on, he fo­cused on aca­demic gui­tar stud­ies and since “the voice is the best in­stru­ment you have to spread out ev­ery­thing that's in your heart,” he rounded out some of his friends at the Na­tional School of Art and founded Alain y su Sín­copa.

Alain Perez started out on the mu­si­cal road with both suc­cess and recog­ni­tion when sheer luck put Chu­cho Valdes be­fore him with the pro­posal to join Irakere as a singer and key­boardist. That was just the door. Then he was in­vited to play bass for Isaac Del­gado, and so his in­ter­est in play­ing other in­stru­ments be­came a re­al­ity.

De­safío was the first solo al­bum Alain Perez launched in Spain as he de­cided that time was right to do so. He wrapped up the road tour with Isaac Del­gado and his mu­si­cians and he set out on a mu­si­cal ad­ven­ture that gave him not only the op­por­tu­nity to re­lease his En el aire, Apeteci­ble and Hablando con Juana al­bums, but also the chance to learn from and spend valu­able time with big-time mu­si­cians from dif­fer­ent gen­res.

“You'll wind up singing,” mae­stro Paco de Lu­cia once told him, some­one Alain Perez worked with as a bassist for over ten years, the same per­son who rubbed off the fla­menco pas­sion on him, some­thing not so vis­i­ble in his songs, but rather in his com­po­si­tions and ar­range­ments.

He was yearn­ing to re­turn to Cuba and the pass­ing of the beloved Span­ish gui­tarist was the rea­son he clung to. Alain Perez came back to his home­land to con­tinue mak­ing mu­sic his way of life, to carry on the legacy and tra­di­tion of the great croon­ers he looks up to, and to make a con­tri­bu­tion of his own to the mu­sic scene. So he did in 2016 dur­ing the 18th Ha­bano Fes­ti­val. That marked his de­but pre­sen­ta­tion in this event and he ad­mits he was lucky”to share the stage with such mu­si­cal heavy­weights as Chu­cho Valdes and Uruguayan song­writer Jorge Drexler. “I need to make mu­sic be­cause that makes me happy. I thank mu­sic for who I am and what I've done. To ge­niuses like Miguel Mata­moros, Ce­leste Men­doza, Arse­nio Ro­dríguez, Celia Cruz, Juan Formell, Benny Moré, Omara Por­tuondo and oth­ers, I take my hat off in re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion. For that mo­ral and spir­i­tual com­mit­ment I ac­quired after drink­ing from their knowl­edge, and even shared the stage with many of them, I'm very care­ful with my lyrics and melodies, just to be at ease with my­self and of­fer the pub­lic plenty of rea­sons to re­mem­ber my songs ten or fif­teen years from now.” Alain Perez is tire­less when it comes to look­ing for his own sound, a beat that could make a dif­fer­ence in the Cuban mu­si­cal sce­nario. His lat­est al­bum, DNA, comes closer to what he re­ally wants.“that CD strength­ens the sound I showed in the pre­vi­ous al­bum, yet it's far more Cuban in style, has more en­ergy from this coun­try and this peo­ple, be­cause it's an al­bum en­tirely recorded and pro­duced in Cuba,”he says. “This is the al­bum of my 40s. It is blessed not by a re­cent Grammy Awards nom­i­na­tion, but be­cause in one of the tracks I sing a duet with Omara Por­tuondo, and be­cause I'm joined by mu­si­cians like Rubén Blades, Gua­jiro Mira­bal, Bar­bar­ito Tor­res, El Micha, Wil­liam Roblejo, Rolando Luna, clar­inetist Co­qui... all top-notch mu­si­cians. This is the al­bum in which I re­lease what I want to do, the one in which I put ev­ery­thing on the line for the Alain Perez sound,” he says. His fa­ther, Grade­lio Pérez, has been for the most part the scriptwriter of this mu­si­cal story Alain con­tin­ues to en­joy. He's the song­writer that, even when he com­bines his style with that of Sancti Spir­itu's crooner Juan An­to­nio Gómez Gil, he gives it a hall­mark of his own to those tunes his son fights for. He's deeply in­volved in ev­ery­thing linked to mu­sic and au­then­tic­ity. That's why his per­for­mance dur­ing the 20th Ha­bano Fes­ti­val will in­clude his song en­ti­tled Bemba Colorá –a cut from his lat­est al­bum- and a trio of new tunes he'll be singing in pub­lic for the first time. “When you make mu­sic from the heart, when you're happy shar­ing the Cuban iden­tity of the DNA that runs in your blood, noth­ing can stop me.”

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