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
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.”