Sunday, January 16, 2011

1-2-3-agua! In the studio with HdP


On Friday El Charangón went to Trinidad for two nights, and if it hadn’t been my last weekend, I would have gone with them. Or not. Memories of the last trip with them still haven’t quite healed over. It was a tough one. Anyway, it was moot cause I had to do last minute shit in Havana anyway, see people and stuff.

Anyway, I did some of my boring stuff on Friday and tried to find out if Havana D’Primera were still in Egrem or not. Duni called Uyuni for me who said he thought Alexander might have gone to Mexico. Note that: the trumpet player of his group thinks his boss might have gone to Mexico - but he’s not sure. Hilarious. About 6pm I decided to drop by anyway, cause it’s about a five minute walk away from my house. I found Alexander (not in Mexico!), directing Yandy, who had his bass plugged into the console, through a take of Para mi gente - OMG only one of my favourite new songs! (It’s the funky one that goes “Levanta las manos la gente que son de primera”). Amaury - trombones and coros - was there too, and pianist Tony Rodriguez and Rodney Barretto and conguero Guillermo. Yandy kept at it until Amaury looked at his watch and told him it was time for him to go - he had to split for Miramar where he had a matinee with Klimax. These musos are busy little bees. While he’d been doing his take at one end of the tiny room, up the end, an animated conversation about dogbreeds had been taking place. I can not imagine Australian musos recording under those conditions. But hey, dudes, correct me if I’m wrong. (Later Marbis said, “jazz musos wouldn’t do it like that either, but this is just timba.” Ow!)




When he’d gone, Tony, whose piano was also plugged into the desk, did his take for the song. OMG it was so fucking awesome. I love his playing anyway and to be there right next to him playing this fantastic song; watching him try and get it and not quite get it, and just laugh - he never lost it like Revé’s Emilio - man. What an experience. I routinely tell foreigners that come here that Havana D’Primera are the best band in the world. I’m being a little cavalier, but not by much. I love love love Revé. And as soon as Pupy fixes his little cantante crisis (which he may or may not do), I’ll be right back with him too, but HdP is really special for me. Something in their music resonates in me in a way that the music of the others, although I love it, does not. So to be right there in the studio while they were recording was completely thrilling. I know many of us have a lot of amazing experiences here in Havana - it’s why we keep coming back. This one is right at the top for me.

After Tony’s good-natured and awe-inspiring turn, Rodney laid down some drums. As soon as he started hitting the skins everyone just went woah. It’s so cool that they all dig each others playing. They all put in their two cents as well - just as Guillermo and Rodney had directed Tony (with Alexander), so Tony and Amaury were air-drumming to show Rodney which accents he needed to hit.

There was a bit of a lull after that, during which food was ordered, and the air-conditioning was turned up and I fucking froze. Almost everyone left the console room and I was about to as well, when Alexander came in alone, sat down at the desk, put Para mi gente on, took out his iPhone and, reading from the Notes application, sang along to the song.

The three other songs they’re working on, apart from Para mi gente, are Pasaporte, Al final de la vida and Dejame tranquila - which I hadn’t heard before. Alexander says they’ve played it live, but not for about eight weeks, which is just before I got here.


At 9, Alex rang Yandy - he was on his way back from Miramar and arrived soon after, bass in a backpack and a tub of ice cream in his hand. It took him about 10 minutes to nail the bass on Para mi gente, then he was done. He packed away his bass saying Este muchacho esta reventado. He is sooo cute I want to take him home to mum. Anyway, he hung around even though he was reventa’o.

A friend of the band’s arrived with a massive plastic container of pasta salad, which everyone dipped into in a most unhygienic fashion, and also a cake, which apparently was part of a much larger cake left over from some festive occasion. The extremely bright green and blue icing found it’s way over everything - clothing; the door - even the bannister of the stairs through two doors and 50 metres away.

Alex was trying to get Jannier, who wasn’t answering his mobile, as the coros were up next. Enrique arrived first, wearing a big puffy white Team Cuba 98 jacket (it got cold again in the last couple of days, boo). Quite a while later Jannier arrived looking very dapper for a recording session, and a little underdressed in a white jacket and cropped cotton pants. There was a massive bottle of Añejo Especial and Amaury - who would be singing with the other two - was drinking some “to warm up”. Ahem, of course.

I was interested to see they recorded all three coro parts at once, but with three separate mics - I guess so levels could be adjusted later. Pasaporte was first: harmonies and lyrics were tweaked. All three of these songs I’ve seen live had been, until the recording, mostly simple grooves, but extra sections have been added now - more like bridges or middle eights, than any other kind of recogniseable Latin form. Earlier they had been adding some chord progressions to Para mi gente. They were the kind that make me feel all tingly.

The coros took much longer than the other parts had - they sounded great but I was getting cold. And hungry. And a bit tired too. But mostly I was just freezing. When they were happy with Pasaporte, they started on Para mi gente. By now the rum bottle was empty, cups having been improvised out of Tu-kola bottles hacked in two. Alex got the last of it. He was pretty chilled but not losing focus. “Cuidao - desafinacion!” he’d bark. Harold turned up after 11 with Karina from Odduara productions in France. She was wearing an awesome almost ankle length gold knit dress. They were going to Trabuco at Galiano. I’d slept late and missed the gig guide, so I hadn’t realised they were on. It probably cruelled the Monday matinee, but I wasn’t really of a mind to go. Harold put in his two cents, along with everyone else. Karina took some cute pics.

Alex put Para mi gente on loud and got up and started dancing and singing and stamping his feet. When he turned around and saw I was dancing too, he pointed at my feet and said “Mira!”

Throughout the night, I’d seen him looking at me from time to time. Sometimes, he was just looking right through me, totally absorbed in thought. At others, he was clearly looking at me to see my reaction to the music. Most of the time I just had a big stupid grin on my face.

The coristas were still going, but about 12, Yandy decided to go and I decided to go as well, and throw a blanket over me and maybe have some hot milk.

Would have loved to have stayed till the bitter end, but when you start getting icicles on your ears, it’s time to go home.


* Shitty screengrabs are due to the fact that I took video rather than stills. Will youtube it when I get home next week.

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