Monday, after spending a luxurious day at home and not setting a foot outside the door all day, I got an invitation to join El Charangon at Abdala studios, where they were recording one song.
When I got there at 8-ish, in the control room were Elito, Aisar, Sinsonte, Emilio, Gretchen and Pachy (piano).
Unlike the rustic Egrem studios in Centro Habana, Abdala in Miramar is pretty spiffy. The studio itself is an enormous room with a cream floor and lots of gleaming glass sliding doors. The control room has enormous speakers embedded into the wall and there is a black and white monitor with its camera focused on the microphone in the studio. The Egrem studios, by contrast, are housed in an old building on San Miguel, and just about everything with the exception of the Macs, looks like it dates back to the original construction.
When I got there, most of song was done, and Emilio was just about to drop in some guias. He was full of enthusiasm inside the control room, but once he got behind the mic, he had trouble nailing the inflection and the melody, and he quickly lost patience with himself. It was interesting to see “El niño”, who often appears to be bossing around the older guys who have tenure in the band on stage, lose his cool and flub take after take. Aisar patiently sang him the line as it should be sung from the control room over and over but eventually went into the studio and said, look, just sing it along with me.
Emilio got it of course, and the other lines, which he also struggled with a bit. It was interesting to hear his voice alone, without the instruments. It is itself a fine instrument, with a soulful raw edge that begs to be listened to. Sinsonte also dropped in some harmonies, but Aisar left the task of directing him to Emilio - more comfortable now in his role of bossing around his superiors - and Pachy, while he worked on some notation on his laptop.
Elito, who does a rollcall of Cuban groups and singers in the middle of the song, suddenly realised he’d mentioned Formell and Roberton but not Mayito, and quickly re-did his bit with the addition of Rivera. You don’t want to leave anyone out, he said, or the next time they see you they go, Alexander Abreu, and not me???!
When I asked what the song was called, Aisar, who had got up early and had had a long day working on various projects said, “Don’t ask me that.”
Salsa Mayor were starting their Monday peña back at Cafe Cantante and Yarima and I had decided to go.
It was excruciating.
The night’s entertainment, starting at, I don’t know, sometime after 1am, began with Leo, of Piso 6 and Klimax, singing a ballad to a backing track, much to the bemusement of most of the foreigners present. I didn’t mind: he has a lovely voice, and he followed it with the Klimax song Cuatro balas, which was much better. He left the stage and then - sigh - comedians. For 30 minutes. Maybe longer. Lots of jokes about jinteros and foreigners. After that, some guy from Las Cuatro sang to a backing track - would this “entertainment” never end?
Then: some kind of competition with people from the audience. I don’t know what - I was busy banging my head against a wall. Actually I was talking to the very entertaining trombone player from SM who looks like an extra from Neighbours. There may also have been some ogling of Yordi.
Sometime after 2, Salsa Mayor finally came on. By then, I wasn’t really interested: I was tired, my feet were sore, and I was in no mood to have Cuba libres sloshed on me by dancing drunks. I stayed upright for Pa cualquiera, and one by Michel (Repite, I think) then sat down for the rest of the set. At 3.20 (that’s a.m., guys) I got up for Se acabó el amor. Song, great; Yordi, awesome. Next step: taxi home and bed.