Darsi Fernández welcomed me into her house in downtown Havana. It was our first meeting. Singer/songwriter Julieta Venegas, a mutual friend, had encouraged me to contact Darsi. I was in Cuba with the Mexican director Juan Carlos Rulfo to film the Havana Hip-Hop and Rap Festival for a movie project. The festival was a disappointment and a disaster. But meeting Darsi opened us up to a new world of musicians who were underrated, ingenious, and immensely talented. From the first time I stepped into Darsi's house and I saw Haydeé Milanes and Yusa sitting in a corner on the floor, rehearsing “Tanto Amar” – one of the breathtaking songs from Descemer Bueno – I understood that I was witnessing a new generation in the long line of serious Cuban musicians. They're aware of their place in history and committed to their art and their times.
From there, many doors began opening little by little, revealing a rich, original musical world. With each musician I met, my sense of enthusiasm and surprise kept growing. Every get-together, every concert has been a party and a joy. here are the ballads of Haydeé and Descemer, the hip-hop of Telmary, the reggaetón of Candyman, the suaveness of Obsesión, and the freshness of Francis and his incredible energy on stage. That guy exudes adrenaline and showbiz! Then there's the calm, collected persona of the maestro Roberto Carcassés who serves as the head and the orchestrator of this self-described group of “Interactives.”
Kelvis always arrives with a smile and adds flavor to every song. Yusa loves to jam with Kelvis, both of them stubbornly proud of their instrument. Boris, from Spain, sings in key when he says he's got paradise in his sights. And then there are those who rap their opinions – Telmary, the Cool Cool Filin, and the most energetic of them all – Free Hole Negro. They all say what they think, what they want the world to hear and understand – they're a trio of seasoned artists.
I've returned to that isle of discord many times since then and I've always had in mind the idea of putting together a compilation album. Camilo Lara was interested in the idea from the very beginning and immediately titled it Cuba 21 .
These young musicians share a deep passion for what they do. You can feel it and I'm sure that it will insinuate itself into your soul and your blood. Cuba is much more than nostalgic music! And Cuba 21 encapsulates this incredible world of young Cuban musicians, aware of new sounds and dedicated to their artistic work. They refuse to be pigeonholed into what they dub the “Malavista Social Club.”