Eight years have passed since Ethiel Faílde (he’s the great-great-nephew of the musical creator of the danzón Miguel Faílde) and a group of talented musicians created in 2012 the Orquesta Miguel Faílde, later known as Orquesta Faílde, and today simply called La Faílde by his loyal admirers in the province of Matanzas, through the island of Cuba and throughout the world. Made up of young musicians, La Faílde has earned its very important place in the wide Cuban artistic scene. In fact, they have become a musical benchmark, an example to follow when combining talent, artistic education, hard work and passion and love for the work that is done, without forgetting of course the decisive support of the musical industry and cultural organizations. This explosive mix makes anything possible, and when we add the promotional component now available through social media, from platforms that help artists make themselves known worldwide, the result has to be encouraging and positive.
Faílde con Tumbao is the third album recorded by this magnificent ensemble, under the Egrem label. Recently released to the market only in digital format, due to the restrictions imposed globally by the pandemic we are experiencing, it will be offered in compact disc format when conditions allow. Now, this album was released with only eight songs, which does not diminish its quality and content at all, but my first impression when I heard it was to keep waiting for more songs. The reason is that a decision was taken to avoid delaying the launching of the album and two songs that were still unfinished will be included in the physical edition of the album. One theme will be La Faílde’s version and vision of “Nereidas”, the most famous of the Mexican danzones, and the other theme will be a surprise.
Ethiel Fernández Faílde, flutist, arranger and director of La Faílde told us about this project: “This album shows like no other the breadth of genres and styles that La Faílde assumes in its live performances, with a repertoire that covers more than one century of Cuban music. In this case the time counter begins in 1883, when Miguel Faílde writes the danzón “Nievecita” and continues to the present day with themes specially conceived for this album.” The fact that this is the first time this beautiful song is recorded is remarkable. “By 2012 (almost at the same time that we founded the orchestra) we began this ‘archaeological’ work in the archives of the National Museum of Music. We found several scores of Miguel and his brother Cándido. I felt as if Faílde himself was telling me: here is my legacy so that you can show it to the world, from one Faílde to another Faílde, this is my challenge for you. From the danzón “Nievecita” we only found the melody, with reminiscences of the classical style and a playful and naive air. I made the orchestration and defined the harmonic progression. I was tempted to add a montuno, make everything more complex, but in the end I preferred to respect the tradition and its concept of structure and melody. I took very few liberties, especially in the last part to achieve an unexpected closing effect.”
There is a very important component in this project that has to do with that indispensable task of rescuing musical history, promoting the heritage of Cuban music. In this regard, Ethiel talks about how “that rescue work, the promotion of the Cuban music heritage is vital for us, as much as “creating” new hits or showing our contributions. Miguel Faílde Pérez, despite being the musical creator of the danzón, has been known during the second half of the 20th century and until today, solely as the author of “Las Alturas de Simpson”, a widely known danzón. Something similar occurs with (José Manuel) Aniceto Díaz, also from Matanzas, who is one of the most outstanding creators of dance music, outstanding flutist, composer, conductor and pedagogue. That is why we have practically done archaeological work with the scores of both, and we want to record and include in each album something of those authors, in addition to showing our own creations. We also bet on high-quality versions, the music today is very ephemeral, everything is diluted very quickly between what is fashionable and so much poor quality content.”
There are many elements to highlight in the creation and completion of this successful project. The guest musicians, the arrangers, starting with Alejandro Falcón, who has collaborated closely with La Faílde throughout many years. Falcón was in charge of arranging four songs: “Esas no son Cubanas”, a classic by Ignacio Piñero; “Me desordeno”, a poem by Carilda Oliver Labra, set to music by Pedro Pablo Cruz; who also contributes two songs of his authorship: “La Cumbanchá” and “Tumbao”. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, one of the most renowned and internationally recognized Cuban pianists, is responsible for arranging the theme that opens this album, “Concierto en Varsovia”; José Antonio González made the arrangement for “Havana”, an international hit of recent times in a hot and very Cuban version. Ethiel Faílde and José Antonio González collaborate in the arrangement of “Nievecita”, written by Miguel Faílde in 1883; Yosvany Terry, brilliant saxophonist, chékere virtuoso, visionary composer and educator based in the United States was in charge of arranging “It do me good”.
It is worth noting the work of Pedro Pablo Cruz in the general and executive production for Egrem, as well as in the musical production, which he shares with Ethiel Failde and Ignacio “Nacho” Molino. Pedro Pablo accurately explains to us that “La Faílde is at a time when it is important to incorporate a new repertoire and not just do the great danzón classics of traditional music, now we need songs that people will hear for the first time in La Faílde, with the format of this young orchestra that defends the danzón, that defends the best essences of Cuban music, but that also has the mission of being a musical bridge and a generational bridge between all Cubans and all of us who love our music.”
One of the songs that shines with its own light on this album is undoubtedly “Me desordeno”, a literary gem written by poet Carilda Oliver Labra brought to the musical field by Pedro Pablo Cruz. It was recorded in 2017 and now it has found its very appropriate place in Faílde con Tumbao. This leads us to talk about the splendid participation of the special guests. First of all we have the incomparable Omara Portuondo. Pedro Pablo talks about her and about the special song that she was invited to sing: “Talking one day with Omara, I told her about the poem and she tells me that she has a special affection for that text and for Carilda Oliver. This was the opportunity also because the poem celebrated a milestone anniversary in 2017 and in 2018 Carilda turned 95 years old, so we set ourselves to the task of bringing that to a melody that was conceived specially for Omara. She has an extraordinary facility for halftones, to play with the tempo (rubato), to extend her voice to unimaginable, unsuspected places.”
“Me desordeno”, with an arrangement by Alejandro Falcón, is a captivating danzón that opens with tango airs, and then segues into an inebriating cha cha chá. A true tribute to Carilda Oliver. For Ethiel Faílde at that time, having the participation of the Lady of Cuban Song was the realization of a big dream: “It was really a privilege to have the great Omara Portuondo, the diva of the Buena Vista Social Club and for me she is a very personal diva… I had been searching for a long time how to get to Omara, and with what theme, and that I had been given the opportunity to have her sing this poem (which is also so important for us the people from Matanzas and for Cuban culture) by Carilda Oliver, putting it to music and somehow reaching other audiences, other than just literature, was a big dream that we finally realized.”
Then we have the participation of one of the icons of the island of Borinquen, the legendary singer-songwriter Andrés Montañez Rodríguez, better known as Andy Montañez. His 15 years with El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico made him an international star, and his duet performance of Ignacio Piñeiro’s “Esas no son Cubanas” with Yurisán Hernández adorns this album.
Two virtuous musicians, the Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos, and the Cuban pianist Alejandro Falcón are in charge of giving a touch of elegance and sophistication to the theme that opens this album, “Concierto en Varsovia”. A trumpet giant, Julito Padrón, from Matanzas, is responsible for raising an original and very Cuban version of “Havana” to another level. Impossible not to get carried away by its contagious rhythm.
“Faílde con Tumbao allows us to better show the identity of the orchestra, the musicians have matured more, understand the dynamics of the studio and have lived many enriching experiences such as international presentations and musical accompaniment to Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba. This chapter in particular forced us to look at other musical references and practices that have made us grow,” says Ethiel Faílde, who also believes without a doubt that “in addition to the sound of La Faílde, the format, in this album you can better appreciate the work of our vocalists (Yerlanis Junco and Yurisán Hernández), the timbres and styles of each one contribute to seal the identity of the group. Although we think of a global recipient, on this album “la matanceridad” is very present, we are proud to be from Matanzas, the land of White, Faílde, Pérez Prado, Frank Domínguez, the land where Arsenio Rodríguez, Barbarito Diez, Celina González, Ernesto Duarte were born, the land of the Sonora Matancera and rumba capital with Los Muñequitos de Matanzas as emblem. That is very present from the cover and to the selection of the repertoire. Matanzas is our starting point, we feel like ambassadors of that land and successors of a legacy.”
Ethiel explains that in this project they have given special attention to the sound. Although there is a lot of musical quality in Cuba and the vitality of its exponents is impressive, it should be noted that the technique of recording and post-production of the sound has not necessarily gone hand in hand. “That is why this material is enriched with the vision of Ignacio” Nacho “Molino and Alex Psroudakis who assumed the jobs of mixing and mastering, respectively. They took the sound of La Faílde to another level, starting of course with the essential recording work of Daelsis Pena at Egrem’s studios in Cuba. Nacho and Alex are multiple Grammy Awards winners and have worked with artists such as Rubén Blades and Joan Manuel Serrat, just to mention two names. There is no doubt that his ears and experience have been vital for the realization of this project.”
To conclude this conversation Ethiel expresses the following: “In summary, Faílde with Tumbao shows the evolution of the Faílde Orchestra in the last five years. Our very first album was recorded in 2015, and our previous studio work Siempre tu voz was more a commission, a petition from Egrem to celebrate the centenary of Benny Moré, which involved a work more focused on the work of that great artist and to support Omara Portuondo, who was the main protagonist of that phonogram. This album is more what we are and want to be, there are versions of the songs that we like the most [“Concierto en Varsovia”, “Havana”, “Esas no son cubanas”, “It do me good”]; there are premieres [“La Cumbanchá”, “Tumbao”]; and you can appreciate the rescue work and promotion of Cuban heritage and musical memory [in songs like “Nievecita” and Me desordeno”].”
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Editor’s Pick · Featured Album
Track list – 1: Concierto en Varsovia (Richard Addinsell/Roy Douglas); 2: Esas no son Cubanas (Ignacio Piñeiro); 3: Havana (Camila Cabello y various authors); 4: Me desordeno (lyrics: Carilda Oliver/music: Pedro Pablo Cruz); 5: Nievecita (Miguel Faílde/Ethiel Faílde); 6: It do me good (Brenda Brandony Huey “Piano” Smith); 7: La Cumbanchá (Pedro Pablo Cruz); 8: Tumbao (Pedro Pablo Cruz).
Personnel – Orquesta Faílde – Ethiel Faílde: Flauta; Yurisán Hernández: main voice on 2, 8 and choirs; Yerlanis Junco: main voice on 3, 6, 7 and choirs; Roldany Hernández: piano on 2, 3, 5, 6; Andy Cantera: double bass on 5, 6, and electric bass on 1 and 3; Rosalí Bazán y Roldany Hernández: violins; Katerina Pérez: second violin on 5, 8, 11; Lucio Carriera: tumbadora on all tracks except 3; Rey Manuel Silveira: timbales on all tracks except 3 and 8; Manuel Alejandro Acosta: trumpets; Adrián Peña: trombone; Mario Rodríguez: alto sax and clarinet; Wilbert Tarajano: choirs; Pedro Pablo Cruz: choirs.
Special Guests – Omara Portuondo: main voice – Me desordeno; Andy Montañez: main voice – Esas no son Cubanas; Federico Britos: violin – Concierto en Varsovia; Julito Padrón: trumpet – Havana; Alejandro Falcón: piano – Concierto en Varsovia.
Arrangers – Alejandro Falcón: 2, 4, 7 y 8; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Concierto en Varsovia; José Antonio González: Havana; Ethiel Faílde y José Antonio González: Nievecita; Yosvany Terry: It do me good.
Guests Musicians – Alejandro Falcón: piano on 1, 4, 7 y 8; Lázaro Rivero (El Fino): double bass on 4; Andrés Coayo: minor percussion, miscellaneous and güiro on all tracks; timbales on 3 and 12; Lázaro Antonio González (Tonito): first trumpet on 7 and 8; José Antonio González (Tony): keyboards and synthesizers on 1; Jorge Coayo: maracas, tumbadoras on 3; Roberto Vázquez (El chino): baby bass on 2, 7 and 8.
General and Executive Production for EGREM: Pedro Pablo Cruz
Musical Production: Ethiel Faílde, Ignacio “Nacho” Molino y Pedro Pablo Cruz
Musical Direction: Ethiel Faílde
Assistant to the Musical Director: Roldany Hernández
Production Assistant: Osvaldo Pérez and Erioth Curbelo
Selection of Repertoire: Ethiel Faílde and Pedro Pablo Cruz
Recording: Daelsis Pena, Ana Laura Vilaragut, José Raúl Varona
Recording assistant: Rayco Alejandro Silva
Recording (violin) Federico Britos: José Antulio Mora
Edition: Ignacio “Nacho” Molino, Dayana Rodríguez, Daelsis Pena
Mix: Ignacio “Nacho” Molino
Mastering: Alex Psaroudakis
Most of the album was recorded at Egrem Studios 18, in Havana, between October 2019 and January of this year. Mixing and mastering were done in New York.