As a follow up to our Carib album review we present a Q&A with David Sánchez expanding on some topics around this wonderful project, which is already garnering attention and critical acclaim from writers, cultural journalists and followers in general.
LJN: The concept of Caribeanness and cultural identity has always been present in your music and on this album you’ve been inspired by melodies and rhythms coming from the Afro Puerto Rican and Haitian tradition, finding deep connections and similarities between them. Tell me about this experience.
DS: It has been a fascinating experience and I’ve learnt so much. I’ve always felt the connection between the African diaspora musical traditions which others often view as totally different genres. But when I go further back in history and get tuned in with the folk elements within the music, it still amazes me how clearly connected we are.
Carib is for you a deeply personal journey, in which you honor the memory of your father, Dimas and especially of your late wife Karla. At the same time you pay tribute to all Afro descendant communities who have helped define your music. Please share your thoughts about this journey.
This amazing journey has been very emotional, regarding my attempt to pay tribute to my father and wife. At the same time, it has been filled with excitement, intrigue and spiritual vibrations that have touched me in so many unexpected ways. It was inspiring listening to both, Puerto Rico and Haiti’s rhythms and following the music’s flow.
Carib is what I call a recording of epic proportions. It is the product of extensive research, with a very definite theme, a modern suite based on tradition, history, cultural identity. It’s being released at a very important time in human history. Can you expand on this topic?
I’m in total agreement when you say that “it has been released at an important time in our history”. We live in an era filled with a lot of available information and tools to stay connected, but sadly we will probably go down in history as the most uninformed by choice. This is an era in which media dictates the lightning fast pace of information that we are unable to retain because of its mass and speed. Tomorrow all is forgotten, and, therefore, we often end up in the same place.
Listening to Carib from beginning to end, I could sense an almost cinematic feel in some of the compositions. Later on I read that the compositions “Fernando’s Theme” and “Canto” are featured in the soundtrack of the film “Windows on the World” by Robert Mailer Anderson. Did you write them specifically for the movie?
The song “Fernando’s Theme” was specifically written for the “Windows on the World” soundtrack. Canto was written a little before, but was a prelude and the threshold to the album’s connection with the film. Ultimately both carrying a similar message – the struggles of the oppressed and our struggles attempting to connect with one another.
Can you share the inner stories of some of the other songs in the album, like Madriga, The Land of Hills, Iwa (Contemplation and Spirit go back home).
“Madigra” as well as ” The Land of Hills” both have been inspired by the Carnival from Loiza, also called Fiestas De Santiago in Puerto Rico and Band “Madigra” (Mardi Gras in creole) street music festivities in Haiti. They celebrate the idiosyncrasies, disappointments, happiness and hopes of the countries, but each is a narrative story on people’s daily lives. Ultimately, these songs bring people’s own stories to the forefront. “Iwa”, both of them are about my experience facing the truth of mortality.
Let’s talk about the band you put together for this project. Luis Perdomo, Ricky Rodríguez, Obed Calvaire, Lage Lund, Markus Schwartz and Jhan Lee Aponte.
This particular band is truly amazing. Not only because of each individual’s incredible skills, but because of their ability to adjust to any given situation. It all comes down to our ability to listen even when we might have a different perspective, that’s what often keeps the communication channels open.
You are a dedicated educator. Tell me about that very important aspect of your professional development.
I’ve been teaching for some time now. At first, I started doing master classes and short residencies. The longest one was at the Conservatory of Puerto Rico, for almost ten years. I think is important to share with the next generation my three decades of experience as an artist. It is fulfilling being able to help students develop, and also fascinating to witness their development as they strive to find their own voices and tell their own stories.
I’m the artist in residence at Georgia State University, a new full time position which started on August 2018. I’m very excited about this position because in the 2019 Fall, I’ll be starting my own composition course, along with a contemporary Pan African ensemble.
We’re living a time of redefinition of old concepts and ideas; it is sort of a new revolution in all aspects of the human experience. We keep fighting for freedom, justice, equality, diversity, plurality and acceptance. We keep fighting against racism, male dominance, sexual abuse. Your mission is “to make others feel good through art”, and you “see, music as the prayer through which the world heals itself”. Can you expand on this mission?
Music definitely heals the soul and even can help us physically as well. The act of listening brings a state of mind in which we can truly relate as humans in a very fundamental way. When we’re really listening, we become part of the music and in that process, we are letting go of our egos.
With Carib you are adding your voice -a very important one- to a chorus of musicians who have released projects exploring the interconnectedness of the Afro-Caribbean traditions and cultures. Elio Villafranca (Caribbean Tinge, Cinque) and Etienne Charles (Carnival – The Sound of a People Vol. 1) Come to mind. Do you feel this is your finest project to date?
Honestly, it’s hard to tell because I feel like past albums, especially “Melaza,” “Coral,” even “Cultural Survival,” to name a few, are very much connected and in some ways “Carib” embodies the story contained in some of those albums. The difference is that I’m not necessarily approaching it as an Afro Caribbean project, but more like a Pan African group with influences from the diaspora through the Americas, and focusing on the lineage they all share.