Eliades Ochoa, the man with the Stetson who became famous with the adventure of the Buena Vista Social Club, pays in his new album Guajiro a vibrant tribute to the "sound", popular and rural music which saw him born in the hills of Italy. Oriente to Cuba. "I was born on an isolated farm, in the hills, five kilometers from the first village", tells AFP this stocky man, superb incarnation of "sound", "a hybrid style which grafts on a base of Spanish romance a polyrhythm and an African type improvisation", according to Fabrice Hatem, specialist in music from the Afro-Caribbean arc. Before becoming a distinguished "soneros", hosting a weekly radio show, "Trinchera Agraria", recording Chan Chan with Compay Segundo, being part of the "Buena Vista" epic, Eliades Ochoa awake to music listening, child, his parents playing.
"I used to listen to my father playing the tres, a guitar with three doubled strings, which is to 'sound' what the accordion is to a musette", recalls this son of a 'guajiro' (peasant from Cuba). “One of my uncles accompanied him on the guitar. I was very attentive to what they were doing, and I was already accompanying them to the maracas,” he says. “And when they went to the fields, I grabbed the instrument and tried to reproduce the sounds I had heard. That's how I discovered the first notes." The one who was then "six or seven years old", claims his roots loud and clear in his new album. "I'm a guajiro," he sings from the second song.
But Eliades Ochoa, whose grandparents left the Basque Country for Cuba in the second half of the 19th century, gives the mountain sounds of his childhood a special sparkle, timbre and luster. Thanks to an eight-string guitar, which he invented at a very young age. This unique instrument allows this minstrel to reproduce the sound of the tres and the classical guitar, which opens up perspectives and enriches his music.
In this new album, “no two songs are alike, I felt the need to bring something different, to themes that are not very complex at the base. That's why we have bolero, guaracha, mambo, merengue, and salsa with guest Ruben Blades, an institution of the genre. "I come from the countryside, but it's not because we are peasants that we are ignorant", underlines the last active musician of the Buena Vista Social Club adventure.
The release in 1999 of Wim Wenders' documentary film on the only two concerts outside Cuba of these Cuban grandpas who came out of oblivion or retirement moved the general public. This page is definitively turned and Eliades Ochoa, installed in Havana, has only rare contacts with the rare survivors of the Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club. “I would like Eliades Ochoa to be remembered as someone who preserved sound, the power of sound, while also bringing a kind of joy to it. I want us to hear this joy, now wishes this spirited man of almost 77 years. If I hadn't been born to be a musician, it would have been better if I hadn't been born," he says. The man whose black outfit and Stetson earned him the nickname of Cuban Johnny Cash, will spread his good humor on stage throughout the year, in Europe, in North America, with an incursion into Morocco and a few stops in France: it will be on view at the Trianon in Paris on May 31 and will return this summer to Sète on July 29.