Silvio Rodríguez with Diákara
The legendary Cuban singer-songwriter finally releases “Silvio Rodríguez con Diákara”, the “lost” album he began recording 30 years ago in Mexico with the jazz-rock supergroup Diákara.
Silvio Rodríguez (Havana, 1946) is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures of Latin American singer-songwriters of all time. Songs such as “Ojalá”, “Playa Girón”, “Unicornio” and “La maza” are part of the collective imagination of millions of Spanish speakers around the world. The maximum representative of the Nueva Trova movement, his record production spans almost five decades and more than 40 albums including collaborations… But there was still a jewel that has been more than 30 years in the making and that today finally sees the light of day.
This is how Silvio Rodríguez himself explains it:
This album was recorded in 1991, in the studios of the PolyGram label on Miguel Ángel de Quevedo Avenue -in Coyoacán-, Mexico City. It was recorded by the young engineer Francisco Miranda, with the assistance of Miguel Ángel Bárzagas, who did the live sound for us. We arrived there a bit tired, eager to get home, as we had just finished a tour of Aztec cities. There were only three or four morning sessions in which we managed to record 10 songs, thanks to the training from the tour. In one morning I did 8 of the vocals you can hear here. The other two I managed to do twenty years later, in the Ojalá studios in Havana, when I took up this work again to finally publish it.
These recordings have been through many tribulations and have generated many adventures. They were originally recorded with very specific sound reducers, equipment that was connected to the recorders in use at the time. In Cuba there was no such technology and whenever we played the tapes we always heard an unpleasant chalky sound in the foreground. This made us realise the need to look for what we were missing, in order to mix with the highest possible quality.
One day we were told about a brand new studio in another country that “had everything”. We got in touch, but they didn’t have a sound reducer. However, they promised us to rent it in a third country and that we would have it when we arrived. Then I spoke to Chucho Valdés, who was supposed to play the piano on Venga la Esperanza, since we were using his arrangement, and I proposed that he travel with us to finish the recording.
Chucho, enthusiastic, postponed commitments and got on the plane with us to take us to our destination. But the joy of our arrival faded when the studio told us that they still didn’t have the promised equipment, although they expected it for the following day. That conversation was repeated, identically, for 10 consecutive days until, on the eleventh, with no more resources to continue there, we had to return to Cuba with our two-inch tapes untouched. The good thing about those 11 days was the holidays enjoyed by the great talents who accompanied me.
Since the mid-1980s, I had been proposing in Cuba the idea of building recording studios with state-of-the-art technology. At the end of 1989 we were authorised to create a fund for this purpose, which was inaugurated with the fees from the memorable concert in the National Stadium in Chile in 1990. After concluding my collaboration with Diákara, we acquired a 24-channel multitrack and the elusive sound reducer. As our studios were still a project, we lent both equipment to EGREM, who used them for several years. Thanks to that, in San Miguel Street, in Centrohabana, we managed to complete the recording we had started on Miguel Angel Avenue in Coyoacan.
The reason that for 30 years has encouraged me to return again and again to this work has been its musical quality. Diákara was an exceptional group that in a few months achieved a remarkable solidity and originality. Not long ago, thanks to Emilio Vega -former Diákara and still a close collaborator-, we put a formidable brass string and a couple of clarinets in the Ojalá studios, which “humanised” a sound that was originally made with keyboards.
After 30 years of tireless work on this project, I can finally dedicate it to the memory of the founder of Diákara -one of the greatest drummers Cuba has ever produced-: Oscarito Valdés (Jr.). To him, in his eternity, I thank him for having invited me to inaugurate this rich experience together.
Silvio Rodríguez Domínguez,
Havana, June 2021.