Sea of music

After many years of singing and sharing music around the Mediterranean, the fact that I won a prize in Cuba meant the beginning of something that, initially, for me, seemed difficult; looking for a way of establishing a dialogue, a musical path, finding a sea of music on the other side of the world and recording an album there.

The process has been long and today, after nearly 50 years of living with music, the dream has come true.

The best anniversary I could have was to enter into this different reality hand in hand with these extraordinary musicians. What impressed me was the artistic quality and their commitment, the shared joy and creativity, the improvised wisdom. Every moment, from the first days of rehearsal to the recording, became a way of leaving aside all the obstacles and chatting musically in a flowing manner between what is Mediterranean and what is Cuban: Jorge Reyes and his Latin-Jazz group, the country music group Cuerdas del Monte, José Mª Vitier and all those who have come to collaborate such as Mª Victòria, El Tosco, Pancho Amat, Enrique Pérez Mesa. Together we have been able to discover that in our musical, poetic and human traditions we have many things that bring us together; and above all we have left to one side certain musical routines, entering wholeheartedly into an exciting creative ritual.

On my first trip to Cuba I discovered its rural music and I realised that we share many harmonies, that its instrumentation and poetic construction of the verses in some dances and tunes was very similar to the popular songs of Mallorca. This helped me come closer to them and sing them. The two rural numbers, Zapateo and Amorosa guajira, which were just musical pieces, were given the lyrics of songs I found in the Cançoner popular de Mallorca (Mallorca popular song book) by Pare Ginard that spoke of Cuba in relation to the textile or tobacco trade, of love affairs, of falling in love…

With the Danza de fin de siglo by José Mª Vitier I did something similar. It is a composition of his without song, just music. When I first heard it I immediately saw it as a song, and though that we could write a poem that spoke of Havana. With Albert Garcia we wrote,

“A wounded city, where it seems everything is life!” I had never heard it live. Listening to it in this way, in his emotive and inspiring interpretation I was bold enough to ask his permission to commit that “sacrilege”. Meanwhile, I was lucky that José Mª Vitier came to Palma to give a concert in the Auditori. He liked the idea and even wanted to be on the album doing the arrangements of his two songs himself as well as playing the piano.

The moment of truth of all that work was when, on starting rehearsals in the studio, I saw that those who listened to it did so totally naturally. So much so that they said to me that from now on in Cuba perhaps they would also want to sing those songs. There could not have been a better response. Perhaps those scores could be turned into “return” songs, there and back. There’s really nothing I would like more. Time will tell.

The first time I went to Cuba it was winter, in January. There, close to the house where we rehearsed, in a neighbouring garden, I saw very close to me, for the first time, hummingbirds dancing in and out of the flowers. Also on a trip to the Vall it seemed like I was taking in a part of paradise.

Meantime, during the month of May that the recording of Ultramar lasted, while we were coming and going from between the hotel and the studio, we were accompanied by the flamboyant spring, massive trees dressed in pink and white flowers, and the sunflowers that filled the small markets in the city and which brought the sun into the studio.

I am extremely grateful to all the companions on this voyage and I wanted this Ultramar to be able to bring us together many times. In this encounter we have connected our ways of making music, creating a very particular language, never doubting for a moment. A journey of musicians and emotions between seas.

It has been wonderful for me to come closer to this island and its people who I admire so much for their culture and courage.

Maria del Mar Bonet

Walking by Habana, May 2016

With Cuban musicians during the recording of the album, Havana May 2016

Tour Ultramar

October 8, 2017, Teatre Principal de València

October 13, 2017, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona

October 15, 2017, Teatro Fernando Fernán-Gómez, Madrid

October 18, 2017, Teatre Principal de Palma, Mallorca

March 10, 2018, Teatre l’Atlàntida, Vic