The U.S. and Cuba formally reestablished diplomatic relations today. Among the American-based Cubans who have been paying close attention to the thawing between the two countries are the members of the musical group Tiempo Libre.
They first met as students at Cuba's musical conservatory, Escuelas Nacionales de Arte, and when they reunited in Miami over 12 years ago, they made it their mission to bring the music and rhythms of Cuba to the world.
Tiempo Libre recently released the album "Panamericano." The band's musical director Jorge Gomez and lead vocalist Xavier Mili join Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti to talk about the mix in cultures they find in their Miami Beach neighborhood, the album and their feelings about Cuba, past and present.
Interview Highlights: Jorge Gomez
On promoting Cuban music in the U.S.
“It’s very difficult, the music itself. You have to be a musician to understand what happens with all those mixes within the harmony and the soul. But somebody has to do good promotion for that music... That’s what we’ve been doing for 13 years.”
On the new album "Panamericano"
“It’s a mix between a lot of culture. The album is about our neighborhood - we live in Miami Beach, and in Miami Beach when you walk on the street, you can find people from Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico. In a block you have five different restaurants from different countries and the album is all about that - how we live together in the same community.”
On the group's training at Cuba's musical conservatory
“All the members of the band, we started together in the same school. We started with 15 years of classical music - the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Chopin, Béla Bartók, and then at the same time we were learning how to play jazz, how to play Cuban.”
"In Miami Beach when you walk on the street, you can find people from Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico... the album is all about that - how we live together in the same community."Jorge Gomez
On musical influences from his youth
“It was illegal to hear American music in the '70s, '80s, even '90s, so we had to go secretly to the roof of your house and invent some kind of antenna and try to get a signal from the United States. We’d maybe spend weeks trying to get that signal and sometimes we’d get lucky and and we’d start recording cassette, a lot of cassette. And that was how we learned about Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder... you name it, that was a huge deal for us.”
On the track "Grandpa" on "Panamericano"
“It’s about how we miss Cuba. We have everything in the United States, but we’re still missing the way than you can can smell the fruit, smell the ocean, smell the street, all of those stories we have... part of my soul is living there.”
On the recently restored Cuban and U.S. relations
“It’s been an enigma for so many years. Why not go to Cuba and see for yourself how the Cubans live, how they dance, how they play dominoes and hear the stories from hand to hand?”
Songs In This Segment
- Tiempo Libre (featuring Yunel Cruz), "Somebody to Love"
- Tiempo Libre (featuring Luis Fernando Borjas of Guaco), "Monta Que Te Quedas"
- Tiempo Libre, "Quién Soy Yo"
- Tiempo Libre, "Minuet In G (Guaguancó)"
- Tiempo Libre, "Grandpa"
- Tiempo Libre, (featuring Descemer Bueno) "Gallo Fino"
This segment aired on July 20, 2015.