We find Samuel Formell walking around Josone Park waiting for Los Van Van Orchestra performance. Just like his father, he watched people dance, express themselves, laugh…
Samuel, what did you think and why did you accept the invitation for Los Van Van to perform in the festival?
First because Isaac was in the organizational committee. We had a business engagement in Italy with a possible extension, thus we were not sure we could attend the festival, but from the very moment we learned about it we were happy because participating in multi-themed festivals like this one where one can enjoy different musical genres, is an honor for us and for me personally
Also regaining part of our culture; sharing it with our people and where foreign visitors can join us enjoying our music: jazz, Latin jazz, Cuban music as son and “reggaeton”….I think is quite a good and beneficial mix. Most important, to strengthen the festival, keeping it going from year to year. Let the entire world know about it. I congratulate its organizers and hope a repeat in 2019.
I imagine most of the concert is dedicated to promo the “Legado” record, a work that has much to do with the signature you are impressing in the orchestra; tell me more about it.
It is an ambitious and customized production; we were very zealous as to the conscious making of the themes, so no detail was lacking to make Cubans – who are dance lovers – dance, as well as those who rather wish to listen to the music and lyrics. We worked the mix, harmony, rhythms and texts meticulously and most important, the accompanying choirs. To me as musician and director, this record has an impressive balance. We achieved our goal and besides, the sentiment of the people that is most important as well as the view of Cuban popular music orchestra directors is quite positive. On comparing, they agree it is among the best five records in Los Van Van history; it brings an incredible satisfaction and pride to me and to the band working team. It is quite a young record, only three or four months old.
Its acceptance transcends Cuban frontiers and it is amazing because people abroad ask for these new songs and sing them. It happened now in Italy asking us for Al Paso, Culpable de nada, La Conga…. and the same thing happened in Santiago during the launching and other provinces when the record had only been out for twenty days.
What does “Legado” owe to Juan Formell and what to Samuel Formell?
Juan Formell owned the teachings he left for all of us, not only for me, though as director I have the highest responsibility. However, there is also a group of composers and arrangers to whom my father gave the liberty when he composed, to insert a mambo or a chorus in his songs. Every composer contributed something: Leliebre, Roberton and Mandy – who composed a theme in the preceding record – El Lele the singer, who composed a theme and furthermore, we recovered three themes from my father; recovering themes from the seventies and eighties that young people do not know anything about, is something we commonly introduced in every production. For example, many thought Amiga mia was a new theme and that was the focus of this new album, to find that kind of balance.
There is no difference between my father and I because I learned from him and what I do today is, starting from what he taught me, delivering a more contemporary touch including events happening now. I want to point out the record was mixed and mastered in the United States and that was a big step forward in audition terms. There are good recording studios at times but we lack the record mastering technology and that is important because whoever listens to the music will later say, “how well the record sounds”. We tried to fulfill all that to a 100% not just a 99%, because we wanted a record with all the details and with a positive impact in public opinion in every sense.
There is something striking to followers of Los Van Van since the beginning and up to now and I believe it is something you try to keep up. Los Van Van represent Cubans’ culture, that which is popular and distinguishes all of us; your father was a chronicler of his time reflecting daily events in every lyric. Do you believe this to be an ongoing premise of the orchestra?
—Yes, the chronicle. Remember, my father focused always on daily happenings going on around him: a popular phrase of the moment…and we nourish from that, we make a chorus from a phrase and from that chorus we write the text and the musical arrangement. It is the same line, you can write a song to a girlfriend like Amiga mia that has to do with love, but in this case using current street phrases, a chronicle of what is presently happening. It has great value to us because that was the way Los Van Van, that is my father exemplified it to Cuba and to the world, through Cuban idiosyncrasy and day-to-day experience.
By: Dianik Flores