Laúd in the soul of a virtuous

By: Miguel Terry Valdespino

Músico y laúd se han fundido en uno solo

Pound by pound, he is today the best living Cuban laudist. The fatal image of “guajirito that plays in the program Palmas y cañas” is definitely crushed just by taking a look at his résumé, where they glolumbrate their participation in more than forty albums and a cluster of presentations on stages in Spain, France, united States, Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Argentina…, among other nations, and when we hear their deep criteria around the role of culture in the soul of man and the severe damage caused by bad taste , improvisation and artists manufactured by the media.

Erdwin Vichot does not support half inks. It’s facing the storms. For him, perfection in executing his instrument is a task he cultivates with patience, respect and goldsmith virtuosity, whether when faced with a performance in a library, a church or an art gallery, which when commanded by the baton of the teacher Leo Brouwer in a concert of high harmonic complexity.

Under these principles lives this virtuous, man of Christian faith, member of the Pentecostal Church Assemblies of God, in Bauta, who on more than one occasion has referred me to various musical allusions within the Bible concerning the laus and other instruments of familiar closeness to it.

As on other occasions when I’ve interviewed him, he’s now taking a second to answer several of my questions.

What did it mean for Erdwin Vichot to discover the lau?

“For me the laud has been the reason for my existence, has accompanied me at all times and made me very happy. If it were born again, I would certainly take this instrument again for sure.”

You are a man of Christian faith. What has a man like you found in the love of that faith?

“I was born into a Christian home and God for me is the way forward. Without faith it is impossible to please God. The Bible says: ‘If you had even a faith as small as a grain of mustard, you could tell that mountain to get out of the way and take it off. Nothing would be impossible for them.’ This has been an essential lesson for me.”

In such a commercialized musical scene, where so many good staff options pass without sorrow or glories, what is the life of an artist who played under the tutelage of the master Leo Brouwer, has shared the stage with several of the best contemporary musicians and was once called, by the Spanish newspaper El Ideal, the Jimi Hendrix of the laudo?

“How hard a creator’s life and path are in Cuba, we have talked many times and talked about it in dozens of meetings, assemblies, meetings… It’s no secret. It is very difficult to refer to banality and poor musical promotion without being affected by the myocardium. But it is more than difficult to see how one’s own banality is imposed on the true sacrifice and hours of study that have taken one’s whole life. Those who run us culturally do not realize the problem or do not want to see it, say means of dissemination, promotion, dissemination… The only important thing, it seems today, is the buying and selling of pseudocultures, having money and godfather to ‘launch’ careers and take positions, as if studying is not necessary. Finally, we must impose ourselves with sufficient dignity and quality because the picture is not really flattering at all.”

Tell me especially about your experience with Leo.

“To me, Leo is the ambassador of Cuban music to the world. He’s known everywhere. He was the founder of the Sonora Experimentation Group of ICAIC, of which were nourished some of our greatest figures of the staff: Silvio, Pablo, Noel Nicola, Sara González…

“He’s a real genius, an innovator, playing a work of his is very complex. The same when we play under his direction, in the theater Amadeo Roldán, some montunos bars of his authorship as in other performances where we ‘jazz’ to honor the master Chucho Valdés or we get involved in a flamenco style download.

“I think I really learned to play the Aranjuez Concerto, by Spaniard Joaquín Rodrigo, when Leo explained to me its origin, the author’s desperation at the possibility of losing his wife after a miscarriage and Joaquin’s distressing claim to God not to take her away.

“That desperate situation, resolved after all satisfactorily, gave rise to the birth of a truly beautiful, universal work; but if you don’t know its interiorities, the pain and hope involved in it, you can’t touch it well. At least that’s what I think.”

Within your career as a musician, what do you consider the most important moment?

“I have always tried to prepare, study and be attentive to any information that contributes to my growth as an artist and as a person. I live for the music, not hers, and I enjoy this gift to the fullest. I play with passion, and always, above all, I am willing to serve. The most important moment is the one that is to come, I give real importance to every place and time where you act.”

Un libro bien pensado, tanto para músicos como para cualquier lector
Un libro bien pensado, tanto para músicos como para cualquier lector

Does the laud have the recognition that really deserves or is there much left to place it in the place it deserves? What are the most common prejudices about their role?

“It will still take time to take the place it deserves. It remains a deficit and unrecognized instrument. The main prejudice is typecasting by classifying it only as an instrument of peasant music. But it turns out that the limited ones are us, the musicians, not the instruments. With the laúd you can participate the same in a song in the countryside, as in the television program ‘Palmas y cañas’ or in a concert to play the music of the greatest composers of Cuba and the world: that of Leo himself, those of Debussy, Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Joaquín Rodrigo, Paco de Lucía”.

I know your son has been an excellent continuator of your work.

“My son Erdwin, thank God, followed in my footsteps. and very talented. I have also had many adoptive children of whom I have been a reference.”

We recently witnessed the emergence of a conjunctous text of your authorship in Amazon’s space, on the Internet. Is the book intended exclusively for musicians or can the common reader find something of interest?

“It took me several years to write it, but I managed to complete a very serious research would be in Harmonic Study of the Cuban contralto, which can serve as the same as referred to a musician as it is not, since usually the vanities of this instrument have been empirical and will now have in their hands a material of development”.

Living in Corralillo, village of Bauta, a luck or a misfortune?

“I was born in Coralillo, on the dining table of my house, and it has not been a problem in my career to live there.”

Tell me again the anecdote of the charango.

“The charango is an Andean instrument, very similar to the Canary tiple. One day Rafael Guedes, former director of the Mayohuacán group, invited me to play it, with the Matanzas Symphony, in a work of his authorship called Latin American Concerto. I didn’t really master it at all, but I didn’t refuse. I went and asked Alberto Falla, former vocalist of the group Moncada, for help, and he lent me a manual with instructions to play it. I studied it day and night. Finally, after a fortnight of intense study, I took the stage with the Matanzas Symphony… and the Concert was stellar.”

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