Musiques Métisses - 40 ans de Festival d'Angoulême
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Leyanis López Luque was born in Guantánamo, East Cuba, on the 8th October 1971. She began to perform there at the age of seven, singing in the choir of the Fabio Rosell del Río primary school. Her natural gifts were soon recognised and she became a solo singer with different musical groups in her children’s organisation, the Pioneers. In 1985, accompanied by a first-rate group called Ismaelillo, Leyanis won first prize at the Summer Festival. After several trips abroad to represent Cuba, the young woman was ranked in the highest category of amateur artist in 1988 and so was able to begin a career as a professional singer the following year. She continued her training, appearing in different festivals, then in 1994, she entered the higher category of professional singers and obtained her singing-section diploma with flying colours.
In 1998, she recorded her first album, Como la Mariposa (Like the butterfly), for French label Lusafrica. Her repertoire included the different popular genres of Cuban music: bolero, cancion, waltz, guajira and son. After a second record in 2004, Mi Corazón y Yo, Leyanis López released Corazón Presumido in April 2005, a album of striking maturity. On this third record, the young butterfly – who now shows remarkable confidence – confirms her place among the established voices of today’s Cuban music.
On Corazón Presumido, Leyanis has relied on the sound advice of two producers now greatly in vogue in Havana: David Alvarez Garrido, who also wrote 4 of the tracks, including the tremendous Corazón Presumido, and Evaristo Denis Baro, who wrote the lyrical arrangements of Sombras, a song by Brito and Sansores that no-one else had dared record since Blanca Rosa’s unforgettable version. The result is a much more extrovert album than the previous ones, featuring a Leyanis who seems more at ease than ever before. This progress can be sensed even in the way she performs songs by her favourite writers, Martinez Zapata and Gonzalez Louit, who have been there from the start, or on the 3 tracks written by Polo Montañez. Fernando Borrego Linares (Polo Montañez) and Leyanis immediately became firm friends when they met. Both were from very ordinary backgrounds – Leyanis from the east, Polo from the mountains – and they shared a language as well as emotions. Polo wrote Tu y Yo with her in mind and suggested she sing his repertoire. The sudden demise of Montañez came as a shock for Leyanis, as it did for all Cubans, but the music lives on and Leyanis López is more determined than ever to put across the message of life that his music holds.
Leyanis López - a text by Cary Diez
Like a flitting butterfly, with a young woman’s grace and a deeply Latin-American sensibility, Leyanis once again conveys all her passions heart to heart. Before listening, you might think her vulnerable, but as soon as you hear her sing, the confidence and presence she expresses reveal an extraordinary, determined woman filled with positive energy, whose voice seems to rise from the depths of her being.
In the town where she was born, she was able to grow up with strong roots in Cuban culture. Leyanis is one of the flowers of Guantanamo, whose tremendously full, amazingly varied musical world taught her to overcome her timidity from childhood. The young woman had her share of acclaim, tours and musical prizes. She merged her singing with the vocal and instrumental harmony of the Los Martínez and Cubaney trios, whose vitally important repertoire she appreciated. She shared her irresistible need to sing poetic verse with her friends and loves, until the day when she decided to aim even higher and the intensity of her longing gave her wings.
In 1998, Leyanis signed with the Lusafrica label. Her first album appeared in the same year. The following year, she went on her first international tour with Cesaria Evora, the great Cape Verdean singer, appearing at such prestige venues as the Paris Olympia. Now, her talent was much more directed. Two more albums followed, featuring prominent Cuban musicians, all clearly set on fitting in with the singer’s identity and showcasing the impetuous power of her voice.
So Leyanis worked with Maraca, Joaquín Betancourt, Emilio Vega and David Álvarez, to name but a few of these Cuban talents. She was also able to appreciate the gentleness and wisdom of Polo Montañez – another wild flower – who sensed a power in Leyanis’ voice that would enable her to convey all the tenderness and nobility of his songs. Fernando Borrego Linares, aka Polo Montañez, gifted her with a large number of his songs, intending her to make them her own, as one person finds fulfilment through another of great human value.
Turning to Leyanis’ repertoire, it is important to stress that her albums always include many original works written by the trova and son singers of her native region, contemporary music that fits in closely with tradition. But the musical world of Leyanis is also made up of a broad spectrum of references: among the songs she presents, we can make out an Andean melody, the innocence of a bachata, the saudade of a Brazilian air or the sigh of a tango.
If you wish to grasp this alchemy, listen to the album and take pleasure in it, discovering how closely you share in its compassion. Enter Leyanis’ world of poetry and sing with her, for all is song here. Entrust your secret inner soul to this music. You will see how beautiful life is and how lucky you are to have found these songs: they will enable you to dream in the company of a great voice and open heart.