February 02, 2009

De la calle

If any artist in Cuba can be labelled "de la calle" (from the street), I am sure it must be Candido Fabre. His following can be mainly found, not amongst the reggaeton loving younger generation, but with the housewives and mothers of Cuba. They will go out of their way to see a concert of this sonero, who will turn 50 this year.

He was born in the province of Santiago de Cuba, in very musical surroundings, and from a very young age he started singing in schools and in the streets. Although even at that age his voice was strangely hoarse and certainly no way near 'belcanto', he was popular from the start, especially for the content of his songs. He would change the lyrics of the hits of the day, improvising as he went along. Over the years Fabre's improvisation skill have earned him the title of Cuba's most versatile sonero.

His talent ripened during his ten years (from 1983 to 1993) with the Original de Manzanillo, where he was the number one composer. His compositions have been covered by a wide range of artists and orchestras, including Los Van Van, Aragon and Celia Cruz.
He himself doesn't consider himself a composer: "To be a good sonero you have to be a good improvisor first, - plus a good creator".

If you ask around in Cuba (and, as I said, ask the mothers) you won't find it hard to dig up some bootleg recordings of a local concert by Fabre and his banda. The tracks I am posting here are mainly from a concert during the 2005 carnival in Camagüey*.

Fabre - Camagüey

And, to give you an idea of his talent as an improvisor, here is an excerpt from a documentary by the Tunesian director Karim Dridi about another sonero from the 'calle', Miguel Del Morales a.k.a. 'El Gallo', featuring Fabre playing baseball, Cuba's national sport and a subject of quite a few of Fabre's songs.

*By the way: I don't advise you to visit Camagüey as a tourist during carnival (end of June). Unlike the rest of the year, it is certainly not safe.

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