Cuban musicologist Cary Diez is hypnotizing when she speaks about rumba, a festive music and dance genre recently inscribed on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Office for the Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO).
Her Castilian becomes a heartbeat of makuta drums, bonkó enchemillá in biankomeco abakuá, Iyá that calls out to the orishas, quinto that twists feet and shakes the shoulders of Columbian dancers.
Winner of a Latin Grammy in 2001 as producer, along with musician Joaquín Betancourt, for the album La rumba soy yo, and one of the main drafters of the file presented to UNESCO, Diez brings up names and events with gratitude and interprets what has been achieved by many, especially the rumberos.
In an exclusive interview with CubaPlus, she firstly thanked all teachers of medium and superior artistic levels such as Argeliers León, Odilio Urfé, María Teresa Linares, Manuel Moreno Fraginals and Orlando Suárez Tajonera.
She also highlighted the studies of others such as Olavo Alén, Jesús Gómez Cairo and the CIDMUC team (Center for Research and Development of Cuban Music).
“Later in my professional life, working with Ciro Benemelis proved to be very important, starting in 1985 when I graduated from the Higher Institute of Art, and later in 1998, touring and living together for two months in the United States with true rumberos like the members of the band Los Muñequitos de Matanzas”.
Diez added that all of this made her understand the essence of this form of expression as a spirit of resistance and self-esteem, which at the same time is an enriching social instrument for the communities that practice it.
When asked about the role that the Latin Grammy played in the national and international visibility of the genre, Diez goes back to 1988. “At that time I had presented a project that wasn’t yet called La rumba soy yo, but was a concrete proposition that included the vision of this cultural expression, not only as a form of entertainment for certain social segments”, she said.
Up to that point, rumberos were only circumscribed in groups such as the National Folkloric Complex (El Patio de la Rumba de El Palenque), the Peña del Ambia, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), animated by the poet Eloy Machado, and the Callejón d de Hammel, headed by the painter Salvador González.
“In recent years we’ve been also been gaining space with Casas de la Música, where rumba is also marketed, something unthinkable just over fifteen years ago”, she underlined. “Moreover, projects such as Clave de Rumba from the UNEAC have added, meetings of analysis and obtaining testimonies which have been going on for over a year, and where debates are filmed and taped.
Diez also emphasized that within the public spaces are also new groups of rumberos that play in practically all provinces and events that have been the center of international promotion, including Cubadisco and most recently the Timbalaye Festival.
She also considers the role of the program La rumba no es como ayer (Rumba isn’t what it was yesterday) as very important, uninterrupted since 2000, aired weekly on Radio Metropolitana in Havana.
She adds that its content is very valuable, because its example contributed to the emergence of other spaces for this type of music on radio stations of various provinces. In conclusion of what has been achieved, Diez believes that the declaration of rumba as first a National Heritage, then a Heritage of Humanity, is a call to continue the commitment to deepening its roots.
“Nothing would have made sense if these authentic spaces didn’t keep showcasing these expressions that are so essential for Cuban culture”, concluded the musicologist and promoter of this genre, synonymous with festive atmosphere.