CubaPLUS Among the latest generation of bands from the Nueva Trova, a movement mainly promoting ballads, there is a pair of youngsters, outstanding not only for their musical arrangements and lyrics but also for their massive following who learn their songs by heart and anxiously await new releases.
Buena Fe, a duo started in 1998 by Israel Rojas and Yoel Martinez, both from Cuba's easternmost province of Guantanamo, offers timely songs, varied and sharp, appealing to an ever growing and loyal following.
First playing together at local festivals in Guantanamo, Buena Fe (Spanish for Good Faith) soon caught the attention of the national record label, Egrem, which invited them to Havana to record "Dejame Entrar", and they have never stopped climbing the heights of Cuban popularity. Named best Cuban pop ad for several years running, they have released two other CDs -"Arsenal" in 2003 and 2004's "Corazonero" -selling out Havana's Karl Marx Theatre in a record four hours. I arrive early to their rehearsal and theyboth welcome me.
I know lots of musicians whose lyrics constitute a barrier in their communication with the audience. This is not your case. Why?
Israel: We would need to ask the audience. We always say we are interested in reaching as many people as possible. That is fundamental for us. There are many ways to reach people. Today silliness, screams, easy applause and overjoyed audiences are hip, even when associated with success; I prefer silence at the end of a song due to perplexity or inner thoughts, as if we had made a portrait of the audience with our lyrics. We cannot be blind to the mass phenomenon you have become, there has been some sort of intentional work ...
Israel: You're right. We try to use as much resources of communication as possible; not only in the text, but also in the music and stage performances so that the images of the songs resemble our times ... today's situations. We are very careful with the relation between text and melody. It gives coherence.
We face creation without prejudice. We listen to different opinions and in the end we choose the one we think is appropriate with no fear. The word is the basic tool of ideas. Regarding music, we don't follow pre-established criteria, not even national or foreign trends. If at a certain point we coincide with them, it is because we chose to.
What about experimentation?
Experimentation is taking chances, getting your hands in the dough and seeing what comes out of it; breaking something established and trying to rethink it. That's why we don't hesitate in using experimentation as a method.
Yoel has not spoken during the entire interview and I ask him: Among Buena Fe's followers you have the imaee as the quiet and calm one with the guitar. Do you see yourself like that?
Yoel: I think people have that impression because of the interviews. Israel is always the one talking. He is a great communicator. When it comes to creating, it is different. We are equal then. The same with the guys of the band playing with us. When it comes to creating there is like a whistle for everyone. At that moment there is no one calm and I am one of the most active: always paying attention to the arrangements, the voices in the chorus, to all that "lab work."
What can you tell me of your stage production?
It is a sober stage production. We don't dance; don't choreograph, because it doesn't look well. I enjoy spectaculars a lot, but that does not go with our stage performance.
What do you say to the comments that your lyrics are cunning?
We have found people who tell us they like our songs because there are second and third levels of meaning. Almost all creators try to have songs with more than one literal reading, especially in a country with such an extraordinary musical inheritance like Cuba's.
Why the name Buena Fe?
Israel: To us it is more than a name. It is a concept, a disposition we want to share with the people. It is a sort of declaration of principle that is always inviting everyone to act in good faith.
How do you see your success?
There are many people who like our music and a wide range of critics praise it. That is good to know. The most important thing for us is the ability to experiment and make things: new recordings, tours, several concerts in Cuba. In a nutshell, lots of work. We like that.