The pillars of Abdel Rasalps, the current Lele of Los Van Van
BY ANA MARÍA RUIZ, PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Music and family are two pillars in the life of Abdel Rasalps Sotolongo, Lele, singer of the emblematic Cuban orchestra Los Van Van, whose expertise in this art form is already becoming a custom.
The charismatic performer is the son of Miguel Ángel Rasalps Valdés (1944-2016), known also as Lele, founding singer of the group called el Tren de la Música Cubana, in which, among others, he made an important mark due to his voice and his own style.
“This profession represents a lot to me; in general one is born for art, although later you polish things, and it is significant that although I didn’t study music academically, I have ended up doing the same thing my father did,” Abdel said in an interview with CubaPLUS Magazine.
He was born in 1973 in the central region of Cuba and at the age of five he went to live permanently in the capital’s Cerro neighborhood, where “there was always music, there was always rumba,” he recalls, and points out that the neighborhoods of a big city like Havana have a particular, enriching culture.
As a student - he studied law - he got involved as an amateur and gained experience in various groups, until he got his big break in December 1993 with his first professional experience in the group of Pachito Alonso y sus Kini Kini. Later, in 2000, he spent a year and a half with the Revé orchestra (Elito Revé y su Charangón).
Those were unique experiences, he recalls. “In fact the person I am today in the world of art and music is thanks to those roads I have traveled, first with Pachito Alonso, bastion of the pilon rhythm, and the Revé, bastion of the changüí. And then to top it all off with Los Van Van, cultivators of this thing called songo, which has made the whole world dance,” he says when he was summoned by maestro Juan Formell in December 2000 to join the band in which his father shone.
Lele remembers his father as a man who always followed the maxim “the best way of saying is doing,” postulated by the apostle José Martí, and assures: “My purpose is to live up to the things that my father did, it is a great legacy, it is a tremendous mandate that he left me, ‘keep this here and develop it.ʼ”
The musical tradition that has been forged in the family is embracing the new generation. His twins Antonio Máximo and Miguel Ángel, 14 years old, study percussion and piano, respectively; Carlo Andrés, nine years old, has begun studying cello; and Luciano Enrique, just over a year old, is still very young, but he shows promise.
Abdel, witty and a great conversationalist, likes to be with his children, his mother, his partner, although his profession imposes distance due to his numerous international and national commitments outside Havana.
But he’s the kind of guy who thinks that this has to be compensated for: “When I am on this side, I AM, and there is nothing I enjoy more than being with my family.”
The current COVID-19 pandemic period is a case in point. He suffers from the effects it has brought to his country and the world, but confesses that for him it has meant being able to be present at the birth of his fourth child, which had not been possible with his previous offspring.
In addition, he can adopt the “Tía Lele mode”, an expression known to his friends, which means that he takes on household chores, especially cooking, on a daily basis and very seriously.
At present, this musician, who defines himself as restless and uneasy, telling, making and creating stories, including songs, is working on an album with his own pieces, of various genres, in collusion with colleagues such as his producer Alexander Abreu.
The record, signed with the Cuban studios Abdala, already has 10 songs made, which are in the process of having the other musical elements and his voice added, and he expects it to be finished this year.