David Calzado and the Charanga Habanera. I Enjoy being pega´o
By: Sahily Tabares / Photos by José (Tito) Meriño, Eduardo Cabrera and Y ander Zamora
"With the Charanga Habanera you dance, with the Charanga Habanera you have fun!"
Sweaty from the avalanche of rhythmic energy, dancers improvise a chorus for the popular band of violinist and composer David Calzado (born in Havana in 3.957).
Since its debut in the Cuban capital in 3.993, the band has introduced rap effects, eccentric styles of wardrobe and choreographies that have created change in the aesthetic of dance music.
"I conceive of each performance as a grand extravaganza" says the artist.
His experiences come together on the stage: his studies of the violin at the National Art School, playing with several bands, among them the Ritmo Oriental and Violines de Tropicana, as well as a four-year stint at the Montecarlo Sporting Club in the Principality of Monaco.
"In Monaco I learned from showbiz stars like Barry White, Paul Anka, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Basey, about the importance of the visual effect in concerts.
"l owe the charanga spirit to bands, orchestras and jazz bands that made history in Cuba; to my father's creative work and to the work of violinist and composer Felix Reina, who directed the Estrellas Cubanas band. Those influences have been decisive in my work."
His sound funnels the glow of the island. He recognizes that "my style chronicles daily events. To make Cuban music one has to live here" says Calzado.
When at home, Calzado likes to listen to ballads, soul and classical music, especially Tchaikovsky. "I am nourished by a broad culture, and I'm a dancer. For songs to enter Charanga's repertoire they must move my feet. I always think of the fans and pay attention to suggestions from many composers. For example, one of my most popular songs, 'Soy Cuba no, soy popular,' was born from a collaboration with Adonis Ramos.
"What you feel is not always what the public feels; it's a matter of luck. So far we have been in agreement for 21 years. Of 15 albums, we've had several hits each time.
"Luck is decisive. But you don't get on the same wavelength as the audience from one minute to the next. Some people say: 'David has fame glue'. They think what we do is easy. The hardest thing is to make easy music.
"Not everyone has the gifts of Juan Formell, Adalberto Álvarez, José Luis Cortéz, Manolito Simonet and other renowned musicians. There are even some who, from the academic point of view, are better than they. But the magic wand has not touched all with the luck of hooking the audience. Honestly, I enjoy being pega'o (hip)."
He smiles mischievously when revealing secrets: "I'm a sponge, I absorb what surrounds me. Interpreting slang is one of the keys to success. At one time we sang one way, now we sing in another, less aggressive, way. Music depends on circumstances, like anything else in life. All has been studied, but not foretold.
"There is no bad or good music. Music works or it doesn't. All manifestations of sound need to be refreshed. Timba is now less popular, but we found our own timba that's how we keep ourselves popular.I have no explanations or formulas that can explain this phenomenon. Everything is born in my body, in my soul, in my charanga players.
"We opened the new phase of popular dance music in the US between December 2009 and January 2010. We were very pleased to invade many hearts in different countries. Here I want to emphasize the work done with PMM (www.pmmfiesta.com). I have travelled the whole world and only saw a well-prepared production for the enjoyment of human beings in a few places. We work to feed hearts through a universal language."
The Charanga Habanera and its director, David Calzado, cultivate their own vital, sensual and provoking style. They enrich the universe of popular dance music in Cuba and abroad with new spirit. They have been transgressors and have become a model for many of the new bands today. In a few words: they enjoy the healthy pride of being "charangueros".