Wiliam Vivanco, More Than a Pocketful of Rhythms

Wiliam Vivanco, More Than a Pocketful of Rhythms


By Ivet González Lemes / Photos: Yander Zamora

Born in Santiago de Cuba in 1975, William Vivanco represents the hybrid force that is Cuba. A fair-skinned young mulatto with sharp nose, full lips and romantic demeanor despite his dreadlocks, his music vibrates with Cuban and African traditional rhythms fused or decorated with rap, house, bossa nova, reggae and, above all, Brazilian music.

A vocalist in the Arabic style, Vivanco's instrument is the guitar, which he plays in a technique faithful to the Cuban Nueva Trova movement of the 1960's begun by Cuban singers Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés and the late Noel Nicola. The trova "is a storyteller's music and Cubans love telling stories," says Vivanco, before stepping on stage for the concert celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Nueva Trova movement.

Wiliam Vivanco More Than a Pocketful of Rhythms"I conceive a song from the guitar, the melody and the percussion. I almost never find myself thinking about chords or wind instrument arrangements. I have it in my blood, in my roots and I play well. It's all percussion what I have inside" adds Vivanco, although he almost never plays the congas during his concerts.

This young singer combines his solo work with the internationally known Interactivo project that gathers Cuban talents such as its director, jazz pianist Robertico Carcasés; one of the 10 best trumpeters of the Cuba, Julito Padrón, Yusa, one of the best female bass players in the world, and the hip hop singer Telmaris, now living in Canada.

Since his first hit solo album in 2002 Lo tengo to' pensao ( I got it all figured out) Vivanco includes in his songs guttural, percussive sounds that have become a sort of trademark, as has his mixture of pop, reggae, and Brazilian music.

Vivanco was born in Santiago, the so called capital of the Caribbean which, according to William, is a musically prolific city. "Creation is more mixed. There is where you find the roots of Cuban traditional and African music."

Now he has been living in Havana for some years and, for him, Havana is "more melancholy, diverse, classical, more gothic and imaginary."

His second album took Cuba's geographically rich natural space as its theme. La isla milagrosa (The Miraculous Island) is about "an island I imagined inside my head and want to share with people. Everything in the album is real and marvelous."

Today's Rhythm from Yesterday

Wilian Vivanco More Than a Pocketful of RhythmsVivanco is an admirer of original music like the African and Hindu. "One needs to listen to the most ancient music from every country. If you are going to listen to Latin America, you have to hear joropo, guapango, perico ripiao, to nourish yourself.

Some other novel elements in his songs come from contact with the musical traditions of different countries. "I was presented with some records with songs Taiwanese peasants sing while sowing rice. You listen to that and suddenly, you have a song."

"The Tyrolean chant I used in Negra Sálvame came as a casual thing. I heard it in Switzerland, the first time I traveled outside of Cuba. I was at this traditional party of a Swiss farmer in Basel when I heard it."

To William creating is a question of innocence: "the more naïve you go into creation, the better it will come out." "I imagined how a pelican could sing and I used it in a song. It started as a joke and then became serious."

Since 2003 Vivanco has often performed in France, especially in Paris, Nice, Rennes, Lyon and Vince. He has shared the stage with Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés, Spanish singer Diego EI Cigala, and Ben Harper.