By Kiara González Escobar
It may be too soon to refer to Tropical Soul as a fait accompli in the musical career of Arlety Valdés. That is the name she will tentatively give to her first solo album, for which she has been working for some time. Still, I dare to bet on the success of the new facet in the career of this young woman who as a founding member of the quartet Sexto Sentido has become one of the leading voices of Cuban contemporary musical world.
She is not an unknown. Her artistic name is Arle and she closed 2014 with a nomination for best fusion video in the Lucas Awards with her first clip as soloist, debut of filmmaker Carlos Lechuga. It could be said that this is a preview of the album made available to the public this year that has just begun.
The CD includes a promotional demo with four songs that have been already premiered on the radio and will soon be a dream come true. The title of the tracks are Como viene y va, Tan Natural, Piénsalo bien, all written by Arlety; while Primavera partió, played in duet with Gretel Barreiro, is a song for which she proposed the music but was made by Alcides Toirac, Cuban composer and Arle´s friend for many years.
On her current project, perspectives and interests of this new stage in her career, Arlety Valdés spoke with OnCuba.
I have understood that you have been working in this production for over a year, at what point of the project are you now?
Right now I am working in the concept to present myself live, I’m maturing the idea until I feel myself really comfortable and confident that my proposal will be attractive to the public . I have thought in many formats but until today the sound I have chosen for recording is very intimate, I would not give up that idea, the subtlety catches me and I think it may be a useful starting point .
In early 2015, I finished filming my second video clip with Joseph Ross. I am very happy with the work that was performed. It has been a very difficult shooting, due to the land on which we were, very close to the sea, filming on reefs and other surprises that I can not advance, I say surprise because I had to do things that surprised me and were dangerous to achieve the result we wanted. In fact it was magical and the best is that I enjoyed it a lot.
The image I project in this clip is pretty ethnic. The work of Celia Ledon and Yosley, as costume designer and makeup artist respectively, was excellent; the idea of Joseph for this clip is like everything he does, with a high aesthetic and artistic level. I think it’ll be a good video.
I have spent some time cooking this project, but it was not until 2014 that I appeared in the media showing my proposal, now more frequently on television and radio. They have opened me the door with love and this is something that I immensely appreciate.
Is it an independent production, or is it already some record company interested in the CD?
I would like a Cuban record label to take this first album because it’s always good the support from the institutions of your country, but I’m promoting track by track independently, which is another alternative. This way of working has become usual for artists and has to do with the crisis in the music industry. The market is complicated and often the companies have no funds to invest in new artists or do not take risk easily. Here we are fortunate to be able to submit separate proposals to CUBADISCO and this gives opportunities to artists that begin like me. I will continue independently until something else happens, and it should hopefully happen because support from record labels and producers is essential for any musician.
Are there any collaborations with other artists?
In the demo I’ve been promoting there is only one collaboration. It is a duet with Gretel Barreiro; the music is mine and the text is by Alcides Toirac. Also, right now I have a song, or rather a bolero, which with great pleasure I share the text with Luis Barberia, former member of Habana Abierta, I think to record it soon. Of course, I would like to collaborate with other artists later.
What do you propose in this production?
I did not want to promote more than four tracks not reveal everything before recording the CD. My proposal is to mix, something like the mix existing in our country. What I like is that it is experimental; suddenly in a song that has influences of rock and roll it appears a bongo and it does not sound anachronistic. Moreover the triplet has been the instrument that gives the Cuban and some rural sonority to my songs. I’m influenced by almost all the music of the world, the one I’ve heard so far and it is inevitable that all this to come to light in my work. Working with the voices is something I will always be interested in, I have long doing it and it’s part of me; I will separate a little from what I did with Sexto Sentido but somehow it will be there too.
I have heard that in the beginning the project was linked to the plastic arts…
When I started doing these songs I had around me people from the world of plastic expression and production such as Lucía Fernández and other friends. I had not seen before Lucia’s work; she is not well known but she seemed passionate to me, also she loves Chill out music and good energies. We wanted to form together a show, a sort of theater play or performance, a concept that I still want to keep, I had just left paused but I will return to it at the earliest opportunity .
Does the project means a definitive separation from the group?
We have been working nonstop for more than 10 years; now we are giving ourselves space for personal projects and analyzing the possibility of recording other albums. It is important to place on record arrangements we have made and are still not recorded. That is our focus. We will meet occasionally to do a concert with all the promotion that this implies and simultaneously each will have the opportunity to do what she likes individually.
Karla Vicens, the newest in the group is studying acting at the Higher Institute of Arts and from her appearance in our band, proposals have come to her as an announcer in some television programs; Wendy Vizcaino, who has spent six years with us, also wants to show her solo work and Yudelkis Lafuente, director of the group, is a very good songwriter but is more interested in sound and studio work.
Yudelkis and I have dedicated our time to the vocal arrangements of Sexto Sentido and have learned a lot. So we will keep being a family, we shall meet when we feel the need to do it and shall sing for those who follow us and have always supported our work.
I know it will take time for people to get used to see me as something apart from Sexto Sentido. And since I’m really proud of what has happened so far with the group, I know that will accompany me for a long time, and it is not a problem, rather the opposite.
Currently , worldwide, rhythm mixing is much customary, by calling in some way, hybridization … do you belong to the group of those who believe that success lies there or do you defend the theory of pure, classical rhythms, etc.?
I join the group of those who believe in good music, for me it is the most important and the duty of all of us doing this art, fused or not. The young artists need a lot of support, the beginning is always difficult, and it is complicated getting inserted because interesting things at a musical level are being done in the world but I think that having trust in yourself and working hard is what makes you strong. Entering the market is often a matter of chance , the opportunity to participate in important events and knowing the right people can help a lot and if your music has something authentic it might be well accepted. Perseverance is extremely important .
The genres, when pure and well made, are accepted because they have already been there, are easy to recognize aurally; there are certain codes for each and these are repeated. There are also formulas for success according to some composers, especially those of very commercial music, but I trust the mixtures while achieving being consistent and giving pleasure when listening to them. In addition, all music has always been the result of another one that was already there before.
Speaking of market, how could your new proposal be inserted in it?
Well, an opening is taking place now, little, but there is it, with artists like Danay Suarez, Diana Fuentes or Roberto Fonseca. There are many artists that are being inserted who have not exactly the style of Buena Vista Social Club, which is the best known internationally.
For the part that touches me, the image of the Cuban woman singer remains highly stereotyped, what is expected is a light-hearted woman full of colors, with maracas in her hands, or drums as many times I had to do with Sexto Sentido to play music of our country. But Cuba and its music are much more than that.
I respect traditional music, especially since my mother’s family, which is full of musicians, taught me to know and love it. It is essential that every Cuban musician to know his music and must play it at least once; That says a lot about who you are, how much you know and value your roots, your culture. I admit I make a mix of traditional and contemporary rhythms, because actually I try to link the two trends.
I have songs such as Guajiro, for example, made for Sexto Sentido, which has an interesting mix of a traditional orchestration and simultaneously contemporary interpretation, in the end we managed to get all Cuba dancing with a sucu sucu, genre that is neither so popular nor modern. That is the work I try to defend with my music, something from old rhythms and the new ones, for now without being as danceable as this song was.
I also think that Cuba is going through a complex process where Latin influences are arriving that perhaps are not as stringent and we are picking all that and reproducing it here, in some cases successfully. When I started to compose for this project I did so thinking that it would be inserted into what is known worldwide as “Chill out”, a music to relax, as a counterpart to this revolution of loud sounds. I wanted to achieve a sound for listening to as background when you are drinking something near the beach during sun set. But this has evolved, I can work with DJs, musicians, the music offers vast possibilities, so I say I defend the song as a genre.
It is a kind of soul, but tropical because it is from here. That is the concept on which I focus. But that takes study and persons to analyze it better.