Prophet beards, a vibrant and deep voice. He has a clean and kindly smile. It is also clean what comes from his mouth, whether in song or conversation, if clean is pure, if pure means that there was no secondary process. Pedro Luis Ferrer says it as he conceived, as prepared at once, without much review, without elemental cautious self censorship, without permission of himself, or with all permission granted beforehand.
He was a child when she started singing. “I always liked it. Actually I was being a musician and artist because I never thought being something else. “This was also due to the environment in which he grew up: “In my house there was room for poetry, my father sang tenth verse stanzas, I had two aunts who were piano teachers… My house was a center of influx of troubadours and poets.”
“I was making music and I was going well and people supported me. And so I became a professional one day. I was a professional first in terms of earning a living with music before starting to study in depth . I’m more self-taught but I studied, I think, almost everything that should be studied to be a professional of music: orchestration, composition, harmony…
My adolescence was developed in Santo Suarez, in a neighborhood of musicians too. Curiously, next to my house there was a tango and South American music rock. There I met the work of Atahualpa Yupanqui, Chabuca Granda, Gardel´s music. I learned a lot of southern music in that rock, and on the days that there was not operate, Lorenzo, my neighbor, taught me a lot of Cuban traditional music. I had enough of this world in my psyche when I moved to Havana, with everything I just told you about my family in Yaguajay.
MR: What makes up your song, regarding to your selection?
PLF: For me all the issues are valid. I think the art is given in relation to the poetic world and is the vision of the artist on what he is experiencing. No Beethoven, Beethoven’s music would not exist. Perhaps a science discovery made by scientists, another would come too, because it is about discovering the reality independently of our consciousness. However , art is the opposite: confusing objectivity with subjectivity. There is not art without the artist’s subjectivity.
I always thought first instinctively that any issue could be sung. Perhaps because of the influence of my father, my uncle , who somehow thought so and many times I saw beautiful poems done in my house on apparently trivial things. Everything is depending on what you are able to perceive from the world you live.
And on what depends me to decide to do a song? Well, I have a notebook and sometimes I write down ideas and time decides if they will resist. I do not like working with immediate ideas, because you may fall in love with many things that will not resist later. I prefer, even when I someone commission me a work, looking at my archive material if there is anything that has to do and has stood the test of time, although I also believe in chronicle, which also plays a role in the dynamics of life.
MR: You have referred to your family as “revolutionary and follower of Fidel.” How do you inherit it, taking into account the enormous influence that you recognize in it?
PLF: Therein I do not differentiate much from the average Cuban p eople. Here there are many things that are inherited independently of that in practice we see that did not work. There are things that catch you by affections and not by results. My father was a man who loved the Revolution, he devoted himself to it almost religiously regardless of the results he has had in life, because, in addition, he also did it with no opportunism and I do not think he had immediate benefits.
I admire those things beyond I can understand today that his concepts, ideas, in many respects, would not serve me. I think that not even he would support them if he were alive today.
The truth is that one is not born from nothing. You , with virtues and defects, have to live where you were born. As a child learns to be Jewish because he was born in a Jewish environment, I was born in an atmosphere of Fidel-follower-people and communists. But I also had people who, although they did not like being told anticommunist, were not a communist and long refuted the ideas of communism. My uncle Pfeifer, Austrian, married to my aunt Lilia, for example. I always heard him arguing with my uncles and my father in a quite harmonious and respectful environment, because there is not need to fight when disagreeing . I saw that in my house, I saw controversy. And there was my Catholic aunt who was not unloved by my uncle even though he was a communist. It was very important to be next to a man who called himself a materialist, but claimed that materialism can not completely deny God because ultimately, God exists even in man’s consciousness.
I appreciate having had people with such broad visions, and my uncle, who was an educator, although he had an illiterate nephew like me, performed tasks, he worked for the benefit of society. These things still remain on me because I think they were men who did good deeds.
All ideas expire at the end, because the world is entirely changing by millions of reasons. I think there are logical contradictions of development and of course I have never agreed with the tendency to impose dogmas no I’ve been willing to support people who think their ideas are invincible and are the only ones or that do not perish. Something survives and something dies always in any idea, even in the best one. Even in science, the results are rectified every day. Then , as I know it is so, I am not disappointed by anything (There are those who believed otherwise). I, luckily, step by step, began to realize that there was no ultimate truth, and in that of thinking there are as many minds as humans.
MR: Do you consider yourself irreverent or controversial?
PLF: I can be irreverent as it can be anyone. There are people who deserve irreverence, because they have required too much reverence they do not deserve. But I’m not a disrespectful person, I’m quite sympathetic and know when I see a person that can be wrong or not, but they are good people and despite not agreeing with them, I’m not irreverent. I have the ability to be respectful but I also know to be disrespectful. I can easily be it when it is needed.
MR: How do you define to dissent?
PLF: Dissenting, for me, is a natural act of man … dissenting and taking into account other’s dissenting capacity because dissenting itself means nothing. You can also dissent wrongly, you can not be right. But that human right must always exist.
At other times, in the Middle Age where the Church and politics were confused, it was a sin to dissent and people had to accept things as dogma, but at this time can not be that way. At this time the churches and the states were separated, and the parties can not be converted into churches, and revolutions are not religions.
All this tells me that you have to be able to disagree and that capacity can never be lost, but it does not ensures that you are right. I think the reason has to be well shared.
We have not really had a vision of what democracy is because, on the other hand, the parameters that sometimes they have tried to impose us are those of democracy in the capitalist world, which is has been so vitiated and has had so many problems. So it just goes to say that democracy does not exist.
I believe that democracy can exist if diversity is recognized and made viable. Only that here we come from Captain Generals, presidents, who despite having been mambises, were such sons of the… because they made horrors.
Everyone talks of Machado´s era, but nobody says that Machado was a mambí , or that there were mambises who were racists. A pill of history was created that does not help us to think that we are an imperfect country .
Batista ruled from the army and put and replaced presidents. And people speak-that I heard it in Miami when I was there, about “the great democracy that existed in Cuba” when political disagreements were solved here by shooting in the street. What democracy are they talking to if with there were only 5 million people and all the money “went” to a small group of people and the rest was starving? All this was without needing because there was enough wealth to make it different.
All these lies are invented . And we come from there; we come from a world entirely adulterated where there was no democracy. And after 1959 we even spoke of “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” But that’s our story: some decreeing that this was wonderful before 1959, which is a lie, and others saying that this has been a marvel after 1959, which is also a lie. Many good things have been made, I do not deny it. All good things must be acknowledged, though not all were done after 1959. Just take a look at how many changes and many things are taking place today… Let us see.
MR: When and why you no longer are in the media? Was it something specific or it happened spontaneously?
PLF: Regarding that I want to clarify something: only radio and TV are considered media, and people forget that society has some autonomy and autonomous means. My uncle Raul used to say that television is not massive only for its reach, but by the massiveness with which is dealt. And today nobody sees a television program or a film if it does not like it because the scientific and technical development has made people to have a computer at home. And if you do not have it, a friend, a cousin or a neighbor has it.
The music heard is not that published by EGREM. The music you hear in Cuba is the one that people want to hear. People record in the living room of a house and listen to it.
When I had some mishap with bureaucracy here, I was fully aware of that reality existed and that they were playing an arrogance that did not correspond with reality. At the time people say I disappeared from the media, some of my songs that were put on the radio were heard and became famous, and some have not been put yet. And I go to a theater and everyone knows them. So that of I disappeared from the media was not entirely true. That is keeping playing to the idea that that media are absolute and are the only ones there, as if society did not have some autonomy in relation to broadcasting.
I am very grateful for the publicity ¨La vaquita Pijirigua¨, ¨La artillera¨ and some other of my songs had, but many other of my tracks have been spontaneously divulged by the society; as the Chinese say: The people are wind. The artist is thunder and the people are wind.
MR: What do you think about the cultural policy as regulator? What sense do you believe it has ?
PLF: I do believe in everything that is done right. We can fight for the mass media, those that we know, to be representative of all chores, including manifestations that may not be in favor of what the government is doing, if things are said with respect. To what we must really fear is to botch and disrespect. I do think you can achieve everything with respect.
The problem is not whether you believe or not believe in Che or in God, the problem is that if you get to a meeting of Catholics and start to “defecate in God,” what reason do you have for that? Not all think alike, but we must assume that everyone believes in his for some reason.
Learning to disagree with respect is one of the great tasks of Cuban media because the media here have often offered only one way of thinking, a single point of view, and have spent sometimes denigrating and speaking bad of other ways of thinking, even without respect.
I do believe in a spreading policy that gives space to everything. As it says a song that I will premiere by these days: What kills is not the bullet: speed kills. I put a bullet on my forehead and nothing happens: what kills is the speed. The problem is not in reggaeton or new trova, the problem is that there must be moderation. You can not fill the entire radio of symphonic music; there must be space for symphonic music, reggaeton, salsa … and spaces for people to choose. We are a small people, but very diverse. The media should reflect that diversity we have and not insisting on a single way.
The excess is what kills, what hurts. Things cause damage when there are too much, when there is not balance of all we are. A good dissemination policy would do much good because people would feel the need to appeal less to those autonomous means, but when spreading does not reflect that different feeling, society forgets these media and appeals to those of its own… It’s like institutions, if not defending what they should, people forget about them and create their own institutions. And that’s bad for any State, it destroys States.
The problem is that everything must play its role and that each institution should do what it has to do. Those who have to defend the workers must defend them, because if the institutions that are created to defend workers do not work, then workers will create their own institutions to defend themselves.
The same occurs with spreading and music, if all that happens and all the diversity we have is reflected in the media, those media are more representative of what we are, and society does not feel alienated, feels that the media belongs to it.
MR: When always expressing what you think can be considered daring, challenging?
PLF: Everything depends on how you do things. I believe that art has the ability to say anything, no matter if it is for or against, and whenever you solve it in the field of art. Here in that sense it has not really been a problem, but unfortunately sometimes the message of political criticism is apparently shocking … What is really shocking is to see some level of rudeness and bad artistic work. Art has its laws and base.
We live in a society where there are people who are convinced of one thing and others who are convinced of other things, and you have to respect all criteria. It does not mean I have to agree with you, I can address any issue and I think that art here has been quite open in that regard. I have not felt limited myself by that. And I’ve also made some songs with very direct messages and I have also shocked, but even in the most direct message I might have given in my life, I’ve always tried to be the most respectful possible; not with the government or with power: respectful of other’s conviction, of those next to me or in the public, because, I do not know, some people think that everyone who follows Fidel is an opportunist and I do not think so. My father was not an opportunist and he was a Fidel’s supporter and believed in the Revolution and never became rich nor did anything for ambition. As I saw it, as I saw people who authentically believed in the Revolution, I am very careful with that. And I think anyone has the right to disagree with Che or with his policies and thoughts, but you must always keep in mind that there are people who do agree and believe in him, as it happens with God.
We must develop a discrepancy culture in a society that has to live in harmony. Harmony is not stopping saying what I think; harmony is saying what I think with respect for others. Respect is not fear the state or power. Harmony is respecting others having their own conviction. But you also have to talk to everyone; you can not talk only to those thinking like you. If you are convinced that this is not correct and that someone is not right, you must try a speech that makes him to pay attention on you and maybe he could change.
As I see it. I’m not the yardstick to measure things; I’m just saying the way I have made things.
In that sense I feel that I can say almost everything I have wanted. It is true that at one point, with ¨100% Cubano¨ or ¨Marucha la jinetera¨, etc I could have searched some problems with an uncompromising and absurd bureaucracy. But that did not last long, it did not survive, on the contrary, I think that now there are policies in favor of certain songs and things.
I think art is infinite and is very deep and artistic ability is also precisely where censorship can not touch you. Censorship should not be allowed ever. You have to find ways for censorship to remain without opponent.
I keep projecting myself for the freedom of man and question everything I think is not well done, wherever it comes from, I do not care. I do not care if it is done by a neighbor or the government, which continues making mistakes in some respects.
MR: What arguments would you give to those who wonder why you did not leave Cuba?
PLF: I did not leave Cuba, but I went to the rest of the world. The concept of leaving Cuba was linked to a concept of exile and a right that has been felt by certain people here, an ideology that has a political point of view, to tell another Cuban that Cuba is more his than yours. I never accepted that. I stayed in Cuba first because this is my country .
But I have gone to the world and have lived in other places too, without leaving Cuba. I’ve never accepted anyone to tell me that this was no longer mine. This country is as much mine as anyone’s, I’ve also done things for it and I also put my bit for the happiness of its people and society.
The world also belongs to us and we should go out there, you can learn there, and also you can take your visions and realities there. So I neither accepted that I had to definitively leave Cuba nor the world belongs to me. I did the two things: I remained in Cuba and visited the world.
MR: How do you assess the impact of immigration reform on the relationship between Cuban artists both inside and outside the island?
PLF: I would not speak only of artists, but of all. I think the right to have a country is unquestionable. And under no circumstances this right can be attached to any measure that says that to have a country you have to give up the right to travel freely and live where you choose. It was that way for many years. Unfortunately that created many problems and traumas. Many values were confused and much damage was done.
Now people know other stories, like that to travel you must also have visa and money, but at least you have the tacit permission to travel whenever you want, without relying on being granted by a bureaucrat or anyone. It is a right you have.
I think it’s great; it’s one of my greatest joys. I think it will change almost everything in Cuba and is one of the most important strategic steps that have been taken. There has been a history of many abuses, totally wrong views, which are things inherited of Stalinism and that whole gray world, but it should be clear that the one that implemented the policy of asking permission to leave Cuba was Fulgencio Batista. This already existed in Cuba before the triumph of the Revolution and then it was added a permission to enter. The amazing thing is that such a thing did not disappear. Or not: it was under the climate of aggression against Cuba, invasions, attacks …, active counterrevolution that generated closure, which as always most things that are implemented for the enemies end up being things that mistreat the most our friends. It is not possible that things that are implemented for the enemies to be the same applied to you. The CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) was to monitor the counterrevolution and ended up being an institution that got into the private lives of everyone, invading personal space and attacking constitutional rights. That’s mishandling of things.
The most important thing a human being must have is freedom. Without that freedom there is nothing to do. Everything else can be thrown away.
MR: “When I have only one match, I will be aware of the wind “, that is a Raúl Ferrer´s verse that you have referred sometime. Have you had to be aware of the wind?
PLF: Yes, I have. What happens is that I have many matches… But if that happens to me I will be aware of the wind. It can not fail. You can not fail, you have to be clever.
The issue is in the ability of resignation that people have, what people consider as their freedom and happiness.
Everyone has to pay a price; I pay the price of my freedom, that of feeling myself happy by saying what I think and what I want. The matter is the ability of renunciation and reconciliation that you have with things. I continue with my match. The question is the match that you want to have in your life! The match is your ability to be alive, to be happy, to vibrate, to have thoughts, ideas and, above all, to be happy, which I’m. I have great ability to be happy; I have very few things to lose.