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Raúl Paz, the french cuban of the XXI century

Raúl Paz, the french cuban of the XXI century

Posted by Leyden Figueredo on March 06, 2014

Raúl Paz is a cuban musician from San Luis, Pinar del Rio.  Paz, he UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador in Cuba, learned how to sing by listening to traditional cuban music, and by the early age of 10, he was already writing his own music.

By the age of 17, Paz went to La Habana, where he took acting lessons with Armando Suárez del Villar, and he graduated in Classical Singing from the “Instituto Superior de Arte de La Habana” (Superior Institute of Art of La Habana).

In 1996 he left Cuba and went South America, but he soon ended up in France where he won a scholarship to continue his studies in XX century music at the Schola Cantorum of Paris. It was at Schola, where the biggest hits from around the world where sang, where Paz presented his music, cuban hits, all of this happened while the biggest boom of cuban salsa in Europe was taking off.

Paris was a musical mecca in the 90’s and Raúl became one of the pioneers of the Parisian cuban boom by playing at clubs such as the New Morning, Hot Brass, and Bacatlan. It was in one of these club performances where he was discovered by Ralph Mercado, the founder of RMM. Then, he recorded his first album Cuba Libre, at Gloria Estefan’s studio in Miami. The album was a success, selling around 100,000 copies and giving Paz the award of “Best New Male Artist”.

After a while, Raúl came back to Paris settled there, and got a contract with Patrick Zelnik’s label “Naïve”, it was with them, that he produced the album Mulata in 2003. By that time, Raúl was a “punk” poet with a touch of rap, whose albums are known to be a mix of seven different music genders including trova, salsa, pop, electro funk, timba and fusion. His album Mulata sold more than 60,000 copies, in 2007 he recorded the album En Vivo, and in 2011 Havanization, all of this still with Patrick Zelnik’s label Naïve.

Raúl lived many years abroad, most of them in France, where he is known and respected as a native artist.

“Everybody has its own path” - says Paz-. Each way is long and untangled, this is why as a matter of respect, I don't compare nor judge anybody because of the decisions they make. Everyone has to find its own way. For some, Pérez Prado included, the path didn't followed back home. To me, it was necessary to come back to my hometown, to visit the house I grew up in. Coming back is also knowing yourself, learning how to be, because the past dictates the future, and rethinking the future can be vital in life.

“Never go without coming back. One of the things that hurt the most about going away, was that at that time, when you left you didn't come back. Thanks God, that’s changing because we should all have the right to come back. It is your homeland we’re talking about, your country, the place where you come from.”

How where your years in France?

My time in France was without a doubt a time of finding my own identity. I was finding myself, understanding, checking and enjoying my own self.

Without realizing it I was entering a new life compared to the french life I used to have, and I kept looking for the sun hidden behind the clouds. The Cuban, very cuban me, then opened his arms and eyes to that land that took me, gave me my own space, and respected me. The place that I once came to, to make a living, turned into my country, my space, my reflection, my universe.

Cuba in the middle, and France around it, hugging it, like a friend who taught me how to be myself even when going around the world.

How has the cuban audience reacted after so many years of absence?

To me, the cuban crowd is the most important thing in my life. When I decided to come back from France, where I had become a famous artist, accepted by the french as a national artist, the chance of coming back appeared, and I didn't think it twice. But I kept asking myself, how am I going to be received in Cuba?

In the end, you spend many years representing Cuba, doing music, saying “I am cuban”. The cuban crowd welcomed me with a smile, as if I had never left: as if I had always been here and everybody knew who I was.

I didn't expect it to be that way, coming to Cuba and being accepted by the people so fast and in such a good way. I always say I’m very lucky. My music, of course, will not make it to every corner of the world; but I am lucky to have an audience that goes from kids, to older people; to me that is a gift from heaven. I am living all of this with a lot of enthusiasm and with a lot of love; I am thrilled to be here.

The upcoming 26th of march the UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador will present his new album at the Maxim Rock del Vedado, La Habana, and with this presentation the international festival of francophonie Musicarte, held in Cayo Santa María, north of Villa Clara, will be promoted.

What can you tell us about your new album?

Well, the last thing you know about an album is its name. There’s many options, the one I like the most is El año del mar. But so far I can’t tell you the official name of this new product. This album has two parts, one with latin and the other one with european rhythms. It is kind of a crazy record, full of fusion, and produced with the cuban label EGREM.

What does Musicarte mean to Raúl?

Musicarte is an event that is held together with the cuban ministry of tourism, the group Gaviota, and the agency Lyon Evolution Voyages, it is very important to me because it will bring together cuban and foreign artists.

So far it is a congregation of Francophonie, but the plan is to create an international festival like the one in Varadero, because it’s an outstanding way of promoting a country’s culture. Among the participants in Musicarte is the french and spanish singer Olivia Ruiz. There are some others that I can't name yet because we are finishing up some deals.

Raúl also said that in Cuba, many artists and bands are excited about the idea, he mentioned Kelvin Ochoa, Van Van, Anacaona, Eliades Ochoa, and Lariza Bacallao.

Paz is one of the most well known figures of techno pop, rock, trova, pop and fusion. He is known as the french cuban that revolutionized cuban music of the XXI century. His musical style is based on making that famous ‘cuban essence’ universal. He is one of the most authentic representatives of the World Music International.

He has preformed in Europe in places such as the Olimpia in Paris, the Big Casino in Geneva, the “Plaza Mayor” of Madrid. Moreover, he has performed with extraordinary musicians from around the world, like Rosario Flores, Ricky Martin, Oscar D’ León, Marc Anthony, Manu Chao, El Cigala, among other giants of latin american music.

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