José Valladares, Cuban singer and songwriter with a rich musical career comes to the studios of Cadena Habana, the radio station of the Cuban music, because he feels that it is his second home.
Mr. Valladares started his recordings working with the news agency Prensa Latina in 1970. Three years later, he was taken to write beautiful songs while he was finishing the Militar Service. The musical theme “Ni la casa ni yo” was his first song selected so that the group Los Reyes could record and the lyrics were of his authorship.
With a wide cultural background, Mr. Valladares met great writers and intellectuals that nourished his professional life such as the Nobel Prize of Literature Gabriel García Márquez and the journalist Pedro Martínez Pires. His father too, Cheo Valladares, who was soloist in the Orchestra Los Hermanos Castro (Castro brothers), and owner of an exquisite pitch in his way of singing impressive boleros.
Does writing songs was your challenge?
Inmerse in composition I felt the necessity of expanding my works because I wanted a wider range and then, they were the Cuban interpreter living in Russia, Miguel Chávez, with Beatriz Márquez, and the song “Dejaré que el tiempo pase", who made popular the first romantic themes in occasional duets that were in the preference of the audience.
In the same way, Beatriz continued recording my songs, songs such as "Prefiero ser algún recuerdo de tu vida“ and “Regresa”; while the other creators Maggie Carles and Luis Nodal, interpreted “Soy tú flor de abril”, and Annia Linares made popular “Lluvia de Alfileres”, and like these more other interpreters of the songs of the 70's of the past century. Many came to me like that, Cuban artists with the intention of requesting my songs and taking advantage of the muses.
We are in the 21st century and eventhough the songs are not heard anymore, they are in the preference of many people. Where can we enjoy them?
I am arranging some TV shows in the Educative Channel, the project I plan and have is working and trying to create a space where people can listen to, because I feel that we have to keep promoting romantic music so that the youth can come closer to it.
On the other hand, I am having performances at Casa 18 of ARTEX, on Thursdays (irregular) from 6 pm to 8 pm. There, I share the stage with Alwin Damián, Ernesto Roel, Claudio Rodríguez, among others. I also work all days in the show Tradicionales de los 50, as part of the Cultural Center Rosalía de Castro, where a number of artists of that era participate, some are younger, but some others not so young such as Pablo Santamaría, Sergio Farías, Raquel Hernández, Leonor Sayas, María Elena Lazo, Félix Bernal, Millán Zuaznávar, Mundito González and a rich group that interprets songs for more than 2 hours and the audience recieves it well and likes it a lot.
In your opinion, what is going on with the contemporary song?
Unfortunately there are not enough spaces, on TV and in the city. Times have changed and orchestras today are less populated. There were musicians such as Tony Taño, Adolfo Guzmán and Rembert Egües, that used to make wonderful and well organized orchestral arrangements. That is why people remember them very well. They are songs that endure in your memory. I participated with them too in contests such as Festival del Creador in 1977. I remember “Sobran razones”, sang by Miguel Ángel Ortiz's son and it reached the 3rd place. Orchestras directors like Rey Montesinos and Miguel Paterson used to participate too along with the ICRT orchestra, with excellent styles and musical arrangements.
It is normal that times change and with them the sonorities and the music too. But modern orchestral arrangements still lack consciousness at the time of making musical arrangements based on the inflection of the singer's tone. For a song to succeed, besides promotion, that is of course very important, the secret lies on the live performance, the composition and the orchestral arrangements. In that time, if one of these essential aspects failed, it was not probable that the song succeed because, as I just said before, a song baddly musicalized and arranged is a complete failure. Today, these three elements are not taken into consideation as the music is very superficial and monotonous.
Do you consider then that the style of songs was substituted?
When urban music came, including reggaeton, hip hop, among other styles, things got complicated; because urban music, as the word itself states, anybody can sing it and hence it is a vicious cycle. Concepts regarding pitch and tone are not longer taken into account seriously, eventhough when they sing in live concerts people notice, however, they do not demand so much from the musical point of view. Baladas, romantic songs, merengues and all those styles, Cuban and Latin American genres that are so beaitiful, all they are more demanding at the time of their interpretation.
It bothers me a lot the terminology "intelligent song" because it is so arrogant. Intelligent songs are also those belonging to the 20's, those by María Teresa Vera, Guillermina de Aramburu; “Siboney”, by Ernesto Lecuona; “La tarde”, by Sindo Garay, and in my case, for example, “Ni la casa ni yo” has a text that is no so long, but it makes you think and reflect at the very moment one listents to it. The truth is that good songs are polemic.
Luis Carbonell always told me that at present, girls are being quite noisy in their way of singing, and that is completely true. In my opinion, the personality when singing is lost. I mean, people struggle when identifying themselves and...let me give you an example: Benny Moré had nothing similar to Ñico Membiela, not even Orlando Contreras. The point is that there were people who were like a kind of musical coach devoted to discover talented singers with certain uniformity when performing.
Ernesto Duarte and Bebo Valdés were two of them, they were in charge of building a unique personality in those artists that the people listen to today, yesterday and artists that died here or outside Cuba, all them unique in their personality and their style of singing. None of them were confused with another artists because that was precisely the demands of our times.
Now, it is easy to realize that in popular music the vast majority of our orchestras sound equal. When someone listents to the Aragón, it is easy to identify it. That identification is lost, but I think it can be rescued again.
In 50 yeas of your career, how many CDs have you recorded?
I have 5 CDs and I consider that, besides all the technology available, CDs are not sell here. A reserach work must be done and a cleaning work. Otherwise, popular music won't prosper. Here, there are very good singers that haven't been dircovered, and I tell you again, there are many women that should have the guidance of specialists who can train them better and guide them better in order to make them realize what they should sing or not. To provide an example, allow me to mention Blanca Rosa Gil. She wasn't similar to any other woman. The same happens with Celeste Mendoza, Beatriz Márquez, Omara Portuondo, Elena Burque, Moraima Secada and Celia Cruz. All them performed with apperance, movement, glamour and their way of saying, each one of them with their own personality and style.
To record a CD, responsible and capable professionals are essential. Professionals that study deeply the artists' personality and personal characteristics of their style. It shouldn't be just record, record, record and nothing more.
Other things that are relevant in my career are the OTI Awards in 1991 with Isaac Delgado and the topic “Guitarra que ha dejado de sonar”; after that came the edition of 1992, with Rafael Sánchez Yero and the song “Soñaba”, which is magic in my point of view. In 1993, Manolo Sánchez sang “Amor de miedo”, which reached the 1st place and competed in a contest in Valencia, España.
Your music is also recognized abroad. Can you mention some of those forigner singers who chose your songs?
I was lucky that some important orchestras in Puerto Rico recorded me; Rey Ruiz with the songs“Mintiendo” and “Eso digo yo”; Lucecita Benítez with “Esperanza mía”; the Dominican Sergio Vargas recorded “Te quise de más”; Marcos Antonio Muñiz, from México chose the song “Mejor decirnos adiós”, and the group Son Bey Foor had in its repertoire the song “Lunática”.
On the other hand, I congratulate you for the work you do in this radio station of the Cuban music because promoting our music is very important. This is the place where we can join and share our ideas based on our genres and how to defend them, the peasant music, the creole songs, the Rumba, the Son and the Romantic and Balladas.
Popularly known as Pepe Valladares, in his 73 years old, he feels so happy in Radio Cadena Habana, the house of all our musicians, composers and singers. Soon, we will be celebrating our 8 decades in defense of our musical heritage.
Translated by Susel Esquivel