Tropical Soul

14 Apr

It’s been a very long 14 months. I’ve been back and forth across the Atlantic, twice. In January, in Port-au-Prince, I was a mere stones throw away and it made my stomach turn being so close yet so far.

But now my bag is packed. In two hours I head to Heathrow and in twenty four hours I will be in Havana.

I’m going back to Santiago to feed my tropical soul. There will be stories coming.

Hasta pronto.

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Blog Feature for British Embassy in Cuba

20 Feb

During my most recent trip to Cuba I was asked to write a guest piece for the British Ambassasdor Tim Cole’s blog. It’s online now and available to read at the link below:

A musical journey from the UK to Cuba and back again

Enjoy!

Thank you!

17 Feb

This is a little belated… It was such a shock to return to mid winter after a month of Cuban music and sunshine that I my system went into self-imposed shut down for a while. I’m now readjusted and recovered from a vicious virus and I want to say thank you…

Thank you Santiago for your energy, your beauty, your grit and your soul, which are infinitely inspiring. Thank you to family and friends – old and new – for your love and for making me feel as though I had never been away. Thank you to everyone that demanded an X planet concert, you were right it did indeed have to happen. Thank you to Influencia for offering us a bit of room on your stage. Thank you to the Iris Jazz Club for agreeing to expand your definition of jazz for an evening. Thank you Angel and Orlando for joining the X Planet family, for contributing your talent and your incredible and uncontainable energy! Thank you Sandra and Ruben, as always, for your passion, your patience, your humor and all of the good times. Thank you to the AHS for helping us to make things happen. Thank you Eddy, the rasta wanderer, for your big fat smile and for spreading the word. Thank you to our friends at Radio CMKC for all your support and your airtime…

And finally the biggest thank you to everyone who came to see X Planet on the 30th January – for bringing in all the spare chairs in the building, for singing along, for shouting for more and for sharing your love with us. You made it such a beautiful evening. Here’s to the next one – we promise that we wont leave you waiting too long!

Gracias a Santiago por su energía, su belleza, su valor y su alma, los cuales son infinitivamente inspirador. Gracias a familia y amigos – viejos y nuevos – por su amor y por hacerme sentir como si nunca me hubiese ido. Gracias a todos ustedes que exigieron un concierto de X Planet, tenían toda la razon – tenía que pasar. Gracias a Influencia por ofrecernos un espacio en su escenario. Gracias al Iris Jazz Club por aceptar expandir su definición de jazz por una noche. Gracias a Angel y Orlando por unirse a la familia X Planet y contribuir su talento e energía increíble e incontrolable! Gracias a Sandra y Rubén, como siempre, por su pasión, su paciencia, su humor y por todos los buenos tiempos. Gracias al AHS por ayudarnos en hacerlo realidad. Gracias a Eddy, el caminante Rastafari, por su sonrisa enorme y por correr la voz. Gracias a nuestros amigos a radio CMKC por todo su apoyo y tiempo de aire…

Y finalmente el gracias mas grande para todo ustedes que vinieron a ver X Planet el día 30 de enero. Gracias por traer todas las sillas que habían en el edificio, por cantar, por pedir otras y por compartir su amor con nosotros. Ustedes hicieron una noche tan bella. Les prometemos que no van a tener que esperar tanto tiempo para el próximo.

Preparing for the concert…

29 Jan

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We’re Back!

23 Jan

My arrival in Havana coincided with that of a frente frio which bought winter with it. So, after a few days of coffee drinking, malecon strolling and time zone readjustment Alain and I made straight for the ‘tierra caliente’.

It’s both strange and comforting to come back to a place so foreign and faraway and at the same time so familiar. Santiago has changed since I was last here – reconstruction and recuperation after the devastation of Sandy is a long and continuing process. Many people are still homeless and structural damage is very visible. From the roof of Alain’s house you can now see all the way to the Plaza de Marte as the trees that once blocked the view were ripped out of the ground at the root by the hurricane.

But most changes are positive– marriages, new babies, construction, a passion fruit plant on the placa, new bands with new music, the Iris Jazz Club, giant churros filled with condensed milk and a fashion for painting houses orange. ..

It’s been delightful and overwhelming to see how the X Planet bug is still very much alive. Our music has been making its way steadily and surely from USB to USB, lap top to hard drive. Our songs are still blasted out on the radio on Ramadas in the afternoons and when Slow Down Sugar comes up on a party playlist, everybody sings along, now word perfect.
And so, while I had been quite adamant that this trip was strictly holiday, it really didn’t take any time at all for me to succumb to the temptation of putting together another show. Alain and I went to see Ruben to put the idea to him shortly after my arrival in Santiago and that was that.

X Planet will be performing at the new Iris Jazz Club in the Plaza de Marte on Thursday 30th January. We’ve been invited as guests by Influencia – a group made up of Santiago’s most promising young Jazz musicians, who have a regular weekly show. Rather than working with a DJ and backing sequence as we did for the previous Cuban performances, this set will be completely acoustic. We’re working again with Ruben Lester on guitar and Sandra Aguero on bass and in addition we’ve recruited Orlando Fuente to play drum kit (son on Wilfredo who plays with Eliades Ochoa) and Angel to play keys.

After our first rehearsal yesterday I can say with confidence that this show will top the last. There’s lots of rehearsing to do, flyer printing to arrange, interviews to organise but it feels good to be doing it all again and to slip back into the old routine. I’m itching to get back on the Santiago stage. X Planet ‘ta en la casa de nuevo… ¡prepárense!

Iris Jazz Club Flyer

A Toast to 2013

3 Jan

2013 was a year of music and movement, of hard work and happy times, of ups, of downs, of smiles, of sunshine, and of meditation. Backed by our incredible band we spread the X Planet love about London. It was a dream for us to bring our Santiago sound to the big city and to work with a group of such diverse, talented and dedicated musicians, to whom we are so grateful for all the energy they poured into the project.

During Alain’s stay in London a lot of what we did was documented by two friends of ours Will Teddy and Hugo Vaughan-Hughes, Our aim was to put together a video that told the story of X Planet, using shots from London shows and incorporating footage from Cuban recording sessions and concerts. I’m delighted to be able to share this with you now. As a toast to 2013 and to the new year ahead.

And now for the next chapter. Tomorrow I fly to Havana to spend a month with loved ones, dancing, drinking rum, soaking up the Caribbean sunshine and re-immersing myself in Cuba’s incredible creative energy.

Hasta la vista!

x

Countdown to Cubanismo Urbano

7 Oct

This weekend Matt Silver and I are off to Austria to get involved in Cubanismo Urbano, a festival celebrating contemporary Cuban urban art taking place in Vienna from 10th to 13th October.

Cubanismo Urbano

The event is the brainchild and baby of Isabella Schrammel, music lover, promoter and passionate supporter of the urban Cuban arts, who Alain and I first met in early 2012. We were in the first stages of the recording of Xistence and she was in town for Santiago’s biannual International mural painting initiative Inter-Nos, which brings together local and foreign artists to turn walls into works of art that celebrate life, humanity and aspects of local culture.

Isi quickly became part of the crew and has been supporting urban creatives in Santiago ever since – helping to make what is happening in the Oriente visible and audible by religiously posting and re-posting on social media, collecting money and materials for local artists after the devastation of hurricane Sandy, and investing vast amounts of time, money and energy into her dream of organising a festival that would help expand the European impression of Cuban culture beyond Buena Vista Social Club.

And she did it! No matter how many people told her it would be impossible, she kept fighting, has managed, in almost no time at all, to put together an incredibly diverse program of events including painters, producers and musicians from both Cuba and Europe.

Alain and I were in frequent contact with Isi during the time he was in London, keeping up to date with her progress and her with ours. We all imagined that by October he would be back in London, and were looking forward to all of X Planet being involved in the festival we always believed would happen. So it’s great news that Cubanismo Urbano is finally happening but very sad that Alain won’t be part of it this time… Visas and borders are very complicated and difficult and take a bit more time to struggle with than you would think – a full Alain update is coming soon, in his own words…

So I’ll be doing my very best to represent in Alain’s absence. For me all the action is happening on Saturday 12th. I’m taking part in a panel discussion on ‘Music from and in Cuba’ at the Weltmuseum Wien from 2-4pm and Matt and I will be at Café Leopold later that same evening, doing an acoustic set of my solo material with a few X Planet classics mixed in.

Here’s the full event program:

Cubanismo Urbano Programme

More festival news and information on all other participating artists can be found on the website:

Cubanismo Urbano

Please visit the page and share with all your people in Vienna. It’s going to be a great event and I’m very honored and exited to be a part of it.

Bis bald Wien!