How would you explain the wholeness of Bob Dylan to a non-English speaker? That is exactly the dilemma with Silvio Rodriguez, but I trust that, as David Byrne, the Talking Heads founder and music genius did, you will appreciate "La Nueva Trova Cubana" as a beautiful universal expression. And as he said: "more people must know about this music."
Trova is a Cuban sound of guitars and vocal harmonies singing poetic lyrics – a unique music style that had its birth in the eastern provinces of Cuba. In some ways, it is very close to Folk music. The "Nueva Trova" or "New Trova" re-emerged in the 60s after the Cuban revolution and had political content that made it controversial and even banned in some countries. For Silvio and his contemporaries, music was their weapon, and songs were their ammo.
Silvio's socialist mindset was clearly expressed in an interview I saw recently in youtube: When he was asked how he felt about his fame, he responded: "I don't really think of it that way. My job is to be a musician, as important as a construction worker or a breadmaker. We are all workers for our country." There's something to reflect about this in our world in which fame is thought of as someone's worth.
Coming from Cuba, one might expect this to be Cumbia or Cha-Cha-Cha (which I don't particularly enjoy), but this music, mainly Silvio's, is beautiful pop music with sophisticated lyrics. Listening to his discography, one can recognize the influences from classic rock, folk, psychedelia, blues, and some other genres, yet it is a truly authentic expression. During the late 80s, its popularity increased and had an explosion across Latin America. It became so popular and influential that unique expressions started to emerge in other countries; maybe the most popular Mexican trovador was Fernando Delgadillo.
Delgadillo, as people know him, lived near Satelite, the same suburb of Mexico City where I grew up, and he happened to attend some of the parties of my high school friends. I won't forget the day I took control of the audio at one of these events and played a "The Police" tape; he politely came and turned it off, looking down at me for what I interpreted as a reprimand for my poor musical taste.
Rabo the Nube is one of my favorite albums, but there are so many, and all of them are so good that I simply had to choose one. Every time I listen to Silvio, I pass through the whole catalog, which takes weeks. But if you don't have much time or would prefer to go straight to it, listen to the following playlist:
Viva Silvio Rodriguez!