Belascoaín and Neptuno

In a warning that appears in the last paragraph of the preface - and is repeated on the inside cover - of With a Cuban song in the heart , Ivan Acosta states that " very few material things, with almost nothing. But I could not live without my collection of records, especially those of Cuban music. "

To write" little thing "and to refer, in the same breath, to his collection of discs is, in the best of cases, an imprecision and, at worst, an injustice. Because this, which is the tip of the iceberg, of little thing has nothing. Taking as a starting point a catalog that compiles more than 5 000 LPs, Acosta creates a story that fills personal anecdotes with the becoming of a nation that went to bolina. For this, it uses more than two hundred covers of albums with which tells a story at once intimate and collective.

I am impressed, but I am not surprised, this incursion of Ivan Acosta in a hybrid genre, to bring to light a book that, according to the author, is not "a political novel, nor a manual of the history of Cuban music and much less an autobiography", but which, in my words, is much more: memento, vademecum, rest of a shipwreck, postcard album, view of the dusk in the Tropic, museum piece, chronology of life (and music) from an island to the pairo, anthology of the Cuban cancionística, collection of cartoons; in short, a portrait of these two homelands that our compatriots have: Cuba and the night - the night that Sabá Cabrera Infante would eternalize in his documentary PM ., the night of the Three sad tigers of his brother Guillermo, the Cuban night that eventually transmuted the smile into a long grin of boredom.

Lydia Cabrera said that she had discovered Cuba on the banks of the Seine. Paquito D'Rivera likes to say the same, but with the Hudson River as a backdrop. I wonder where Ivan Acosta will have hit that island we all carry inside. The question is rhetoric ... and not so much. Acosta escaped the green crocodile in full adolescence. And yet, it is a personification of the positive values ​​of that entelequia that is cubanazo. Perhaps the answer is that, in exile, this man became (more) Cuban through the music of his place of origin and turned the native songbook into a tangible thing, into a physical space, into a fertile land. (Not for nothing his first album, which dates from 1978, is entitled Songs of life, of the motherland and love , those three abstractions that are so expensive.)

This from the rivers reminds me that being "adrift" is almost a condition sine qua non of the Cuban - and of the Cuban -, particularly in the last half century of stumbling around the world , fleeing the dream of the unreason and the monsters that it has produced. In the case of Ivan Acosta - like that of those who began their flight from that island of difficult memory - by sea, the drift was also literal. In what I suppose would have been an eternal night of August 1961, at the age of sixteen and a couple of records he rescued before (a) jumping into the ship where he would escape, with his family, to Jamaica, Iván Acosta the sea. And he brought (Cuban) music with him. He did not abandon her and she, who knows how to be grateful, over the decades has returned the favor to her.

As they would say in Havana: here is to eat and take away. So come in, read, listen. This is not a book. This is a party.

Alexis Romay
New Jersey, June 29, 2017

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