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23 Nov

Omar Sosa interview

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Since he emigrated from Cuba in 1993, Omar Sosa ( 7-time GRAMMY-nominated pianist and composer)  has forged a distinctive musical path, fusing an array of jazz, world music, hip-hop, and electronic elements with his Afro-Cuban roots. Jazzonline had a little chat with him before is performance at Gazarte on December 12, 2015.

1. What is jazz for you?
Jazz for me is philosophy: "The philosophy of freedom". Through jazz I can express freely my feelings, my emotions, my states of mind. It offers me the possibility to combine different musical styles, which for many persons could be contradictory… Thanks to the freedom and the flexibility of jazz music, I get the  the opportunity to say simply what I feel.  


2. You were born in Cuba in the first decade of Fidel Castro's rule over the island, and I have read somewhere that you grew up listening to forbidden American jazz with your friends, in secret.  Who were those musicians you were listening to and which jazz musicians had a great influence on you, and why?
It was an interesting time, more than difficult... Overall, the fact that we had to listen to music secretly made it more exciting. We know that prohibition makes us desire something more. It was there that my love and passion for jazz and improvisation started
Musicians like Thelonious Monk , Coltrane , Miles Davis , Herbie Hancock , Chick Corea , Wether Report , Yellow Jacket and more changed my way of listening and sensing the music and unconsciously shaped the direction and the creative path that I’m now walking through: freedom and flexibility to receive and assimilate other cultures  and at the same time a musical adventure which makes me feel that every moment and every composition is the first one!!

3. The addition of the jazz aspect of improvisation to the African tradition led to the music you play today. Do you think your music is “avant garde “?
I don’t know, I only think and feel that each note we play is an humble tribute to our traditions and to everything we have been learning, observing and listening, but overall what we felt and we are feeling. Africa is The Mother, and a mother gives you life and this is why I think that we have to say thank you in every moment.

4.  Do you think that the term “world jazz “represents your music ?
I think that the music we play is music of the Earth, and if someone prefers to call it World Jazz then he’s welcome and he is also welcomed if he prefers to call it with another name. I only would like them to feel the message, a message of union between cultures and traditions, a message of multiculturalism. As Don Cherry said: MULTICULTY!! This is our journey and our truth.

 About your last cd “ilé” and your AfroCubano Quarteto. "The word ilé, from the Lucumí tradition of Cuba, means home, earth." This is a return-to-roots project. Could you tell us few words about it?
As I said before: we wanted to thank our roots, our Mother, our culture. This is the main part of our duty and our most recent project as a Quartet: a tribute, a reverence to our traditions and our rhythms, to the living legacy of our respective homelands (Cuba and Mozambique) proceeding from our discoveries and experiences to what I call “new paths” or “apparitions’ paths”. There are also elements of Hip Hop and Flamenco…

6. You’ve won all sorts of awards and accolades over the years. What do you think is your greatest success as a musician?
It’s very simple: having the possibility to play the music which comes from my Alma (soul) and to keep on translating the sublime message that my spirits and ancestors in Luz (light) convey me in every moment. For me this is the greatest success, I feel that without it nothing would have sense (at least for me!!)

7. You have been playing all over the world. Is the audience different from one country to another?
Human beings are usually quite similar from the genetic point of view, and this makes also possible to feel similar emotions accordingly to the codes we receive. This is why usually an audience from Asia and another one from Africa react in a similar way to a musical moment that would convey happiness, sadness, optimism, jubilation… Anyway, I think that the musicians have to receive at first this emotion.
More than representing cultural traditions, both personal or collective, the arts and the music are basic universal languages that are able to cancel differences, borders, idioms. I think that it’s one of the most, or maybe the most conciliatory form of expression that the mankind has today. And I thank, every second of my life, to keep the Art as a reflection of this world and to live with Art in every moment.

8. What are your plans for the next months?
Keep on working and creating for as long as my health allows me to do so.


Interview for JAZZONLINE.GR  by Patricia Graire – November 2015

Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano on December 12, 2015 at Gazarte

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 December 2015 16:13