OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Reynier Mariño has had success with his guitar and flamenco, on four continents. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

Guitar and flamenco are two words essential to any conversation about Reynier Mariño. He is a virtuoso of the instrument and the genre. To him, "The guitar is my life, and flamenco my soul."

"My journey around the world has been long, I've been in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all of America, for 11 years, but at some point, one returns to his land, saying: I want to go back, do things for the people, for the country," Mariño tells Granma International, a few minutes before the debut in the National Theater's Avellaneda Hall of his performance Regreso, which he will take to Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, and Pinar del Río, later this month.

The concerts, with his group and a pair of dancers, include special guest Miriela Moreno, leader of the Aceituna sin hueso group. Mariño reported that he has chosen a program mainly of flamenco, but also including versions of Spanish compositions, some well known Cuban classics, and his own work, "Pieces like

"Entre dos agues" by maestro Paco de Lucía, from Camarón de la lsla, Rocío Durcal and Rocío Jurado, for example "Se nos rompió el amor", "20 años,""Se me va la vida," "Teatro," "Regreso," and "Lo siento mi amor."

This show Regreso… for Cuba, for the genre?

Precisely. I left in 2000 when there was a big flamenco boom in Cuba. Unfortunately it has been replaced by another style, perhaps only a single style is being heard now. That's the value I see in returning with Miriela, to make an effort to recover the Spanish roots. We Cubans have a lot of Spanish roots, and of course, we are descendants of Africans and Chinese. We must defend Spanish culture from our own idiosyncrasies, our Cuban identity. What we are trying to do with this union is to recuperate our audience, so that flamenco is the alternative for those who don't want to listen to reggeton.

Paco de Lucia has a stellar student and loyal follower in Cuban Reynier Mariño. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

You do classic flamenco and fusion …

The flamenco I do in Cuba is mixed with son, rock, pop, punto cubano, jazz, Arab melodies, trova, and classical music. I do it this way because doing pure flamenco here is complicated, people aren’t familiar with it, and I'm talking about artists as well as the audience. In Spain, yes, I do pure flamenco. I have my Reynier Mariño Company, although my sister and I are the only Cubans, the other 17 are all Romanies. It is easier and the public that comes to see us knows us. Romanies follow us. I have another company here, composed of a group of Cubans who like flamenco and like Cuban music.

You maintain the two companies?

That's right, and I am going to do my next tours with them - that of Spain and Europe, which begins in November, with the Spanish company, and that to Hong Kong and other Asian cities with the Cuban, in December.

It's interesting to see a Cuban leading Romani musicians and having success in that community…

It took many years for me to achieve this. I started playing in the subway, meeting people, Romanies, maestro Paco de Lucía helped me a great deal; it was a big effort. From then on, I made a name for myself and began to recruit dancers, singers.

Let's take a step back, to your origins…

Music has been in me from an early age. I began taking classes when I was nine, at the Casa de la Cultura in 10 de Octubre (a Havana municipality), I went to the elementary level at Manuel Saumell School, and then to the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, through my third year, and at the same time took private lessons with maestra Leopoldina Núñez. But what is for sure is that when I heard Paco de Lucía, I said to myself: That’s mine. I began as third guitar with the Ballet Español, and was later with the Lizt Alfonso Ballet, where I became very familiar with flamenco. In 2000, I won the Concert Music Center's National Award, and this gave me the opportunity to do my first concert October 21, in the Amadeo Roldán Theater's Caturla Hall.

You recorded the album Alma Gitana in 2003 with EGREM...

They said it wasn't going to sell, and it was the third best selling (album) that year in Cuba. It is considered the first one of flamenco recorded on the island.

Other CDs?

I have another one in Cuba and six in Spain, among them Lorca en mí, that came out of a concert and became an album with the label RDI Canarias. Lorca is a reference worldwide, and in his country, a god. I am putting together a new disc now, with 12 tracks, some mine and two of Miriela's, which I am planning to begin recording with Bis Music in November.

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Reynier Mariño, outstanding flamenco composer and guitarist, presents Regreso, a new project, described one way as meant to "preserve Spanish culture and roots in Cuba."