YUMURÍ is still a name of disputed origin, but, for sure, extremely Cuban. Whether originating from an indigenous legend about resistance to Spanish colonizers, or from lexicographic studies of the Taíno language, for centuries it has provided the name for the Yumurí Valley, in Matanzas province, some 100 kilometers from Havana, and for the past two decades it has identified a certain other “Valle”, first name Moisés.
The writer behind songs such as “Pegaito a la tarima”, “La Bomba” and “Una miradita”, singer and composer Moisés Valle proudly uses the artistic name of Yumurí. Elio Revé, director of the Charangón orchestra, named him as such when the youngster joined the group in 1988.
“The maestro Elio Revé Matos had an incredible stroke of genius on nicknaming his singers and one day he said: you’re going to be called Yumurí from now on. He took into account my surname, and because it was also widely used by other singers and ballplayers,” the musician explained in a past interview.
A Guarachar! (Let’s party!) has been the distinctive phrase of this son singer and charismatic artist, born in Havana, from a very musical family. “All my five brothers studied music. I didn’t. I studied agronomy, but I have always carried music within.”
For this reason, during his university days, Moisés was involved in the amateur artists’ movement, in the Caña Brava musical group. After finishing his degree, he joined the band Imagen Latina, and in 1988 joined the popular Orquesta Revé as a singer, a group with whom he performed for four years.
In September 1992, he founded his own band, Yumurí y sus Hermanos (Yumurí and his Brothers), with which he proposed to form a different kind of band, playing Cuban music with a touch of contemporaneity in terms of its orchestrations.
Later on, he focused on his role as a composer, which he had begun by composing choruses for the Orquesta Revé. Yumurí has said that the first song he composed was “La Bomba”, a son piece with lyrics by his brother Pedro.
The song was recorded by Willie Rosario’s band in Puerto Rico on the album released on its 40th anniversary in 1999. Oscar D’León also recorded the track under the title “Mi mujer es una bomba”. Meanwhile, the Moreno brothers recorded a version of another of his songs, “Una miradita”, in New York.
Moisés has also been lucky with his discography, having systematically recorded a number of albums, well-received by the public. His first, in 1993, was Cocodrilo de agua salá, followed by Provocación in 1996; Olvídame si puedes in 1999; Bilongo in 2002; Salsa y Candela in 2004; Yumurí Live in 2005; Grandes Éxitos in 2006; and Cubano Cubano in 2008.
Yumurí and his orchestra have won over the public in various countries, including Japan, Switzerland, France, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Venezuela, Panama, and Germany, with their charisma, their gift for son and the show they offer in their live performances.
We met with Yumurí in the Tablao of the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, and despite the loud recorded music playing in the background, we managed to talk about diverse topics:
A NEW ALBUM
Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the orchestra, we are releasing a new album, this is the seventh production with record label Bis Music. It is called Changanero and is very danceable, where son, timba, guaracha, salsa, bolero, rumba, all genres are mixed. It includes ten brand new tracks and I was fortunate, once again, to have the brass section with Alexander Abreu on the trumpet and Amaury Pérez on the trombone. We brought together the musicians of Habana de Primera and those of the band and we formed a rhythmic and harmonic base with a lot of flavor. It is an album in which the tumbaos (bass rhythms) reign, which have historically made the dancer move. I continue to be committed to our music. It’s what I know. I was born in a country of good son musicians and I am an heir of that tradition. You will hear me for the first time singing a rumba, in my own style, and a bolero-son. The genres of Cuban music are so many that they can not be lost and I have the energy, I still have the voice and the desire to make music and if I have the support of a record label and a people that wants to listen to me, well then, I will be making Cuban music for as long as life wants me to.
SOME OF HIS INFLUENCES
As a child my father listened to Benny Moré and the Orquesta Aragón. I grew up with Van Van, Adalberto Álvarez, Son 14, and some of my influences stem from that reality. Everything is present in my music, in which son, rumba, and mambo are mixed. I have the preference of the people, of dancers, and I have been loyal and faithful to them in my compositions. I have been to every corner of the country, from east to west, that’s why I have a song called “De Carnaval en carnaval”, because I have been to all the popular festivals.
MY MUSIC IS VERY DANCEABLE
The public is a blessing. When I say ‘¡A guarachar!’ it’s not a slogan, it’s that people really enjoy themselves. My music is very danceable, of course I trained in the Revé, I learned a lot about the importance of tumbao and above all the respect for the dancer in the choruses and in the texts. You can make dance music that people enjoy, because people go wild in a public dance event, but without being vulgar. Cuban music is full of messages with double meanings, Creole wit, which is very clever, and that is what I use in my texts, that is why children to the elderly listen to my songs, the same in Santiago de Cuba, Pinar del Río, or the Isle of Youth. They look forward to hearing me sing and I feel committed and very humble. Life gave us a gift, to sing and to have a voice; and the grace that through son, salsa, and guaracha we can convey a message of optimism, joy and, above all, a strong Cuban identity.
ALWAYS ATTENTIVE TO CONTEMPORANEITY
In my music there is always something new, in how we harmonize the brass section, the trumpets, trombones, and keyboards. One is always attentive to contemporaneity, and in addition, the band is turning 25, but is full of young musicians. My sons are already in my group, they are graduates of the academy. Michel plays trumpet and is a singer and Félix Javier is a violinist and now I have incorporated a violin following the tradition of charanga, it offers a very nice timbre, a flavor. They bring me new harmonies, melodies, another way of singing, and other texts.
I CAME THROUGH UNSCATHED
At one time there were many discussions as to the lyrics in popular music and I actually came through unscathed when the salsa boom hit. What is happening now is worse than the 1990s. I've never had a problem with this. The only one of five brothers who did not study in the academy, then yes, I went to the School of Professional Development and I was a student of Algeria Fragoso, Luis of Carbonell, who was a repertory specialist. I had the joy of studying under those great teachers. Popular singers, son musicians, are born, it is a virtue that comes by default, no one teaches you. To sing son, to improvise, is not taught in a school, but I did learn about repertory with them, vocal technique, the texts. I like the songs to have a message, that one dances and a message reaches them in some way.
DANCE MUSIC IS IN GOOD SHAPE
There are many bands in Cuba, musicians have not stopped creating, but we have to coexist alongside other foreign genres that have arrived, be it reggaeton or another type that I do not know how to describe, a kind of fusion, strange music that young people like. I think it is a very controversial subject, but dance music is in good shape. I think what’s needed is more space for dancers, so they don’t just see bands once a year during a carnival. Spaces other than La Tropica, a place where people can go dancing. Also now that so many tourists are arriving and what they come for is not only traditional son, but salsa and timba bands. For anyone who likes the cha-cha-cha, where can they go to dance? Or someone who likes mambo?
OUR WAY OF COMMUNICATING, OF MOVING
“We have to be authentic, original, faithful to the Cuban tradition, to what we are. To be Cuban we do not have to dress up with a Cuban flag, or put on a show or horse about. We are not the center of the world, but the ways we talk, move, sing, dance, and create music are unique; we do not have to do anything false. There is a lot of talent here, it’s a prodigious island. This is the right time for the diffusion of our music.”
In a country like Cuba, with extraordinary musical groups both in terms of quantity and quality, Yumurí y sus Hermanos stand out. First, due to the group’s director who is the singer, with a particular vocal tone, a unique way of projecting on stage, of communicating with the public, with a very dynamic performance.
Yumurí can sing all genres of popular music. His band sounds very Cuban, with the rhythm of the bass, drum, piano, and percussion. He makes no concessions in the choruses, but follows the examples of the great son musicians such as Ñico Saquito, Juan Formell, and Adalberto Álvarez.
Moisés Valle, or Yumurí, stated for our readers that his new album, Changanero, has “catchy tracks, respecting the roots of son, of guaracha, with a more international feeling so that everyone can dance and ¡A guarachar!”