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Afro-Cuban Jazz Superstar with Soul

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Thursday June 07, 2018

From The Charleston Chronicle

The Chronicle Interviews Chucho Valdes: An Afro-Cuban Jazz Superstar with Soul
By: Hakim Abdul-Ali

In the worlds of musical tastes there are some good musicians and, in other considerations, there are some who are simply superlative beyond descriptions. On Wednesday, May 31, 2018, I had a distinct opportunity in interviewing one such superb musical royalty, one who’s beyond mere descriptions and is, I would politely say, a musician’s musician.

That personality was the great Afro-Cuban jazz superstar Jesús Valdés Rodríguez, professionally and commonly known as “Chucho” Valdés. This prolific pianist, arranger, vocalist and composer extraordinaire was the leader of the great band, “Irakere”, and he was a member of the Orquestra Cubana de Música Moderna. His impressive musical accolades proceed and continue to rise from those past monumental achievements to this very day.

One thing that I learned from interviewing this 76-year-old legend was how proud that he was to be Cuban and to be of African heritage. He said that his cultural upbringing in the Yoruba religion is what he grew up in, and it’s always been a real inspiration for him.

Concerning his love of his own unique African heritage, he said, “I am an Afro-Cuban man, and I’m proud of who I am. I’m very proud to be Cuban, and I think all Cubans, and everyone else, should be proud of who they are.” In interviewing Mr. Valdés on this topic, l could tell that he was unashamedly proud of his Afrikan heritage.

This was evident throughout our interview, and he continued in our discussion with an encouraging message of hopefulness for the global Cuban community by stating, “I feel that all Cubans, in particular, must respect our own roots, especially the roots of the Afro-Cuban. We must work to be respected and to gain more recognition, and not only in Cuba, but all over the world. It must done with love.”

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