Interviewing Zucchero Sugar Fornaciari : “In Cuba I Feel At Home”

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Zucchero Sugar Fornaciari is a great italian artist, well known also on the international stages. Recently he has published his last album titled “La Sesion Cubana”, entirely recorded in Cuba together with 15 Cuban musicians. We listened to this album, composed by 13 songs whereof 2 unreleased, 7 rearrangement of his previous songs and 4 covers of latin songs. We interviewed Sugar to get deeper into his work and his experience in Cuba.

 

Q: You’ve defined your last album “La Sesion Cubana” as a work not in pure cuban sauce but rather in cuban soul, in Carribean rhythm&blues with a shade of rough rock&roll. Where was your passion for Cuba born from and how much has your background led your love towards this country and especially its people?

Sugar: You’re right, I didn’t want to make an album of traditional Cuban music, even though I like it. That kind of album has already made by Ry Cooder and Juan de Marcos González with “Buena Vista Social Club”.

I just wanted to match the sound which comes from my musical baggage with the Cuban sound. In order to get that the album was produced by Don Was, who usually produces rock music. Regarding my background, I’ve always been thinking of Cuba as a mythical island. Most of the people who attended university in the ’70s was fascinated by the heroes of the Cuban revolution and moreover I was born in a communist family in the south of Emilia. I have really fallen in love with Cuba, Cubans and their simple approach to life since the first time I visited it.

Q:This album was born to document the success of your project, giving a great concert in Havana. You promised even in 1990, after the event at the Moscow Kremlin, that you would give a concert in Cuba. How was realizing a dream lasted more than 20 years?

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S: Giving a concert in Cuba has been fantastic. The feedback was amazing and I really enjoyed playing in front of 80.000 people who danced and sang.  Organizing it has been really hard: we had to take there 10 containers from the Port of Genoa because there isn’t anything in Cuba to place such a stage like we needed. Anyway the result was a success and I’m really proud of that.

Tell me about the incident regarding the power generator…
S: Yes, it made us stay on tenterhooks. They pledged us that they would have managed the generator but 3 days before the concert that holy generator there wasn’t. So we had to get it from Mexico, with costs rather high.

Q:TThe concert, as you’ve been repeating several times, was a great gift you wanted to give Cubans. Was it a way to reward them for something they had given you?

 

S: Cubans have a great virtue: they are extremely hospitable. When I go there I feel as I was home. Further they made me honorary citizen of Cuba, I met Che Guevara’s son, Raul Castro’s daughter, I dined together with ministers and musicians, so I spent a great time there. The concert was a sign of gratitude, a big party dedicated to all Cubans.

Q:The album’s recording was done practically live, focusing the result more on sound’s genuineness rather than on sound’s perfection. Was this your choice, besides a technique decision, also a will of giving musically back the listener the Cuban’s approach to life?

S: Exactly, it would have had no sense making an album using all the post-production techniques as we see nowadays. It would have made the sound too intricate, I wanted the listeners felt the warmth, the musicians’ soul. So I talked to Don and we had started playing over and over again until everybody was ready to record each song perfectly. In this album you can feel variations of tone, of rhythm, “chiaroscuri”, that hardly we would have reached using digital artifices.

Q:In conclusion a question about the link between technology and music consumption. Would you condemn a boy who downloads via Internet your songs?

S: I must admit I don’t know very well this issue, I’m not a technology addicted and I can’t even switch on a computer! However I can tell you I consider an album in its entirety as a painting or a sculpture. I think only that there should be a respect towards artists and it’s fine by me whether a boy wants to listen to my music free, who cares? As long as he doesn’t chop up the album downloading just a song!

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