Liberation through music. An Interview with Cuban violinist Omar Puente

Together with Alborada and Movimientos, Omar Puente is taking part in a seminar as part of the Latin America Conference entitled ‘Liberation through Culture – Music & Film in Latin America’s revolutionary wave‘ here he gives us a little glimpse into what he will talk about at  and and answers a few more of our questions about his inspiring life

Omar explained that it will be a challenge to squeeze all they want to say into one hour. They will touch on the evolution of music, the Cuban roots and the importance of songs on the revolution.

It is not just music. As Cubans we walk music, we eat music, we drink music and we dance music.’ Omar explained.

He has been active with the Cuban Solidarity Campaign (who co-host the conference) for a while now and feels ‘flattered’ to have been invited to speak.

Being involved with the Solidarity Campaign is my way of saying thank you and giving something back.’

The Adelante! Latin America Conference 2013 is taking place tomorrow, Saturday 7 December, 9-6pm at Congress House, 28 Russell Street followed by Fiesta at Bolivar Hall

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Omar goes to Cuba every year where he teaches children and holds workshops for adults.

He has been playing the violin ever since he was young. His grandfather was a carpenter who worked for a rich family. One day the father in the family bought a violin for his son which the boy did not want, so the father gave it to Manuel, Omar’s grandfather. This is the story of the violin that ‘has put food on the table for three generations.’ as Omar explained.

I tried to become a Dr Puente, like my father, but then I thought “nah, I prefer the violin”. I am glad to play this instrument that is petite, hard to play and I am glad to be able to express myself through playing.’

What is your proudest moment or biggest achievement so far?

‘My proudest moment was when I passed my final exam. It was great to please my family and my teacher.

‘I have been involved in different projects. Like the Venezuelan Philharmonic Orchestra and I was also asked to write a part of a ballet for Carlos Acosta. As a musician, these are all great.

‘Life is a big improvisation. You turn a corner and see something that you don’t expect.

‘For example, now I have been invited to be involved in a tango opera performance and I may also do some work with the London Gospel Choir.

‘To be able to do what you want is a blessing.’

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Do you have any heroes?

‘My biggest hero as a child was David Oistrakh, the renowned Soviet classical violinist. And actually in September this year I had an opportunity to play at a Festival in Ukraine and I went to Odessa where he studied.

‘One of the jazz bands who changed my life was Weather Report. (They were an American jazz fusion band in the 70s and 80s) They blew my mind. I thought to myself that I wish one day I will have the same effect on people.’

Do you have a favourite venue?

‘It is a difficult question. Every venue has a special feel that you grab and embrace.’

You teach kids about music. How do you find that?

‘I want to make kids see that violin can be in the front and it can lead. Violin is one of those instruments that have been undermined. In an orchestra the leader is always either the vocalist, the drum or the piano but never the violin. I want them to see the potential.’

How would you describe your music?

‘For me my music has no frontier. All genres have a place in my heart. Classical, jazz, opera, Cuban music and so on.

‘As a musician I believe you have to try and get the most you can do in your life with music and with your instrument.

‘The day that any artist stops trying, that’s it, it’s game over.’

The tango opera, called Violetta’s Last tango, will take place at Kings Place on 8 December.

Feauturing:
Ann Liebeck- Soprano
Julian Rowlands- Bandoneon
Guillermo Delgado- Double Bass
Alfredo Ovalles- Piano
And Omar Puente- Violin

By: Melinda Szucs

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