DESIRE FOR CONVERSION
Anima Mundi from Cuba set feet on the ground with the splendid, symphonic ‘The Way’-album in 2010. A short European tour with tremendous succes followed. After returning to their homecountry the band still has to struggle with limitations, ristrictions, and no budget for cultural projects. Mostlypink.net talked to Cuban’s first lady of keyboards Virginia Peraza about the dazzling succes compared with their precarious life.
*Has the success of ‘The Way’-album an influence on you as a musician? Maybe. ‘The Way’ is our band most personal album, the most mature, and the one which better defines our sonority. It’s likely to set a difference between past and future sonorities of Anima Mundi. On personal grounds, I can tell you that I had a bigger participation in composing than in previous works. It wasn’t only a few melodic lines or little fragments, all mixed up with Roberto’s general composition, Roberto is Anima Mundi’s principal composer. This time I made the whole and longest parts. I confess that my arrangements in the album are quite similar to what I can play live. We already rehearsed and played this songs live before recording the album. I had no time to think about something different or more elaborate, because I was working on the mixing process. However, I really enjoyed the outcome and I’ve learnt a lesson out of this. Another highlight about ‘The Way’ is that took us on a little tour across Europe, where the album has been selling much more. This has been an important deed for Anima Mundi, because we never performed abroad before.
*How did the deal with Musea Records came through? Regarding our previous album ‘Jagannath Orbit’, we wrote Musea and they accepted to release it and sell it. ‘The Way’ followed the same fate.
*Were they usefully in helping you out with touring and promoting? No, in fact both contracts haven’t favored us much. These contracts have been tight for us and self-protective for them. We have earned just a little bit with the sales. However, we have to thank them for letting our music getting a place in a progscene. But they don’t arrange or support any concert, festival, tour… at least for us. With respect to our past June tour, we had the huge help of Henri and Suzanne Merlin, from Belgium. Suze Merlin was our manager then. She arranged in a very enthusiastic and accurate way every single detail, promotion included. We are also grateful to Prog’Sud Festival particularly to Eliane Armansa, from France. They made the official invitation; otherwise, we wouldn’t have travelled. In Holland we got a lot of kind help and support from a lot of people, if I say some names I could let others out. LiveProg, John Vis, Sympho Shop, ProgWereld and our special friend Job Roodenburg, from Apeldoorn. All European progwebsites and magazines which have us in their pages were also very important. We owe travel, plane tickets, visas and transportation expenses to the kind help of our families and friends who lent or gave us some money for this purpose. To all of them, Anima Mundi owes its first tour abroad.
*Can you tell something about the short European-tour this year? Great experience! It was great for Anima Mundi since here in Cuba we sort of live in a crystal bubble with no chance of contact and open communication with the outer world. There are restrictions of all kinds mostly on technology and information. Suddenly, seeing ourselves playing in the prog-scene and sharing with other bands’ live shows was unique for our musical experience. The toughest part was the ‘clash’ against technology, ‘all was new’, ‘all functioned well’ and if you came to Cuba and sensed you have travelled to the past, then you’d understand what I’m talking about. Besides that, I cannot forget so many beautiful places and nice people. I keep every detail in my heart and mind. It was amazing and all of us returned little sad down here.
*What’s the general responding form the male audience when they spot a very charming Latina behind the keyboards? Wow, what kind of question is that? I don’t know. Everything was cool. I was taken many photos and I also signed many albums, as the other members of the band. Yes, maybe someone told me I’m thin, unlike the rest of the band…well, actually they aren’t. So, if there was something different I’d like to know!...It’s a joke. Indeed, I found lots of respect and sympathy from all people I met.
*Will Anima Mundi ever come back to Europe? I hope so, that’s what we wish. We do expect to perform in Europe as soon as we arrange what is necessary to get back. The conditions for this to happen are not simple, nor are they hard. I’m talking about documents and procedures here in Cuba. Yet, the most important thing is to find some help for travel expenses.
*For a classically trained musician it’s not usual to use electronic gear like synths/keyboards. Why and when did you switched from acoustic to electronic? I didn’t study for a high level in the Conservatory, although I had a classical formation. I began playing piano when I was 15. I didn’t have many chances to be a concert pianist in the conservatory because that usually takes many years. That’s the reason why I decided to get a degree in musical education to teach in regular schools. Then I worked as a director of choirs of children and youngsters in an art center. I was there for a short time ‘till Roberto, who went to University with me, decided to start a progrock band and recruited some musician friends that were school colleagues. In this way, I began this fascinating story. I like electronics and also all prog rock classical sonority: Moogs, Hammond, and ‘His Majesty’ Mellotron. I like combining the sounds of digital synths with all the analogical. I’m still far from having the keys that I like. These are not sold here. I’ve found some second hand ones to work with and I have a new and special Nord Electro-3 which I love. The shift was automatic; I don’t consider myself a pianist. Though I play some Debussy which I love, and also some studies and so to keep in good shape. Pianos drive me nervous, but synths with their infinite possibilities, appeal me to death.
*Beside your virtuosity in playing, you are also a ‘painter’ of wonderful soundscapes. What’s your main influence in creating this serenity? I am not a virtuous instrumentalist, thanks for the gift compliment. Yes, I do love soundscapes and dense ambiences with several layers mixed, which I do not completely do for Anima Mundi. Perhaps someday I’ll record a solo album with my own ideas. I also love orchestral sonorities. Influences? So many: Debussy, twentieth century, Isao Tomita, classics of prog (Wakeman, Emerson, Banks) also some Vangelis.
*How’s life for a musician in Cuba? Life is not the same for every musician in Cuba… like everywhere I guess. On the whole, I can say life in Cuba is hard for everyone. Traditional and commercial music which is sold here has some space. Another thing happens to rock music, it was never well seen here. It’s always been part of ‘enemy bad influence’. During many years, there was a large crusade against rock and was linked to youngsters’ misbehaviors: drugs, alcohol, etc. Even today, these conditions persist although there’s an intention of the Cuban State to improve them. Then, let’s talk about prog rock…What is this? What kind of extravagant and presumptuous music do these crazy people make? Where did they come from? Just a few know what it’s all about. Rockers in Cuba consume an average 90% extreme metal, hardcore. Other audiences that could be interested in stay home. Our followers have decreased with the past of the years and we face no interest from local record labels. As a band, it has been quite difficult to survive among so adverse living and working conditions. To get proper musical instruments is hard, they are always of 2nd or 3rd hand and there are few options in the so called black market. Maybe it turns better when someone acquires them abroad and bring them here. Besides, the restrictions on communications make impossible a fair exchange with the rest of the progfamily. Since the return from Europe ‘till now (4 months) we have played no live shows in the habitual spaces due to the lack of budget for some cultural projects. We really need a change if we mean to continue working as a band and making music. Meanwhile there is a possible next album with the National Symphonic Orchestra, if a local label gets interested. This label would pay the arrangements and the production of a live and/or a studio album. Otherwise, our next album can take some time to be made, when we improvement our personal ‘economy’ and it would have other charms instead of full symphonic orchestra. Music is here...musicians are here...
*Are you working on the follow up to ‘The Way’? We are working in our next album. It will incorporate much music from the past (1998-99) almost from our beginnings. It also has recent music. These songs were left unrecorded since we lacked the means to do it, they were more complex and we didn’t have the proper instruments. We also wanted to include symphonic orchestra. Anima Mundi’s coming album will be interesting. I guess it’ll be a good record.
Thanks for your time and answers, Virginia.
Michel Scheijen for www.mostlypink.net.
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