Maria Bacardi Revives Boleros Of Old Cuba In Benefit Concert For Project Most - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1387276

Maria Bacardi Revives Boleros Of Old Cuba In Benefit Concert For Project Most

icon 5 Photos

authorStaff Writer on Jul 7, 2019

Though she was just a child, Maria Bacardi still recalls the scene in vivid detail—her mother, family and friends sitting around the kitchen table at their home in Madrid singing boleros, the emotionally laden songs of old Cuba. “I remember my mother singing them every night,” Ms. Bacardi recalled during a recent interview at her home in Springs. “All the exiles who hadn’t gone to Miami went to Madrid, and they all came to my mom’s house. I would be in my pajamas and I’d hear them singing, crying and drinking rum, and they all had an instrument—the bongos, the claves, the maracas—and I learned all those songs.”

Ms. Bacardi was 3 years old in 1961 when her family fled Cuba and the Castro regime. She says her mother packed up their entire life in just three days, making sure to bring along her guitar and albums when they set out to start their new life in Spain.

Now, Ms. Bacardi, who moved to the United States in 1977, is reinventing those same Cuban songs she heard on records and at the kitchen table for a brand-new audience. Her recently released album, “Duele,” which translates to “it hurts” in Spanish, pays tribute to the boleros of her mother’s generation but updates them by infusing the old songs with contemporary beats and English translations.

On Sunday, July 14, Ms. Bacardi and her 12-piece band, fresh from a sold-out show last winter at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, premiere the new album at Guild Hall. The 8 p.m. concert is a benefit for Project Most, the after-school and summer learning program for families in East Hampton and Springs. It’s a cause that is near and dear to Ms. Bacardi’s heart, as her son, Liam, attended Project Most when he was a student in Springs.

“The organizers and the teachers there do the work of God. Kids can do their homework, they have dance classes, a greenhouse, and visiting artists who teach,” Ms. Bacardi said. “It really serves the community at large and is very important.”

Also important to Ms. Bacardi is bringing the music of her youth to a broader audience. While there are many different types and styles of Cuban music, she notes that boleros are the most romantic form of them all. Some songs date back 100 years or more and the heyday of the form occurred in the decades leading up to the middle of the 20th century. The Cuban bolero—which is not related to the Spanish form—originated in the city of Santiago de Cuba in the late 19th century (ironically, the same city where Ms. Bacardi’s great-grandfather founded Bacardi rum in 1862). From there, boleros spread by way of traveling musicians who earned their living by singing and playing guitar across Cuba.

“They’re wrist-slitting and heart-wrenching,” she said. “You’re supposed to dance to them very close, staying inside a small, square tile.”

The most recent boleros were written in the late 1950s. At that point, they were banned by the Castro regime, which considered them too bourgeois.

“People are writing new ballads, but not boleros, which have a very specific meter and structure,” Ms. Bacardi explained.

As a side note, also banned at the time was the music made famous by the musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club, which formed in 1996 to revive the pre-revolutionary Cuban melodies.

In creating her “neo boleros” for the new album, Ms. Bacardi teamed up with arranger and producer David Oquendo, a bolero master living in New Jersey, and Edgaro Gonzalez, a young Cuban audio engineer and hip-hop producer who came to the United States on a grant to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Because he grew up in a Cuba where boleros were banned, he was naturally very interested in learning more about them.

“I knew I wanted to get away from the vintagey look and sound,” Ms. Bacardi explained. “We were all in the same room to establish the proper melody. The line is meant to be sung a certain way, then Edgar would take it to his computer, sample it and give it modern beats.”

The result of the collaboration is “Duele,” an album that pays homage to the traditional bolero while offering updates that bring the songs into the 21st century.

“My first CD, Deseo, was traditional. This CD is much hipper … These songs are the crooner songs of Cuba with a contemporary groove.”

But technically speaking, these are not the boleros once sung by Elena Gomez del Campo Bacardi, Ms. Bacardi’s mother, who died four years ago. So, how does she imagine her mother would react to the new twist on the genre?

“She was very old school, so she would probably give me an inquisitive look at my new approach,” Ms. Bacardi said. “She’d say, ‘Hmm, really, one can do that?’ Well, it’s poetic license.”

Despite what her mother might say about her music, it appears that Ms. Bacardi’s boleros are capturing the attention and praise of those who hear them today.

“My goal is to have young Cuban people rediscover this music, but also have people all over the world say, ‘This is Cuban music written 100 years ago,’” she said. “When I sing, I am humbled and surprised that people enjoy it. My hope is that young people will like this music and elder people will be reinvigorated and tickled by the approach.”

Maria Bacardi and her band perform on Sunday, July 14, at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. The concert is a benefit for Project Most. Tickets are $32 to $100 ($30 to $95 for members) at 631-324-4050 or

You May Also Like:

Tom Clavin Discusses ‘Tombstone,’ His Latest Book About The Wild West

Tom Clavin’s most recent book, “Tombstone: The Earp Brothers, Doc Holliday & the Vendetta Ride ... 27 May 2020 by Staff Writer

Goat On A Boat Presents “Judy Saves The Day”

After being pushed around for over 200 years, the famous hand puppet heroine Judy has ... 26 May 2020 by Staff Writer

The Bats Have Come Home To Roost

Tucked in the woods off a quiet road in Sagaponack lies Sagg Swamp, a hidden ... by Annette Hinkle

Southampton Hospital’s Gala Is In Your Garden This Year

The Southampton Hospital Foundation, (SHF), host of the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital (SBSH) Annual Summer Party, is delighted to announce the 2020, 62ndgala will go ahead, in a new, reimaged format. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the gala, one of the biggest and longest running fundraisers in the Hamptons, will not take place in its usual spot on the fields of Wickapogue Road. Instead, the theme will be “Gala in Your Garden,” with the SHF bringing the party to private homes. The date of the gala will be Saturday, August 1. Working creatively with the local restaurant and florist ... 23 May 2020 by Staff Writer

HTC Productions Moved to Next Season

Due to the extension of Governor Cuomo’s Pause restrictions for Suffolk County, and out of ... by Staff Writer

A Call For Artwork For Long Island Biennial

The Heckscher Museum of Art is now accepting entries for the 2020 Long Island Biennial, a juried exhibition featuring works by visual artists from Suffolk and Nassau counties. The Biennial reflects the area’s thriving art scene by featuring artists representing a considerable number of communities throughout Long Island. The exhibition offers emerging and established artists the opportunity to gain broader public awareness of their work. Inaugurated in 2010, this 10-year anniversary of the Long Island Biennial coincides with The Heckscher Museum’s centennial. In honor of this milestone, this year’s Biennial exhibition, which will open in the fall with exact dates ... by Staff Writer

The Art Of The Monologue And A Tap Camp For Teens And Adults

Beginning June 9, Bay Street Theater will offer “Monologue!” an online acting workshop for adults ... by Staff Writer

On With The Show For The Sag Harbor Cinema

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and members of the Southampton Town Board are pleased to ... by Staff Writer

‘Very Semi-Serious’ Joins DocFest Online

The newest online “Fest Favorite” documentary offering from Hamptons DocFest was the 2015 film “Very Semi-Serious” which was added to the website on Wednesday, May 27. Directed by Leah Wolchok, the film is an offbeat and humorous behind-the-scenes look at New Yorker Magazine as cartooning hopefuls, like graphic novelist Liana Finck and legends Roz Chast and Mort Gerberg submit their work to Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff. The film won a 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming. Films still available via the website, most with Q&As from the directors’ appearances at the film festival in previous years, are, ... by Staff Writer

It’s A Script Writing Competition

The North Fork TV Festival announces the second annual Alfred P. Sloan Science + Tech Pilot Script Competition, which aims to encourage screenwriters to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Writers are invited to submit pilot scripts for a television series rooted in science and technology. The panel of independent judges includes accomplished television professionals as well as noted scientists and technologists. In evaluating scripts, they will prioritize unique, character-driven material ending with a cliffhanger or twist that invites a series. Award-winning director ... by Staff Writer

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported