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An afternoon with Sindo Garay

Published: 2017.04.21 - 15:10:08   /  /  Miguel Darío García Porto  /  translated by  Luis E. Amador Dominguez  /

The biographers say that his genius and natural talent were such that even when he could never read a score, his music was full of artistic quality, lyricism and sensitivity.

The formal ignorance of music did not prevent Sindo Garay - born in Santiago de Cuba on April 12, 1867, 150 years ago - to storm the sound world of his country, because in his modest home the charm of music was always present: "In my house there were always one, two and up to three guitars, not counting those of mom and dad" - revealed in an interview the creator of "Perla marina’’.

In that same material, the famous folk artist remembered a time when his mother sung him to sleep singing La Bayamesa by Céspedes, Castillo and Fornaris. Years later, in 1918, Sindo would bequeath to the Cuban musical history his own composition on women: "Mujer Bayamesa".

Garay’s life, from its first years, was full of adventures, they said that during the War of Independence, being still a teenager, more than once he carried important messages of the Cuban patriots, and there is a famous anecdote, which says that in order to achieve it he crossed the Bay of Santiago de Cuba several times, one of the largest in the country.

The guitar was a close instrument for Sindo and its attraction was inevitable and casual. One day he dared to take that instrument, which belonged to one of the usual participants of the meetings at his home, and so the little one began to imitate what he saw. Those gathered there approached to hear those first attempts, those initial discoveries in the composition. Those simple chords awakened the emotion of the owner of the instrument that was - nothing more and nothing less - Pepe Sánchez, who declared that an artist had been born at that time.

"Pepe Sánchez was a very famous artist, and I, a little boy, could touch the fibers of his sensitivity! He was the only teacher I had in my life (...) and he has to stand out as a precursor of the Cuban folk song"- said Sindo Garay very excited.

For the composer Marta Valdés, the first decades of life of the author of "Amargas verdades" are a place of reverie: "Sindo Garay is amazing. His generous load of memories garnishes an entire century of Cuban history and leads us by the hand to that safe harbor, where an extremely young Pepe Sánchez and a sentimental Guillermón bring to the events of the real life that dose of fantasy, which invites us to take reality as such."

Moreover, at the age of 16, his brother gave him his first guitar. At the same age, he would start to self-literate when he could not answer a girl's love letter. The songs had already appeared, because he was only 10 years, on the banks of the River Guaso, the first song "Quiéreme trigueña" was born: a quatrain musicalized to the memory of an elusive woman. He never learned a musical note; nevertheless, his works have been considered by prestigious artists like lessons of harmony and composition, he received and still receives numerous praises for his incredible capacity as a creator.

A life as long as this man had, 101 years, leaves grateful memories. Sindo Garay met important personalities. As a child, Guillermón Moncada sat him on his lap to hear him sing together with his sister. Moreover, throughout his life he met amongst others the famous violinist Brindis de Salas, the unforgettable tenor Caruso, the tough Julio Antonio Mella, and Sindo is probably the only one who had the opportunity to shake the hand of the Apostle José Martí, and then that of Fidel Castro. Of his many creations, it would be worth leaving a couple of notes on some of them.

La Bayamesa, a title widely used by many Cuban authors in countless works, is perhaps his best known song. Sindo tells us that after a night of serenade, when he awoke at the house of a friend, whose patio was a wall still blackened by the fire of Bayamo, he was struck by inspiration and right there, in a rough paper wrote down the verses of his immortal work. He grabbed his guitar and the melody came later. Paradoxically, the premiere of this song was for the box-office clerk and the Bayamo film-theater pianist, who were the only people present that night.

In July 1968, exactly on the 17th, at the age of 101, the greatest folk artist of this land of musicians died. The folk song festival of that year was dedicated to his memory, while his Bayamesa resounded repeatedly in the voices of very diverse folk singers.

From the authorship of Sindo Garay, there are more than 600 works that portray the Cuban idiosyncrasy; Amongst his themes are the admiration for his homeland, landscapes, women and love. His creations reveal poetic beauty and amongst them stand out: "La tarde", "Perla marina", "Clave a Maceo", "Retorna", "Adiós a la Habana", "Mujer bayamesa’’, "La alondra", "El huracán y la palma", "Tardes grises" and "Ojos de sirena".

The Afternoon
By Sindo Garay

The light in your eyes burns
And if you open them, it will dawn
When you close them
It seems that the afternoon is dying

The sorrows that mistreat me
Are so many that they run over each other
And as they try to kill me
They crowd each other and that is why
They cannot kill me.

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