Almost ten years have passed since singersongwriter Lindiana Murphy and saxophonist Alexander Díaz plotted a course for a new musical adventure intertwining Cuban music with various foreign cultures.
It has become a venture that has deepened its significance with the help and support of friends and others committed to incorporating so-called world music into the contemporary Cuban music scene and experimenting with it to produce original, even risky, new sounds.
Its singularity shows in the make-up of the group. Lindiana y Mantra is unusual—or even strange, as Murphy herself describes it—a communion of bass, piano, drums, congas, violin and tenor sax.
Formed of the same musicians since the project’s earliest days in 2008, the group has gradually established itself as a mature formation over the course of a difficult journey that required all the strength they could find, says Murphy.
Perhaps the best example of this was the group’s first album Catapultando. Despite being recorded in adverse conditions with limited resources the album won the Cuerda Viva and Cubademo prizes in 2012 leading to funding from Asociación Hermanos Saíz for the physical release of the disc and to produce a music video.
Two features stand out on that first record. The lyrics convey a sense of social responsibility, something Lindiana says she needed to voice as a songwriter at that time. Secondly, incorporating African and Asian instrumentals, the album shows a commitment to sonic experimentation that would later develop into its own individual musical discourse.
The second album, Terras, consolidated the group’s particular hallmarks within a genre that academics, critics and music award judges struggle to define clearly.
Almost all of the tracks were recorded in Angola at recording house Letras & Sons. With lyrics in Spanish and Portuguese, the record blends Kisomba and Zemba as well as danzón, bolero and son montuno in search of the fusion they wanted to achieve.
The third album’s release will coincide with the group celebrating its first decade together. Produced independently, the record aims for a mix of emotions from joy to nostalgia and yearning.
Serenatas para una isla (Serenades for an Island) will be the title of the disc, inspired by the traces left within Cuban families by the members who have emigrated. The album will likely feature thirteen tracks, all written by Lindiana except one—Serenata para la tierra de uno—by Argentinian songwriter María Elena Walsh. A fourteenth track written by Liliana Felipe may also be included.
Questioned on how the work of foreign songwriters fits with the (very Cuban) message she wants to communicate, the young songwriter reflects on the piece by María Elena Walsh. She wonders how Walsh’s song, written so long ago and so far away, can resonate so much that she feels she could have written it herself in Cuba today.
The song is a universe of nostalgia, says Lindiana, for people who have to make decisions on whether or not to leave for another country, for whatever reasons, but whose love for their own land makes them choose their own.
Lindiana writes both the lyrics and the music but admits she has a lot of help from Alexander and rest of the group’s musicians when it comes to the percussion parts of the arrangements. Collective creativity and a flexible relationship are essential to the finishing touches, she explains.
She is confident the new album will reach a broad Cuban and foreign audience. People are eager for different sounds, she says, and it’s beautiful discovering how art can be universal and how something you make in Cuba can reach far flung places.
It is universal, she remarks, to sing the songs of others in your own voice, because on this planet we all share problems and feelings, it’s just the circumstances that are different.