César (Pupy) Pedroso, sharing stories and revealing scoops
BY ROXANA CONSUEGRA / PHOTOS: COURTESY THE ARTIST AND JOSÉ (TITO) MERIÑO
For César (Pupy) Pedroso, choosing music as a career path was not a difficult decision. Grandson of Julio Pedroso, flutist of the Orquesta Cuba, and son of César (Nene) Pedroso, pianist of many groups, among them the Orquesta Sensación, his life developed from the beginning among harmonies, compositions and tumbaos.
Also every year, on December 16th, on the eve of the celebrations for the Dia de San Lázaro, his house was the venue for parties to venerate the saint, to which many family friends, including musicians, were invited. It was not strange then to share long conversations about rhythms and sounds with artists and orchestra directors such as Arsenio Rodríguez and Félix Chapottín, among many others.
This is how the passion awoke in that boy who, at only seven years old, would hide behind the piano in his house when his father played to be able to hear almost “from within the instrument” the melody he produced.
In an interview with CubaPLUS magazine, Pupy tells with a look of nostalgia that he used to stay there for long periods, such that on many occasions they thought he was lost.
At the age of 12, he entered the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, specializing in piano. Also around that time he received classes from greats of Cuban music such as Jesús López, the pianist of the Orquesta Arcaño y sus Maravillas, in a workshop taught at the Iglesia de Paula. With the unforgettable Ignacio Jacinto Villa Fernández, better known as Bola de Nieve, together with Pedro Vega, Martha Valdés, Ela O’ Farrill and César Portillo, among many others, he attended a course in harmony at the Teatro Auditorium Amadeo Roldán.
After concluding his academic training, Pupy, now a qualified pianist, became a member of the Orquesta Revé, where he met Juan Formell, with whom he later founded Los Van Van orchestra.
It was a time marked by many changes; the rhythm created by Los Van Van revolutionized Cuban music and el songo was a genre that became part of the most popular nationally and internationally. Pupy remained for 32 years with the Tren de la música cubana, as Los Van Van are known, which, he says, constituted the climax of his professional training.
With Los Van Van he not only played the piano, but also wrote numerous songs that were included in several of the orchestra’s phonograms. Three of his compositions, “El negro está cocinando”, “La bomba soy yo” and “Temba, tumba y timba”, are part of the CD Van Van is here, which won the Latin Grammy Award in 2000.
However, for some years now, Pupy had been working independently with a German record company, alongside the connection with Los Van Van. La fruta prohibida had been one of those albums that he made simultaneously, and which prompted him to develop his own project after receiving a Platinum Record in 1997, for having sold more than 5,000 copies.
At the end of 2001, César Pedroso became independent from Los Van Van and founded his own orchestra: Pupy y los que Son Son. When talking about this, he recalls that the last song he played with Los Van Van, entitled Qué cosas tiene la vida, was composed inspired by one of the orchestra’s musicians, a characteristic of “vanvanera” songs, always allusive to reality, with a mischievous tone and Cuban flavor.
This song set a pattern in the life of the popular musician, because it closed the cycle of his work as a pianist in Formell’s orchestra and opened the way together with the members of his musical project. That’s what gave name to the first album Pupy recorded with los que Son Son; the song became a door, that opens and closes pathways, that defines Qué cosas que tiene la vida.
Los que Son Son recently celebrated their 19th anniversary. The coming of age is not only measured by time, but also by achievements; ten singles are in their repertoire, recorded with different record companies such as the Cuban Egrem and Bis Music, and the German Termidor Musikverlag.
The greatest recognition Pupy obtained was in 2013, when he was awarded the National Music Prize, the highest distinction of this art form in Cuba, a proposal by his longtime partner in the arts, Juan Formell.
In a press interview about this, Formell said “Pupy deserved this award, he is an excellent performer, pianist, composer and arranger, and he was very brave when he made the decision to leave Los Van Van, and today he has his own renowned orchestra”.
Certainly, César Pedroso has occupied a place of great relevance in Cuban music, and although his prestige is already a fact, he remains active, composing and producing more of his art.
At present, he is in the process of making the album Re percusión, which he plans to release in 2021. The album will feature several guests such as Erick Iglesias, director of Cimafunk, Charly Mucharrima y los Niches, and the Muñequitos de Matanzas, under the Egrem publishing label.
At the same time, Pupy is supporting, together with another group of soneros, the initiative of Adalberto Álvarez to carry out the first edition of the Festival del Son, for the month of May 2021, specifically on the 8th. The choice of the date is because that day is the anniversary of the birth of Cuban soneros Miguel Matamoros and Miguelito Cuní.
Pupy’s legacy has been such that a good number of artists have also found in los que Son Son a school like Los Van Van was for him, a fact he acknowledges with admiration and joy. Others have paid homage to him in his songs with choruses, phrases of his authorship or have reinterpreted his songs.
During this time also, the director of Havana D’ Primera, Alexander Abreu, is producing the CD entitled Será que se acabó, a wink to the homonymous work of César Pedroso. It’s another tribute to this prodigal of Cuban music... simple, frank, not afraid to tell his truths, who generously offers an afternoon of sharing stories and revealing firsts.