Name: Noslen Noel
Current Release: Noslen Noel's Con Sentimiento is out now on Clásicos Latinos.
The song "Camino Por Vereda" (by Ibrahim Ferrer)
"El paseo del Prado" in the city of Havana, for me is a work of art!
If you enjoyed this interview with Noslen Noel and would like to hear more of his music, visit the bandcamp store of his label, Clásicos Latinos.
When did you start playing your instrument, the lute, and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music that drew you to it?
I started playing the lute at the age of 13 years.
I was passionate about this instrument because I always liked its sound, one of my musical influences was the great Barbarito Torres because he plays the instrument in a different and special way. I liked music since I was a child because with it I can transmit my emotions and feelings, I can communicate better with music than with words. I am not a person of easy words (laughs).
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I identify myself as a quiet and observant person. For that reason I find myself in situations where ideas come to me in an unexpected way – songs can emerge from any situation or event that happens to me daily!
Barbarito Torres and Nisito were a great influence for me in the world of music, they always gave me good advice and above all they gave me the technical resources I needed to learn the basics of the instrument. I was able to find my own voice as a musician by studying a lot, developing my musical ear and listening to all kinds of music.
What were some of your main challenges when starting out playing the lute and in which way have they changed over the years?
At the beginning of my musical career I had a hard time learning to master new rhythms and sounds that I didn't know very well, but as time went by I started to learn more about music in general and I started to listen to different genres of music.
I also had a great challenge with the Alzapua theme since I am left-handed. So, with great effort I learned to play right-handed.
When musicians first started using the Lute in Europe, people instantly fell in love with it. They had a very physical relationship with the instrument, some compared the body of the lute to the body of a woman. From your perspective, what makes people so passionate about this instrument – and what do you love about it so much?
This instrument has something special, its sonority is the main thing that makes anyone who stops for just a moment to listen to it to be totally enchanted and hypnotized. I personally like this instrument very much because apart from its sonority it is a very handy instrument and I can move anywhere with it.
How many musicians are still playing the lute on Cuba, today, would you say – compared to the guitar?
The Lute in Cuba compared to the Guitar has less reach among Cuban musicians but in spite of all this, it has managed to gain a space within the music here in the island.
The lute is an instrument used mostly by the Cuban peasant music, although there are musicians who have taken it to other genres. Although I am a peasant myself, I have even played Latin jazz with the lute (laughs).
Tell me about the lute you're playing at the moment, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence your music?
At the moment my life is at a point where I cannot live without playing the lute!
This instrument is part of me, I have managed to tighten a very strong bond with it, among the most important qualities for me is the trill of the lute since it is very used for improvisations. There are many resources of this instrument and I am in a process of searching for resources to use them in various musical genres!
The booklet to your beautiful CD states that you play the lute with a special feeling, 'a lo cubano'. What does this mean for you?
To play "Cuban style" for me means to try to represent my Cuban roots, when I talk about roots I mean to propose my way of playing this instrument with all the musical recipes of my land! Wherever I stand and play my lute I will try to do it with that special Cuban touch that the world already knows!
On the CD, you're playing a few Cuban classics. Tell me a bit about them, please.
One of the classics that I liked the most was "Camino Por Vereda" because in this song the chorus refers to not taking short ways or looking only for the easy way. You should not leave the long and sacrificed way if at the end of it there is something good - do not take a way that seems easy, but does not lead you to anything good!
"Paisajes Naturales" I love it because besides its rhythm, it is about the beauty of the Cuban landscapes. The natural environment in my country is unique, that's why this song reflects the beauty of the Cuban landscapes.
How did you find your own way of playing these pieces? When recording the album, what made you feel satisfied about your performance of a piece?
When Cugate music proposed me to make a CD I prepared myself through constant study and daily effort. I was very nervous, but when with the help of Raul Cabrera we made the plan and the repertoire of the musical pieces, I felt more relaxed.
During the recording of the album I felt excellent, in the process everything flowed in a positive way, and this was thanks to the discipline and commitment that we all had in the recording studio. We already knew what we were going for and what "swing" we were going to give to each song!
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives?
Collaborations for me play a fundamental role because a musician's approach to each song is transformed by interacting with another musician and you realize that the result can be something wonderful! I like to relate in a friendly way with my colleagues so that everything flows in harmony when we get together to make music.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. What role does music play in your life and how much time can you invest in it each day?
In my daily life, music does not go unnoticed! An example of this is that when I get up in the morning without thinking and unconsciously I sing songs! They are melodies that I have heard days before at some point, either on the radio or television, or in the street! They remain engraved in my mind. And after breakfast I go out to work, I keep on singing melodies, maybe the neighbors or those who hear me, will think I'm a little crazy! (laughs) In my living room I have a giant Lute painted on the wall and I always stay 2 or 3 seconds looking at it before going out! It's my ritual!
Can you talk about a particularly important work, event or performance from your past, please? Why does it feel special to you?
Something very important for me was the invitation to record a song in the Bega studio in Havana. It's a studio where many first level musicians of Cuba have recorded! For me it was very special because I never thought they would choose me! And they decided to call me! It was a great day in my life!
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these?
Music cleanses and purifies the hearts and at the same time makes you remember good and bad moments. An example: I was on tour in Mexico, in a different country with different cultures from mine, there I felt like a stranger! However when I started to listen to my Cuban music my whole perception changed!
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
A very difficult question! I don't know much about classical music but I have heard that there are great works dedicated to death! I do Cuban popular music, and the saddest thing I can do is some bolero dedicated to heartbreak!
I believe that it is the listener's ear which decides how far the music can reach his feelings.