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World Music Features

“In Cuba, popular music is learned on the street.”

Pedro Luis Ferrer

By Marty Lipp
Published July 1, 2005

Hassled by his record company and harassed by backers of the Castro regime, Pedro Luis Ferrer has emerged with his first new album in five years, Rústico. Its sound belies the performer’s rocky road to its release. 

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The music of Pedro Luis Ferrer proves that man can be like a flower—they both can produce something sweet and beautiful even after getting piled on by manure.

Hassled by his record company and harassed by backers of the Castro regime, Ferrer has emerged with his first new album in five years. Its sound belies the performer’s rocky road to its release.

The 52-year-old singer-songwriter came to attention with the nueva trova movement of the 1970s, but his criticism of the situation in Cuba over the years has hobbled his career.

After recording a series of songs that were critical of the government, Ferrer became the target of pressure. “The government expressed itself clumsily by the end of the 1980s and early ’90s,” he said. “It was mainly administration officials and in some cases Cuban Communist Party members. There was controversy, but discussions ended after some time. I was able to give my concerts and no one would say anything. That has kept like that to this day. I may not often find spaces where I can play my music, spaces that other artists can easily get, because either the people that run those places have prejudices or fears or because a more senior official refuses to make them available.

“I’m not ambitious, however, when it comes to presenting my music, I don’t grow desperate, and little by little, I’ve been creating my own new space. Sometimes I have organized concerts for friends in patios and rooftops in Havana, where I have felt fully realized. My artistic career has not been affected in the essence because, to be honest, I’ve found a more independent way.”

Although he has been critical of what is going on in Cuba, Ferrer stresses that he is a fervent believer in the 1959 Revolution.

“I think the 1959 Revolution was an attempt to vindicate the spirit of the 1940 Constitution, the highest point in our country’s political history, the starting point to achieve peace in our nation. This idea brings me hope and leads me to understand that the 1959 Revolution does not have to be a place of disunion and struggle, but on the contrary, it should be seen as an act of national defiance against all kinds of tyranny.

“I come from a family that instilled the love of the revolution in me, just as it happens to a child that has a Catholic or Jewish upbringing,” he said. “My family suffered the Batista dictatorship and saw in the revolution their dreams come true. In time I disagreed with my own parents and uncles—old Communists. But we were able to channel our disa