Just a Minute With: Cuban musician Eliades Ochoa

Wed May 20, 2009 3:45pm EDT
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By Tom Pfeiffer

RABAT (Reuters Life!) - Eliades Ochoa took up the guitar aged six and by 11 was already busking in a red light district of Santiago de Cuba to help support his family.

He worked as a radio station musician in the 1960s before becoming leader of Cuarteto Patria, a group founded in 1939 that championed Cuba's traditional "son" style, combining Spanish song with African rhythms.

Ochoa, 62, found wider fame from 1997 when he took part in Buena Vista Social Club, a music project named after a 1940s Havana club. The resulting album produced by Ry Cooder won a Grammy and led to a world tour and a film by German director Wim Wenders.

He spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of the Mawazine world rhythms festival in the Moroccan capital Rabat which runs until May 23.

Q: How does your music reflect life in today's Cuba?

A: I transmit the joy of Cuban music. I am 150 percent Cuban and that means a way of life, a joy of living.

Q: What has changed about your music since you began playing?

A: Look, I've only been playing for 55 years! I have played the same way in all that time. When I opened my eyes to the world I found my mother and father playing the same music that I play today. Everything I have, I have it thanks to the past.   Continued...

<p>Cuban musician Eliades Ochoa performs during his concert at the Mawazine Festival in Rabat May 17, 2009. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante</p>