Achy Lang and the influence of Cuban music
By Danay Galletti Hernández, Photos: Rafael Valiente
From a very young age, singer and violinist Achy Lang belonged to renowned groups in Cuba, among them, the Violines Internacionales quartet, the Orquesta Típica “Los hermanos Izquierdo,” Pachito Alonso y sus Kini Kini and Yumurí y sus hermanos.
In 2000, as a turning point in his career, he joined the Afro-Cuban All Stars band, led by Juan de Marcos González, an experience that, according to the violinist, keyboardist, composer and arranger, transformed his vision and concepts associated with the sound of the largest of the Antilles.
“In addition to the constant process of feedback, I worked with wonderful professionals of this art, some of them were my friends from previous periods and others consecrated stars in the cultural panorama of the island,” assured the also musical director and producer.
For almost a decade he was a member of that group which, in his opinion, brought together exceptional performers and instrumentalists, among them Ibrahím Ferrer, one of the essential figures of the Buena Vista Social Club and distinguished with a unique voice for boleros, sones and guajiras.
Other prominent members of the group were Pío Leyva, known as El Montunero de Cuba, and Teté Caturla, remembered for her role as director of the Cuarteto de las d’Aida, which also included Omara Portuondo, Elena Burke, Haydée Portuondo and Moraima Secada.
Eliades Ochoa, Barbarito Torres and Amadito Valdés are also personalities linked to Afro-Cuban All Stars and especially symbolic professionally; “I learned and grew a lot in that stage, I composed and orchestrated for them, experienced musicians capable of taking on any song.”
Later, he took on several responsibilities, mainly as musical director in the band of Amadito Valdés, Cuban timbalero famous for his work in the Cuarteto de las d’Aida and Buena Vista, and at that stage he played on the albums Bajando Gervasio and Step Forward, both nominated for Grammy Awards. In that space, he found similar quality and excellence in its members: Rolando Luna, Frank Rubio, David Alfaro and Julito Padrón; later, in 2012, he led the Afrocuba project and recorded Abriendo caminos, nominated for the Cubadisco Awards in the Vocal-Instrumental category.
Five years later, Achy Lang and his Orchestra emerged and released the CD De La Habana a Nueva York, also nominated for these awards in the Popular Danceable Music (New) category.
Lang combines the traditional with contemporary elements, emotions and the unique way in which he perceives and feels art; he dislikes labelling, and is currently working on his new album Ese soy yo.
“I had the fortune to be called to record the song Capital Maravillosa, for Havana’s 500th anniversary, which I wrote and arranged, with performers such as Alexander Abreu, Pedrito Calvo, Bárbara Llanes, Haila María Mompié and Mandy Cantero, as well as excellent musicians like Samuel Formell, Jorge Reyes, Emilio Morales, Michel Herrera, Lazarito Valdés, William Roblejo, among other stars,” he recalled.
In addition to this, the artist has given lectures and master classes on Cuban rhythms and the presence of the piano in the island’s culture, in venues in the United States, Canada, Spain, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
“Everything I do now is the summary of my musical career in these years, with a little more maturity and a broader spectrum of national and foreign genres. I try to cover as many sounds as possible within Cuban music, but with my own style,” he said.