Troubled Waters is from Elio Villafranca’s double album CINQUE: a five-movement suite inspired by the story of Joseph Cinque, who in 1839 led a successful revolt aboard the slave ship La Amistad, days after being illegally sold and transported to a sugar plantation in Cuba. Upon escaping to America, he finally had the opportunity to go on trial, regain his freedom, and return back to Africa. This project showcases the cultural diversity of the five Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, and Jamaica; while simultaneously high- lighting the Congolese musical heritage woven into the fabric of each of these diverse nations, and yet unified via the forced migration of Africans to the Americas.
Elio continues his special opening programme for IN·FLO·RES·CENCE with three more pieces: Calle Paula (2006), Gitanos (2014), and Eternal Love (2018).
Calle Paula (2006) was for a documentary called Mirror Dance that Elio was commissioned to create upon coming to America from Cuba. It’s about two ballerinas who were separated during the revolution – one remaining in Cuba, the other going to America. These dancers only just reunited 10 years ago, and the song embodies unification through a classical tone in the style of Cuban dance in which two simple forms collide – one major, one minor.
Gitanos (2014) is from Elio’s ‘Old Waters New River’ album and is dedicated to the nomadic gypsy community in Ireland. Its dynamic energy and kinetic structure embodies the idea of movement and migration.
Eternal Love (2018) was Inspired by the student-led protest against gun violence March For Our Lives in2018 in Washington DC following the devasting Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida. It is in honour of young people’s capacity to self-organise and be heard in enduringly powerful and beautiful ways. It is an ode to the freedom of speech.
My music aspires to expand the language of composition and improvisation in jazz by fusing it with classical music and the syncopated nature of Afro-Caribbean music, rhythms and dance that derived specially from the Congolese tradition of Tambor Yuka to my hometown of San Luis, in the region of Pinar del Rio Cuba. I believe that culture should be experienced in a wholistic way. This premise inspired me to found Elio Villafranca & The Jass Syncopators in 2012, as a multi-media ensemble that strives to create a cross-cultural experience, as well as a multi-layered musical dialogue where intellectual understanding of the music is secondary to the full experience of culture. In my music, the fusion of visual aspects, stories, sounds, chanting, dancing, and drumming with jazz, helps me to illustrate jazz as a universal language. – Elio Villafranca