[News] Boleros in eternity (Granma obituary to Ibrahim Ferrer)

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Mon Aug 8 15:11:38 EDT 2005

Havana. August 8, 2005

Boleros in eternity
BY PEDRO DE LA HOZ-Granma daily staff writer-

THERE was no reason, not even the slightest indication, for
spectators who filled up the Palau de la Música in
Barcelona during the last week of July to suspect that they
were bidding farewell to Ibrahim Ferrer.

There, during the inauguration of the Más i Más Festival,
he sang what he had always wanted to sing: boleros. He had
been traveling for more than a month in western Europe - on
the summer jazz festival circuit, increasingly open to
so-called world music - as part of a promotion campaign for
his next album, Mi sueño, a bolero songbook (My Dream, a
Bolero Songbook), which in good Spanish, basically means
one of those songbooks that gets passed from hand to hand
with our favorite singers' favorite songs.

His dream was cut short. When he came back to Havana last
Wednesday, Ibrahim was no longer that man as strong as an
oak tree, of medium height and with an irrepressible smile,
who ascended from modesty to the heavens. A severe
digestive dysfunction changed his body forever, leading to
his death on Saturday, August 6. A sudden death, truly

"I hope the album comes out, because it was already
basically done," said Daniel Floristano, a Brazilian who
has been Ferrer's road manager for nine years, in comments
to Granma on Sunday, August 7. "He was really hopeful. For
the first time, he was singing what he really felt like
singling, the songs that he knew by heart since way back.
Because for him, the time had come to stick his neck out
for the bolero as a genre, with all of its properties, in
places outside of the Ibero-American region."

Weeks before beginning his last tour, this reporter
exchanged impressions with the singer about the work that
he was taking forward.

"Man, boleros are for eternity," he said, without a shadow
of a doubt. And, just in case, he added, "I don't deny that
the son and the guaracha move me like a fish in water, but
when you sing people a bolero, a really good bolero, it
really moves them. A romantic song is one thing, because it
talks about love, but a bolero - with all its force and
tenderness - is another. Ballads? I hear them, yes, but
that's it. But a bolero now, one of those truly good ones,
has no comparison."

He let me in on his special liking for "Quiéreme mucho"
(Love Me Lots) by Gonzalo Roig ("someday, you'll have to
write about why that is the song that identifies those who
like to drown their sorrows in rum"); "Perfidia"
(Treachery), by Alberto Dominguez; "Perfume de gardenia"
(Scent of Gardenia) by Rafael Hernández ("why are all of
his boleros as Cuban as our palm trees?") and Naufragio
(Shipwreck), by Agustín Lara.

Right in the middle of the tour, the maestro says that he
would continue singing as long as he was alive, even if he
had to lean on a walking stick - such was his commitment to
his art.

But even more so in his condition as a universal Cuban.
Quietly, without publicity fanfare, he contributed funds to
the island's cultural institutions for arts education.

He believed in and felt for his own. For his wife, Caridad,
for his nine children, whom he watched grow up, for his
colleagues - on more than one occasion, I heard him say
that Pacho Alonso and Enriquito Bonne deserved a book so
that the new Santiago branch of 20th century son would come
to light - and for his homeland.

A billboard in the outskirts of Havana recalls his serene
and sure response to the U.S. government's denial of an
entry visa, which kept him from attending the Latin Grammy
ceremony, where his album Buenos hermanos (Good Brothers)
made its presence felt: "Me, a terrorist? Look at my face,
see if it has any signs of terrorist in it, because the
only thing I do and have done is to take our culture to the

Fortunately, the loss of Ibrahim does not mean silence.
With his princely air, wearing his inseparable cap and his
small, great, human voice, he will keep singing boleros
until the end of time.

The Freedom Archives
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