Radio Bocconi - YLIAN CANIZARES TALKS ABOUT HER LAST ALBUM, THE ARTIST'S ROLE, SOCIETY AND SEXUALITY

YLIAN CANIZARES TALKS ABOUT HER LAST ALBUM, THE ARTIST'S ROLE, SOCIETY AND SEXUALITY

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"So, it’s a pleasure to be here for this interview. In these days, I have been listening to your last album 'Erzulie'. If I got it right, Erzulie is a goddess of Haiti, a goddess of love, of sensuality, of beauty. The album is a syncretism between Latin American music and jazz music. How was it to work with such two complex and complete genres, mixing them together into a single job? What did you borrow from either the one or the other?"

Ylian: Well, so, this album has started in Haiti, I was playing there in 2017. I need to say that I was completely seduced by their culture, their spiritual tradition, the music, the dance, the joy and the dignity of the Haitian people because we have this common parameter with Cuban culture. The energy of Erzulie is a very special energy because, as you said, she is beauty, love and sensuality. But she has also a greater strength. One of her iconic representation is a woman with a knife in the hand, which means that in every woman there is a sweet side but also the strength of taking every decision that needs to be taken. I want to put all of this together, these two energies that cohabit in the same place, as well as the many cultural influences I have: Cuba, Haiti, New Orleans Africa, Jazz, Cuban music, folkloristic music, classical music, hip hop, rap, electronic and everything that goes through my mind. I went in a very intuitive way, just letting my soul speak with what I was feeling… And this is the result (laughs).

"Which is really amazing. Habanera is a danza lienta, it has been sung also by lyrical singers in the past. So, as you were mentioning before, there is a direct influence from opera music."

Ylian: Yes, Habanera is a danza lenta, it's a Cuban dance from the 19th century. People don’t dance it anymore, unfortunately, but if you look at the context in which this dance was popular, it was the sensual dance of the time, because the bodies were allowed to touch each other, in a moment were the law was “don’t touch, don’t touch” (laughs). For a moment you could touch the hands and the body of people. Therefore, it was picked by Bizet in his famous opera, 'Carmen', where you find this famous Habanera that everybody knows. So, this is my Habanera, this is how I feel Habanera today. It is how I can translate this feeling of sensuality of love and intimate moment today. In 2019 we’re living in the society we are living (laughs). It was very interesting for me to work on that and, as I was saying before, it was a piece that I composed at 3 o'clock in the morning because I couldn’t sleep because of love. I was having all this, inside me, like… something like a volcano. I just put myself on the piano, I put the headphones on not to disturb the neighbours and I started playing. All came like this (snaps the fingers): the lyrics, the music, all fit directly. I was living this process. Therefore, I put this song at the beginning of the album.

"I have the feeling that the entire album is inviting the listener to become closer to his/her feelings."

Ylian: Yes!

"Now I have two important questions, but let’s go in order. I’d like to talk about your beliefs on society. I think you are inviting people to get a more accurate sense of things, you are inviting them to become aware, especially in the song 'Libertad'. Few moments ago, you said “a society like this one”. What kind of society is the one we are living in?"

Ylian: You're totally right, the song 'Libertad' is a social song, it's a song about freedom. I am very concerned, as a woman, about what is happening. We see today women's rights… some people want to go back and push us back in those days when things weren’t good at all. I am concerned about human rights. We can see today what is happening all over the world. People are living in fear, fear of the other, fear of immigration, fear of the neighbour, fear of women. So, during the creation of the album I was reading a lot about this topic and women's works, like Simon de Beauvoir, Shimama Gosi and a lot of writers that bring awareness to me about my role as an artist. I was also inspired a lot by women like Nina Simone and Diama Akewa, that were both great artists. They took a step to say what it needed to be said. And my role is not to bring any political business into my work. My concerts aren’t political meetings. I had to say this already 3 times today. But, as an artist, I need to say what needs to be said, too. And I am very concerned, because I am a woman, I am black and I come from Cuba, so I have all these… (laughs) How can I make an album today in 2019 and talk about candies? I cannot talk about candies, I am talking about this with a lot of respect, with a lot of love. I think that the true change passes through love and not through violence. When you touch people’s hearth you can start an earthquake and then maybe a change will be possible. If we all say nothing, things will go for the worst. If you listen to the song 'Libertad', you have the voice of Simon de Beauvoir speaking about what it means to be a woman and you have the voice of Malala explaining why every child, especially female ones, must be educated, and you have the voice of Nina Simone in “I am telling you what freedom is to me: no fear”.

"You already answered my second question, which was about the role of the artist. Now, If I may, I’d like to move to a related topic. We have talked now about freedom in the sense of social rights, but I guess you want to send a message also about freedom in sexuality, is it true?"

Ylian: I want to talk about every possible kind of freedom, because freedom starts from the inside. The first enemy we have on the path to freedom is of course ourselves. I was talking few days ago to a friend of mine. She called me and she talked in a very emotional way, deploring herself. I started telling her: "Yes, but socially you are an amazing woman and you deserve this and this…". But then I told her: “Look, I’m saying this to you, but sometimes I am not so nice to myself either. Sometimes with myself I’m like, you know, hard". Sometimes in work, sometimes in relationships, we are prisoners of our own beliefs and it’s our beliefs that make us suffer. So, of course, freedom starts from the inside. It starts when you decide to change even if you don’t know where you are going and even if changing means that you feel like jumping into the unknown. And, of course, freedom in sexuality a well. It is so strange with sex, because now sex is everywhere, but at the same time it is a big taboo. Even if you see an advertisement, most of the time there is sex inside. People are so afraid about talking about things clearly. It is a fact. I’ve read few articles, nowadays generation is having less sex than we used to have. This is mad, we have become so far from each other, we have become strangers and we need to make something because we are humans. I have a friend that came to my house. He’s a beautiful boy. He walks in the street and every girl falls in love with him, he’s like a god. He said to me that he’s paying for a time massage, not a sex massage, because he wants to feel human contact. And I was so sad when I heard that. I took him in my arms and I hugged him for a long time. How lonely was he? From the outside, one can think that this guy has everything. He’s young, he’s beautiful, he’s successful and nevertheless he’s alone. Therefore, we need to come closer to each other, touch each other. Virtual reality is good, but nothing can compare with human reality.

"Finally, you know that we are a student run radio station. Do you have any special invite, suggestion or even a thought that you would like to share with our students? Especially female students. I had the felling, during this interview, that when you use the pronoun “we” you are talking about women, right?"

Ylian: I’m concerned about both males and females. Of course, I speak from a woman point of view because I am a woman. I don’t think women and men should be in opposition. We are complementary. I love when men embrace their feminine part. It is so beautiful when a man can show his vulnerability and his sweet side. Society has been very rude, also to men. We grow with the idea that a man must be a man, and that he cannot cry. What is this nonsense? So, my message is for everyone. Especially for women, I say, we need to be fearless, we need to embrace our femininity at the fullest and we need to be sure that we can do whatever we want to do. Nobody can tell you: “You can’t do that because you are a woman”. Maybe you can’t do that, but I can do whatever I want. So, this is my message for women, especially young women. To men I would like to tell them to embrace their feminine side, because your life will open in unexpected way. And you will have great success with women after that.

"Thanks a lot, I had a great time talking with you."

Ylian: Thank you to you too!

 

Lapo Santi

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