One day, one of my daughters asked me, “Mom, how does Cuba sound?” Without stopping to think about what a funny question it was, I answered as if I’d thought of it before: “Cuba sounds like Los Van Van.”
Few artists have taken root in the culture of their people as deeply as Juan Formell did in Cuba’s. Forty-five years ago he founded the band Los Van Van, and he captivated a country; he made it his own, absorbed it, and then gave it back in lyrics and music; he made it dance, sing, and rejoice, and he spread that joy and that way of being to many places around the world.
Early on this year we had planned to devote the last issue of 2014 to Los Van Van, which celebrates its 45th anniversary on December 4. We never imagined then that Juan Formell, the band’s founder and leader, would no longer be with us; the Cuban people bid him farewell on May 1st.
This special issue is a tribute to Juan Formell’s Los Van Van, the emblematic band of Cuban popular music. In this issue, we bring you one of the last interviews granted by Formell; another with his son and the band’s current leader, Samuel Formell, a look at the band’s contribution to culture from the standpoint of a well-known Cuban musicologist; an article on Formell’s special virtue of making us dance while being an exceptional chronicler of the lives of Cubans; and also, we present you with an exclusive and very personal moment with the woman who was his partner in the last years of his life.
We also recommend that you take a look at our article on the influence of Cuban music on Miami; a visit to Up&Down, a fashionable bar in Havana; and the work of Roberto Diago, a well-known Cuban visual artist and a valuable firthand account by a former ¨Peter Pan¨ boy.
The OnCuba team, Los Van Van fans through and through, wish all of our readers a Happy 2015!