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Friday, January 17, 2014

For Cuban Jazz Legend, It's All Because of God...

Arturo Sandoval...
In the U2 hit, All Because of You, Bono sings, "I was born a child of grace.  Nothing else about the place.  Everything was ugly but your beautiful face and it left me no illusion."

The lyrics came to mind after watching a recent interview with Cuban jazz legend Arturo Sandoval.

Now, follow me on this.  Sandoval was born in the scourge of poverty and repression in his homeland.  He often says in interviews that his family lived in a dirt-floor house. 

Yet, while, the struggles of everyday life was bad enough, the oppression of what they thought and did was even worse.  His family couldn't practice their faith freely.  They lived under constant watch and fear, even from neighbors, that something they said or did could be construed as offensive to the revolution and get them thrown in jail.

After getting a trumpet at the age of twelve from an aunt, music became his escape and, by the age of fifteen, he was introduced to jazz, which became his passion. 

As he got older, Sandoval was forced to serve in Cuba's mandatory labor camps and was jailed for three months after getting caught listening to the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and  Clifford Brown on the Voice of America because it was the "music of the enemy."      

Even as he gained national recognition for his musical skills, playing alongside Chucho Valdes and Paquito D'Rivera, among others, and was allowed to tour outside the country (without his family, of course), he was always under constant watch by state security, who would monitor the musicians' every move.

However, on the first chance that his wife and son were allowed to travel with him, during a tour in Europe with his childhood idol, Gillespie, in 1990, they defected.

Medal of Freedom...
Since then, he's sold millions of albums, received international acclaim, won nine Grammy Awards (17 nominations!), six Billboards, an Emmy, written movie scores, was the subject of an HBO movie about his life, For Love or Country, starring Andy Garcia, and last year received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

Yet, through it all, despite all the success and fame, he credits God.

During the interview, with Univision and Fusion anchorman Jorge Ramos, Sandoval made several references to God and the TV host, who is a self-professed non-believer, quickly interjected, "You just said God a couple of times and you said God gave you the talent."

Sandoval said, "Oh yes, absolutely."

With the tinge of sarcasm, the anchorman asked, "You actually believe that He or She gave you the talent?  It's not your hard work, your biology, where you came from, your tradition?"

The 64-year-old musician answered, "That is what is around or the culmination of things but first, God has to give you the talent to do anything."

Ramos then noticed, "You carry a cross around you neck.  Do you always wear it?"

 "Oh, yes," Sandoval answered, "I have another one inside (meaning inside his shirt).  I have had it there for 30 years or more."  He continued, "That created a little problem for me too because they (the Cuban government) were against the Church and anything Catholic.  All my family has always been very Catholic."

Ramos asked, "If you die, you are completely convinced that there's an afterlife?"

Sandoval paused briefly and said, "I never think about that too much.  I think you have to do your best while you're here now.  Whatever is going to happen in the future, or after you die, is in the hands of God.  You have no control whatsoever."

In other words, as Christ would say, "Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself."

Maybe by now, you understand why I thought of the U2 song, since I think the veteran trumpeter would agree with the words that say it is, "All because of you; I am." (and that's the Great 'I AM, who identified himself as such to Moses at Mt. Sinai!)...


Barbara Occhino said...

This is a wonderful essay, Carlos! I will share it with my friends.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Thank you, Barbara. You're too kind...

Jorge Costales said...

What smug responses from the interviewer - credit to Sandoval for not responding in kind

Carlos Espinosa said...

As you know Jorge, sometimes those that profess The Big Bang don't want to acknowledge that it requires a first cause, since science itself prooves that nothing begets nothing.
Thanks for the comment...