The singer’s solo career Yotuel, a former member of the Orishas trio, took a turn when he released the song ‘Homeland and Life’ with Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona. The song, whose title turns the slogan ‘Homeland or death’ of the Castro regime in Cuba, became an anthem for the protests and reached an unusual international repercussion that, tonight, can increase even more if one or both win Grammy Latinos to whom it is nominated. Before starting the gala, Yotuel contacted ABC from Las Vegas, where he had just married for the second time with fellow artist Beatriz Luengo, fifteen years after their first marriage.
Is there a good atmosphere there in Las Vegas? There will be music stars on every corner, right?
Where there are Spaniards and Cubans, there is always a good atmosphere.
If the success of pop music is measured by popular impact, ‘Patria y Vida’ should win at least one of the awards, right?
There may be more popular songs in the categories that I compete, but these awards reward music for quality, and for what that music contributes.
By ‘popular’ I meant ‘of the people’ rather than ‘famous’.
I like you to say that, because indeed, ‘pop’ refers to the people. ‘Homeland and life’ has had an impact on the Cuban people, on the Latin American people, and on any people that feel free. In that sense, the song has had a brutal impact, like I have never seen in recent years. We feel blessed, because when one does something with love and without asking for anything in return, one achieves the greatest victory, which is the affection of the people.
It is nominated for ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Best Urban Song’. Do you see more options in either of the two?
Brother, being here is already a prize. For me and for the Cuban people. This edition of the Latin Grammys is the most important in history for the Cuban people, and I believe that the Cuban musicians who are in Las Vegas today, El Funky Alexander, Randy, Descemer Bueno and I, represent the Cuban people. We are five blacks from the neighborhood with dreams of freedom and with a very accentuated sense of humanity.
How have you seen the last mobilization in Cuba, a couple of days ago?
It was perfect. People think that it was a failure, and on the contrary, because it has been seen how repression, dictatorship, the totalitarian regime have kidnapped Cuba.
What did you think of the treatment that the Spanish media have made of these protests? At first there were live connections at all hours, but then …
I can’t tell you because I’ve been traveling a lot. But what I do know is that Efe Agency’s permission to broadcast from Cuba was taken away. What worries me is that people continue to see what is happening in Cuba as if nothing were happening. That is quite sad, and we are all complicit in that happening. Imagine that the things that are happening in Cuba happened in Spain, and nobody said anything. Cuban businessmen continue to trade with Spain, they continue to open hotels, and they don’t care that women prostitute themselves in those hotels, and that Spanish women fuck with Cubans. Imagine what happens to your daughter. I always try to make people imagine themselves in those situations. What would you do if you went to a demonstration and the state kidnapped you and annihilated you, if the police had permission to enter your house to humiliate you and beat you when they wanted, and on top of that the rest of the world said nothing?
In Spain we can identify ourselves for that, because we had a dictatorship and the rest of the world did nothing either.
I remember that in one of the connections that a Spanish program made with Cuba, an activist was arrested live while she was talking to you. Do you know what happened to her?
She is still in Cuba, but I have not had the opportunity to speak with her. I don’t really know what your current situation is. I don’t know if he is on the street, because there are no laws. They put them on.
You led some protests outside of Cuba. Do you know if there are new calls, both outside and within the country? What will be the next step for the opposition to the regime?
I don’t know, because this is everyone’s fight. New Yuniors will come out, new Yotueles, and there will be new protests and people on the street as soon as you least expect it. On July 11 we were accused of organizing protests without permission. But when you ask, they don’t let you either. The protest will recalibrate itself to move forward. They had the power because there was fear, but once the fear has disappeared, they have lost control of the island.
Going back to the Latin Grammys, what do you think of the brawl between J Balvin and Residente? I know that you spoke with the two in private after the ‘fight’ went viral, how has it turned out?
I am a person who when solving a problem with an artist, leaves it there. When there is mutual respect and understanding, differences are smoothed out. J Balvin and Residente have had their things, and I’m not the one to get into anyone’s life. For my part, I had a very healthy, honest and sensitive conversation with J Balvin, and we were able to exchange opinions and agree on many things.
Do you share, at least to some extent, your opinion that the Latin Grammys despise reggaeton?
Not at all, not at all. I am against inciting certain acts. If I don’t like bologna, I’m not going to tell everyone to stop eating it, or to raid bologna stores to burn it. If J Balvin believes that, it is his problem. I do not believe it.
And how is it with his former Orishas companions? They have also had disagreements lately.
We do not talk to each other. I reserve my opinion because we are immersed in legal proceedings. Justice will speak. I’m focused on my solo career, which started this year and look, I can’t be happier.
What’s next for Yotuel?
We have a song that comes out on December 3, and that is going to be a worldwide hit, guaranteed. It’s called ‘GPS’, because Bea and I realized that life is like a GPS. One is born in one direction, and from there life starts. You go to other places, you make stops, meeting people, until you reach your destination. And arriving at the destination is finding your co-pilot, be it him, her or them. When you find it, that’s where the real journey begins.
So he sings it with Beatriz.
I sing it with her. It is the most honest song in our relationship. It is a summary of what is ours, and how we see life, like a GPS, because you always have to be recalculating.