Havana, Cuba. – This extraordinary woman has gone a long way in our culture, leaving her hallmark in Cuban musical catalogue. Simple and full of dreams like any of us, she treads life, confident of her path. The fact that she is a pedagogue who became a singer is in no way surprising, because success may come in different ways. Zunilda Remigio Summerville thanks life for her every achievement. She is very glad to be able to do what she does.
She told Radio Cadena Habana, “Making your dreams come true takes a lot of courage and mostly an immense love for the trade”
Tell me about music…
“Music – to me – is the most universal of languages. Being able to sing is a privilege that should not imply conceit. One should just feel honored of having the gift to do good to humanity that needs it so badly. I would say it is like giving vent to part of your spirit, your feelings, your emotions… a way of feeling fine and making others feel fine too.”
Climbing the ladder of success in your world as a singer is no mean feat… How hard was it for you?
“I am a singer whose training is largely empirical. I was a Geography teacher; therefore I first served as an educator and then I studied singing, sol-fa and everything you need to come this far. It is very hard when you assume it as a profession and not as a hobby.
The hardest part is figuring out how to reach out to as much people as possible and make them understand and eventually accept your art. Nevertheless, all things considered, I am pleased with what that the world and actually life have given me.”
What was your beginning like?
“Well, I worked many years in cabarets, because that was the first option for Cuban singers in that time. It meant good connections with the media and publicity, so artists became famous. Perhaps that was the main reason why I worked in nightclubs, particularly in Tropicana, Havana Libre Hotel, Havana Café and “El Gato Tuerto.” However, now I am very pleased with my own show.”
What do these shows mean to you?
“I’m there with my folks and these shows are not as cold as cabarets, where tourists come and go. I have a closer contact with people, because I realize that the public feels contented there. Sometimes they tell me … “I had a great time; we are so glad to have you” – and that’s truly encouraging. It makes me feel satisfied with what I do and that’s why my show is called “Zunilda, with all her heart.”
Records are a key piece in the musical set-up that accompanies an artist’s career. How have you fared in this regard?
“With regard to CDs, honestly, I have been very lucky. I walked through that door hand in hand with a renowned Cuban producer, Joaquin Betancourt and I am very grateful to him. I could mention, for instance, the record “Camina” (Move on). It is like a book, a work of art that you discover and it discovers you all by itself. Right now, I am working in my third record, which is more Caribbean, something very cheerful.”
In what way do you think you contribute to preserve the music heritage of our country?
“As a matter of fact, that is what I fight for. I’m not interested in singing a ballad that becomes a hit or some reggaeton because it is the latest fashion. I look forward to raising the heavy mast of Cuban musical flag.
I have had the chance to travel a lot and in any part of the world people defend their music. Look, if you go to Brazil, there is a speaker in the airport playing a “batucada”, in Mexico, you find the mariachis and the same happens everywhere. For that reason, when I sing I cannot try to sound like Christina Aguilera or any other foreign singer, because that is simply not our thing.
Nicolas Guillen said, “To be universal, you need to be authentic first and that’s exactly what I do when I sing bolero, traditional songs, Trova songs, Son and Caribbean sounds.”
Are you satisfied of having reached as far as you did?
“Yes, I am very glad because I left a mark – with my modest contribution – in the history of my country, like a painter reflected in his work and a writer in his book.”
By: William Lucas
Translated by: Pedro A. Fanego