Mozart gets a Cuban style makeover“My dear Basle, I am so sad that you have never been to Cuba. People are very liberal here. Beautiful ebony girls dress me up every morning. The music is hot and passionate, making everyone dance. They give me musical inspiration. But please keep it secret ― even from your father ― that I am on a trip in Cuba. Love, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”
This letter, dated sometime between 1777 and 1781, was supposedly written by the Austrian composer, whose first genuine love was his cousin Basle from Augsburg, Germany.
Before anyone in the audience could even look confused and say, “Mozart visited Cuba?” members of the crossover band, Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion, quickly added, “Not only that, the famous ‘Turkish March’ was actually the ‘Cuban March.’ But Mozart lied to his father, saying it was Turkish so he wouldn’t get angry.”
Come to think of it, the lively tempo of Mozart’s “Turkish March” does sound a bit Cuban.
But as the audience started nodding, the band ― in Seoul to promote their new album, “Mozart Meets Cuba” ― made it clear this was all a made-up story to promote their interpretation of the great composer’s works. Some audience members laughed out loud but others appeared confused, not knowing what to believe as the translators tried to catch up with band members who spoke over each other in German and Spanish.
“We imagined what it would be like if Mozart was still alive and met Cuban musicians,” said Elis Rodriquez, a Cuban conga drum player, through a translator.
The five-man band is a collaboration of two very different groups. The Klazz Brothers are German classical musicians Tobias Forster (piano), Killian Forster (bass) and Tim Hahn (drums). Meanwhile, Cuba Percussion is Elis Rodriguez (conga) and Alexis Herrera Esteves (timbales) from Cuba.
The band did a good job combining the classic themes of Mozart with Latin rhythms, as they have done over the past five years with other genres including symphonic salsa and jazz.
This is not the first time that they have collaborated using classical music with Latin rhythms. Their previous album, “Classic Meets Cuba,” already introduced in 2004 how Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 would sound with mambo rhythms in “Mambozart.” On the same album, they turned Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony into “Salsa No. V,” while “Fur Elise” became “Afrolise.”
On their latest album, they decided to use only Mozart to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his birth, which falls on this Friday.
“We were not confidant at first about filling the entire album with only one composer’s music,” said Kilian Forster, the band leader and bass player. “But it turned out that Mozart suited toe-tapping salsa and jazz.”
If there was one thing that did not go as well as planned, it was the communication among the musicians. The band members now understand each other, speaking a mixture of German, Spanish and English. But in the earlier stages of their collaboration, the communication problem was so bad that when Mr. Forster, the leader, introduced in German their next song, the Cuban members understood it as a sign to end the performance and walked off the stage.
“The first two CDs were made without talking to each other much,” said Tim Hahns. “But we now know enough to understand that good music does not necessarily need words.”
Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion’s new album was released on Jan. 17.
by Lee Min-a