Angela Alvarez always dreamed of being a star, getting on stage and lighting up the world with her voice. She and she made it from 90 years of age.
“I think that music is the language of the soul,” he said during a long interview with Televisión Martí.
From an early age, Angela was transported to another world without ever setting foot outside her home. It was in her native Camagüey that she learned how to rock to the sensual sounds of the 1930s emanating from her radio. With her eyes closed, she imagined interpreting those melodies in her own language… texts born under her sensibility, hummed in the intimacy of her home but at the same time hidden from the whole world for a space of 75 years. .
“You can do so many beautiful things with music,” he pointed out. “You can daydream, and in beautiful music you close your eyes and you can take a trip to some place you have known. Music transforms one’s feelings when it is beautiful music. I love music”.
With only 12 birthday candles, he began to compose songs that touch the heart: themes such as love, longing, loneliness and happiness. Together, these emotions have been part of numerous anthologies that keep the most intimate memories of her life… the ones that make her laugh and also cry. These traces have become a symphony of her upbringing in Cuba, her adolescence, her departure from her island in 1962.
Today, seven decades later, Angela, who lives in the state of Louisiana, in the southern United States, continues to polish the same talent that she developed as a young woman.
“Well, the first (song) was in Cuba…that song, ‘Amor’, and the last one, now I’m composing another one right now. When I arrived here in the United States I was 35 years old”.
During the 1930s, Angela developed a musical gift and a desire to become a professional singer-songwriter. But her dreams would not be fulfilled at that time. Her father forbade it by enrolling her in a boarding school where she would learn a trade.
“And then one day when I already graduated from high schoolhe told me, ‘Well, my daughter, it’s time to think about what you want. She is going to college? Would you like to study?’ And I told him, ‘Well, I want to be a singer.’ And then he told me, ‘Well my daughter, I wouldn’t like you to sing to the world. Sing for the family, but no, I wouldn’t like it…you, my only daughter’. And then, since I loved him very much, I obliged him… At that moment I felt very bad, very bad, and very sad, ”he recalls.
Undeterred, Angela continued to compose in secret. Everything around her inspired her. And the life that passed through her eyes led her to a role that she jealously guarded for decades.
He married and had four children before the ruin cast an evil spell on the Pearl of the West Indies. For Angela and her family, Fidel Castro’s Revolution quickly went from emancipation to repression. Many schools were closed and there were threats that children would be taken from their parents’ care to be raised in Marxist-Leninist education camps. It was then that the Alvarez family decided to flee. But when Angela was denied a visa at the airport in Havana, she made the agonizing decision to send her children ahead and find a way to join them at a later date. Her four children became part of the Pedro Pan exodus where more than 14,000 unaccompanied children were sent to the United States in the early 1960s.
Angela escaped years later, forced to leave her husband and beloved Cuba behind. Displaced in a foreign land, she worked hard to rebuild her life and get her children back.
Her grandson, Carlos José Alvarez, inspired by his grandmother’s dream of sharing her music with the world, decided to preserve her legacy.
“I called her one day and said, ‘Nana, I’m going to visit you and I want you to sing me all your songs and describe what the song is about.’ I thought there were like ten or twelve songs and she left her room with a bunch of notebooks and there were like 40 or more. And I spent two days there at her house with her and I couldn’t believe it, ”he recalls. “She had many songs and between all of us we chose the one that she preferred to sing for her album. And when I started arranging her songs, I realized the great talent she had, and not only as a singer, but also as a composer, her poetic art, her melody from a time that no longer exists. Remember that she was born in the year 27. These songs are hers. They weren’t imitating that golden age of Cuban music, but rather they were from that era. I felt that she was discovering something very important that she had missed. Recording the album and her concert were the two most magical and rewarding moments of my life and in my career”.
At the age of 90, Angela Alvarez traveled to Los Angeles to fulfill a dream seven decades later. This great-grandmother-accompanied by an orchestra of renowned Cuban musicians, many of them winners of Grammy Awards-recorded her first album entitled Angela Alvarez.
After knowing the history and then listening to his music, the award-winning Cuban pianist, Alberto Salas, did not stop at being part of this group.
“There are two moments in my career as a professional musician that I will never forget. The first was being able to play alongside Israel López, better known as Maestro Cachao. And the second is to be involved in the project of the teacher Angela Alvarez. His melodies, his harmonic progressions transported me, not only me, but the other musicians. Anyone who listens to this music will be transported back to an era when the world was simpler,” he states. “The fact that 75 years have passed, I don’t think it’s the most important thing. The important thing is that it be made on disc and in a documentary of her life. Angela has more hope, more life, more energy than me, than someone younger than me, 30-odd, 40 years old. Those of us who have the joy of knowing her know that it is the truth.”
“When Angela’s grandson told me about being part of this project and showed me and told me what he wanted to do with the music of his grandmother, his nana, and he explained and showed me her music, I The only thing I asked was ‘When and where do I have to be there’. And that was also the attitude of all the musicians who were chosen to be on this album. Angela has been a hidden treasure for 75 years, “he explained.
Similar sentiments were echoed by the Cuban flutist, Danilo Lozano, who considers himself fortunate to collaborate on the recording.
“It has been an honor for me to participate in this project. It is a beautiful gesture of a grandson towards his grandmother. It is a musical dream that we can carry out and record that music that she carries in her soul. Definitely very moved,” she stated. “I could see how the songs developed step by step, not only because of the fact of making good music, but how her songs united us with her. Her songs convey a very nice and hopeful message. And Angela’s songs maintain aesthetic, historical criteria of her youth in Cuba and thank God we have been able to recreate that feeling in our times. The final product is a work, a fabulous work”.
The 15-track collection includes A new sunrise, aimless roadand She is so pretty – he wrote this last one while contemplating his Cuba from the window of the plane… that island that he would never step on again…
For the Cuban violinist, Dayren Santamaría, recording with Angela Alvarez was an experience delicious.
“From the moment I met Nana, it was a continuous apprenticeship for the magic of the virtues that she has. Nana is a patient, cheerful woman. She is a woman who understands that although her life has its ups and downs, our positive attitude towards her is important even for things that hurt us. Nana is a strong woman of spirit. She is a woman of constancy. She is a woman who, 75 years of waiting, could not discourage her.”
“And on the contrary, those years filled her with wisdom and beauty,” he said. “And this is the result of such a beautiful project. This is pure beauty. Nana’s participation moved me, inspired me and amazed me tremendously. It is impossible to separate the artist that Angela is from her essence and her personality. It is impossible to enjoy her acting without feeling the flow of her entire life. Her participation was extremely moving. Nana made us all feel like we were her grandchildren.”
Recording an album was not enough. miss angelathe documentary that premiered in 2021, tells the story of this brave woman: her triumphs, her challenges, her secrets… it is a tribute to this Camagüeyan woman who fought to protect her family and also to realize her dreams
His music would also come to life culminating in a concert at the famed and historic theatre, Avalonin Los Angeles. Cuban actor Andy Garcia served as master of ceremonies.
“When the time came and we arrived at the theater where the concert was going to be, I saw a huge sign outside: Tonight Angela Alvarez is going to sing live and then inside there were many portraits of famous people who have sung there and I saw them. I said, ‘My God, so many famous people have sung here, and I’m going to sing here.’ And that will be for eternity. The day I leave, may God call me, then my family will always have that beautiful memory. ‘Look at my grandmother, my great-grandmother’… Nobody is going to forget me. I will always be aware of everyone.”
Angela’s story is a testament that it’s never too late to make dreams come true…even if they wait…for 75 years.