Omara Portuondo no longer dances like she did during the early days of her career, but at 85 years of age, a few rhythmical steps and her extraordinary, clear and strong voice are enough for her to triumph on any stage.
Even though the artist is known by many people as the Buena Vista Social Club Diva, she prefers being called Omara from Cuba, because this is her “beloved homeland.”
“I will be forever grateful to my parents for having been born here in my island,” said the owner of such privileged voice to The Havana Reporter, with a tone still as powerful as in years past when Omara was the queen of nightclubs and cabarets in Havana.
She began performing at Tropicana in 1950, „a beautiful place where I learned a lot. Sometimes I miss that place and feel a longing to return there,” she said.
She also recalled her success with Las D´Aida quartet, where she performed together with her inseparable friends Aida Diestro, Elena Burque, Moraima Secada and Haydée Portuondo.
Las D´Aida was like my master thesis. There were many quartets at that time and ours is still one of the most emblematic ones today,” she noted.
But Omara not only maintains fond memories of bygone days.
She has never stop working or singing. After several years travelling all over the world with the Buena Vista Social Club, she is now organizing another big tour; this time with flamenco singer Diego “El Cigala.”
Omara, who is also known as the Girlfriend of Feeling said that “the concerts will start this summer and I am very excited about what will happen.”
She will celebrate her 85th birthday years on tour, accompanied by the Spanish Singer. They have chosen a repertoire combining classic Cuban songs and iconic pieces from their own catalogs.
Omara and Cigala happened to meet for the first time during the summer of 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl, when the Buena Vista Social Club was doing a tour of the United States.
The projected 85th tour will allow her to meet with old friends and reminisce about her 70 year long career: her performances at famous clubs in Havana, her passion for what is known as feeling music, and her latest projects.
Over the past few years and together with the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara has put traditional Cuban music back on the world stage.
Even though the club has already performed its last and farewell tour, its music still captivates people in Cuba and around the world.
Omara said she would have never stopped working with the band, which allowed her to take traditional Cuban rhythms to all five continents.
“Though most of our performances took place in other countries, we agreed to perform our farewell tour here in Havana, because we love singing for the people here,” she added.
“I am proud to know that I can sing either country or feeling music…I feel comfortable singing any musical genre; I love folklore, traditional and country music alike,” Omara sustained.
According to her, Cubanness is connected with black folklore, Spanish elements, danzon and its French influence, and with all the diverse elements that formed this island.
Among her all time favorite musicians is Frank Emilio, the pianist who accompanied her for many years. „He was blind; he had an accident as a child and could not see anything. Omara described him as a “beloved friend and excellent musician”.
Almost all the musicians that were members of the feeling movement were self-taught.
They played the music they likedand were influenced by traditional rhythms. “I feel honored to have been part of the group,” the artist said.
From the Girlfriend of Feeling she became known as the Buena Vista Social Club Diva and she continues to sing the pieces that she has always liked: Dos gardenias, Lágrimas negras, Bésame mucho, Veinte años…
Omara still really enjoys singing and has surprises in store for her public on the tour with Diego “El Cigala,” adding that “I believe I still have time to make all my dreams come true, there are some still yet to be made so.”Share on FB Share on TT