CuCu Diamantes’ Love Letter to Cuba

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The pitfalls some concert documentaries fall into are very easy to spot when you’re working with the source material of a tour. There’s bound to be a few breakdowns, a fight or two with a tour manager, and a triumphant message wrapped in a tight bow. That’s why Cuban-born artist CuCu Diamantes’ Amor crónico is refreshing.

The musician completely abandons the obvious formula of trying to find crises on the road in exchange for a cultural love letter. Not only is this Diamantes’ first solo tour, but it’s her first in her home country. Unlike a typical concert doc, Diamantes weaves in a fictional story of unrequited love as she discovers the immense passion she has for Cuba and the people that inhabit it.

Paste caught up with Diamantes who spoke with us about the importance of identity and her influences.

Paste: Making a film is no easy feat, nevermind embarking on a tour. Was this a daunting task?
CuCu Diamantes: It was hard to do. We shot the film in 11 days. I only slept three or four hours a day because I had to be very focused, but the film crew and the music crew were filled with a lot of energy. It was tough, but it was a special experience.

Paste: What was the greatest challenge?
Diamantes: It’s half documentary and half fiction, so the hard part was the editing. It took a year because I didn’t want to bore people with showing whole songs. It was the hardest part—how to edit and not bore people.

Paste: You say in the film that you’re too Cuban to live in New York and too much of a New Yorker to live in Havana. Was that transition difficult for you?
Diamantes: That’s a famous expression. Every immigrant has that problem. When you are in one part, you miss the other part, and you don’t know where to live, but now when I go to another place I feel more local. If I go to Rome, I feel like I’m from there. If I go to Mexico City, I feel like I’m from there.

Paste: Did you have a certain vision of how you wanted the storyline to cut in with the tour?
Diamantes: No. Everything happened very organically. We were just creating. My songs are from my first solo album, so that was already worked in, but the whole tour was a work in progress. Many things happened naturally with the audience.

Paste: I loved your interactions with the crowd. Was that building on the character of CuCu?
Diamantes: That was a challenge because they didn’t know me that well. They knew me from my previous group. It was a big challenge for me to sing in front of people that didn’t know my music. They were more into Jazz and Classical concerts. My music is born in the island of Manhattan and not in Cuba. My voice is very Cuban, but the rest is a melting pot of everything based on every experience I’ve had in my life.

Paste: That must have put some pressure on you to think about how the crowd would respond to your music.
Diamantes: Exactly. They had me in tears every night because they were so good, but I love personal challenges. I grew up in Havana, but I didn’t know the rest of Cuba. It was going back to the roots. I believe to save the planet we have to look back, and our future is going back to our roots. When you don’t have a cultural identity your lost.

Paste: You mention in the film that CuCu is a way for you to be another person separate from Illena. How much of yourself is CuCu?
Diamantes: CuCu is really me and the other one is somebody who die [Laughs]. It’s just a label that they gave me when I was born. I wasn’t conscious enough to choose my own way, so I’m glad I was able to select my life and my own artistic name. It was 16 years ago when I started singing.

Paste: You said you had a lot of American influences in terms of your music. Can you expand on that?
Diamantes: I love Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, for me the list is infinite. Music is infinite. It’s the fastest way to get messages to people, especially social messages.

Paste: What kind of social message are you trying to communicate with your audience?
Diamantes: We have to live more in love and less war. If we all love each other then things grow faster.

Paste: What do you want the people to know about Cuba?
Diamantes: Many citizens of the world are afraid to go to Cuba because the media doesn’t show this kind of Cuba. There is no violence in Cuba. It’s a very cultural and trustful country, and the arts are blooming more than ever.

Paste: What’s next for you?
Diamantes: I just did a movie in Cuba with Jorge Perugorria. I’m one of the friends of the main actor. We shot the movie almost a year ago and they’re finishing post-production at the end of the year. It’s called Fátima y el Parque de la Fraternidad.

Amor crónico is currently available on VOD and iTunes.


Niki Cruz is a Freelance Entertainment Journalist based out of New
York. With a passion for Film/TV she often contributes to Paste, amNew
York and Interview Magazine. Niki spends her time off learning life
lessons by binge-watching Dawson’s Creek. You can follow her on
Twitter.

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