Sindo Garay: Memories of a troubadour

By Marta Valdés

To stop reading has rarely been so difficult to me like now, when it’s almost Sunday and the moment draws near to type these paragraphs in which I inform those who love the rich history of the Cuban music about the recent publication of this precious book, the result of the loving, persistent dialogue between the distinguished figure of the lyric and researcher Carmela de Leon and Sindo Garay, the great troubadour.

Sindo Garay, Memorias de un Trovador (Museo de la Música) is a publication -the third one, to my knowledge-, which is part of the collection of publications that the Museum of Music has been presenting as part of the program for the preservation, publication and dissemination of our musical heritage carried out by the Cuban Institute of Music. I’m not happy filling spaces by literally copying this information, albeit it is fair to stress the importance of actions aimed not only at emphasizing and preserving memorable things but also at providing researchers with a valuable source of information.

Ever since the first edition of these memories, which date back to a couple decades ago, I’ve read again the book several times and I can’t thank enough its author and the protagonist for their work. Sindo Garay is really an amazing person. His huge amount of memories spices up a whole century of Cuban history and leads us along to the safety of a port in which a very young Pepe Sanchez and a sentimental Guillermin give real life events an amount of fantasy that invites us to see things as they really are.

This way, giving us one surprise after another, the child who was born a year before the uprising for independence in Yara and swam across the bay of Santiago de Cuba fourteen times carrying messages for patriots like Cebreco and Manduley which contained important information about the plans of Jose Maceo; the little genius was able to combine his first guitar chords purely by ear and he learned very quickly opera excerpts at the gods of a theater; he was the little bard who created the most fabulous method to learn reading and writing love letters, all gotten from his own nature: he earned his living as an acrobat, walking a tightrope.

He learned the craft of leather worker and that’s how, after living in abject poverty, intuition led him from one island to another, to the land of Haiti, having joined the circus and always with his eyes wide open to grasp every detail of the landscape and the people. Those landscapes produced in him an impression that is hair-raising even today; and that’s why he decided to go to the Dominican territory and to Dajabon. There, he was given shelter by a good woman called Lola. In the courtyard of her house, in the shade of a carob tree, he listened to the illuminated words of Marti. The words he pronounced that night rang in his ears and made him stay awake all night. It is particularly worth wiling to read this beautiful passage all schoolchildren should know.

This constant adventure that was the life of Sindo Garay had a known space for music -or I should say, from music-, which he always shared with his inseparable children. It is well worth -I insist-, the reading of this book, which I pride myself on presenting to my friends and raffling it in my club, and copies of former editions of which I still buy. The book contains -in addition to the abundant material its raison d’etre represents-, an interesting introduction by its author, sections entitled respectively catalog and discography, as well as a gallery of photographs and documents.

Sindo Garay, to whom his fellow men haven’t ceased to proclaim a genius, was born in Santiago de Cuba on April 12th, 1867 and died in Havana on July 17th, 1968. His mortal remains rest in Bayamo. When he -already a nonagenarian-, dictated his memories to Carmela de León, he made clear in them his pride for being the only Cuban who could shake hands with Jose Marti and Fidel Castro.

Source: Cubadebate/Cubarte, September 11, 2010. Translation: Rene Cruz Fernandez (Cubarte). Edited by Angel Romero.

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central


3 thoughts on “Sindo Garay: Memories of a troubadour”

  1. Which publication(s) are referenced? I did a web search but could find nothing. I image they are in Spanish? I’d love more information, this is a favorite topic.

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