Haute Spot

Mining The Past To Enrich The Future
By Dawn Watson - November 7, 2018

Strong roots are important to Maria Bacardi. Forced to flee her native Cuba with her family when she was just 4 years old, the political exile nonetheless has a deep well of connection to the island. Most especially as it relates to the country’s musical style and of her mother’s remembrances of happier times, before the Castro regime confiscated the assets of generations of her family’s hard work and ingenuity in late 1960, compelling them to return to their native homeland in Spain not long after.

Raised and educated in Europe, the East Hampton resident moved to New York in 1990 to make her home and family here. A love of the community and of the great many natural gifts have kept her happily here. But of course, the Springs-based singer, artist, actor and poet—and great, great granddaughter of Bacardi founder Facundo Bacardí Massó—has never forgotten her foundation.

Through her singing, Bacardi has been able to share the beauty of her heritage. Now working on the release of her second album, “Duele,” she’s gearing up to give another glimpse into that culture.

For this newest work, a follow-up to her debut effort, “Deseo,” Bacardi has teamed up with Grammy Award-winner David Oquendo and Grammy nominee Edgaro Gonzalez. In celebration of the endeavor, “Duele” will be launched with a pre-release party and concert with 10-piece band on December 17 at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. The CD and digital releases are expected to come early next year, followed by vinyl, and ultimately an instrumental CD, according to Bacardi, who made the short list as a pre-Grammy nominee with her inaugural album.

This next effort, which has taken approximately two years to create and contains a dozen songs, is based on early- to mid-century Cuban Boleros, but with a twist. Innovatively repurposed, these versions have been updated with contemporary scores, and some English translations and turns of phrase. The result is what Bacardi calls “neo-Bolero,” a modern-day interpretation of the songs of love and loss that she learned over a lifetime from her mother, Elena Gomez del Campo Bacardi.

Roughly translated to “it hurts,” “Duele” is filled with material that is steeped in despair and tragedy. Yet, the delivery here is upbeat, pretty and pleasurable.

“Most are ‘sorry bastard songs,’” laughs Bacardi, who reports that some of the covers include “Cementerio de Novias” (cemetery of old girlfriends), “Black Tears” and “Free of Sin.” “But our goal was that we didn’t want to treat them on the nose. Instead, we wanted to make them more complex … more relatable to a broader contemporary, international audience.”

This innovation of Bolero, using old masters’ songs and melodies and fusing them with modern grooves and samples, has never been done in quite this way, according to Bacardi. The sound is a musical fusion of Cuban and North American musical genres, more “citizen of the world,” she says, adding that the compositions are truly a collaboration.

“David brings the traditional line of melody, Edgaro’s musical ear contemporizes it and brings out the joyous, playful side, and singing it brings out two aspects of my personality—hopeful and with the acknowledgement of grief and pain and loss.”

The textured outcome is “much more interesting than black-on-black or white-on-white,” she says, adding that considerable credit also goes to her engineer, Luis Daniel Güell. “He is really part of the front horses of the chariot. He’s amazing.”

An expression of gratitude and appreciation for her own strong roots—from Cuba to Europe and here on the East End—the final result of “Duele” is built on a firm foundation, and one that Bacardi says she hopes will stand the test of time.

“The past, present and future, a great community of family, friends, my children, my mother’s singing, the counterpoint of city and nature,” she says. “My humble goal is to make something from yesterday but for today, and hopefully for tomorrow as well.”

Maria Bacardi’s “Duele” pre-release concert will be held at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on December 17, at 9 p.m. For additional information and tickets, please visit and


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