Cuba based progressive rock band Anima Mundi is currently on a second European tour with their 2010 DPRP recommended album The Way and are working on their fourth album here in Holland at the same time too. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to have a chat with the two English speaking band members, founder Roberto Díaz and singer Carlos Sosa, right after their show at the Lakei venue in Helmond. A quite moving chat because every now and then some very real burden of life came to light.
Interview & photo for DPRP by André de Boer
André: Again, thank you very much for your time. I am very honoured to be able to have a chat with you.
Roberto & Carlos: Thank you, the honour is ours.
André: Anima Mundi was here last year. And I wanted to see you with some friends but unfortunately couldn’t make it in the end. Then my friends told me I had missed out on an extremely good show. So, luckily I had a second chance tonight on your current European tour. And this is a special occasion for me for another reason; Anima Mundi is my one-hundredth prog live show!
Roberto: Congratulations. Unbelievable, one hundred!
André: As an introduction I want to tell you that my personal musical taste is all about new progressiveness, eclectic prog and prog metal. I think that your latest album The Way belongs to the area of neo-prog, which normally is not my field of interest. But when I first listened to this album back in 2010 I was taken by surprise. Wow, what is this? This isn’t the usual neo-prog. This is a totally new direction based on recognisable elements from the past. Very Howe-ish, Squire-ish, Wakeman-ish, Beatle-ish. It’s all there but far, far from a copycat or clone. It is thought over, reinvented, redesigned, rearranged and redefined in a new honest, pure and personal way. And extremely well crafted too. That’s the way I see your music.
Roberto: Thank you.
Carlos: Roberto is the composer, he knows the insides.
Roberto: Yes, Virginia (keyboards) and me (guitar) are the founders of Anima Mundi. And the songwriters up until now.
André: I’m very curious about many things concerning you and the band. How did you manage to form this band, create what you have created, rehearse, record and survive as a progressive band throughout the years in Cuba. And finally come to Europe too?
Roberto: That’s a complex question, I don’t know the complete answer to this. I think it’s a matter of passion. We all have this passion for music, we tried a lot of ideas, we had to face and solve a lot of problems. It has been a hard time. As a band we’ve suffered from many line-up changes because people in Cuba don’t know anything about prog music. In our 16 years of existence we have been the only progressive band in Cuba. There is no real audience for it, so we cannot say that the band earns any money with it. It’s just a matter of passion…
Carlos: I think it’s a matter of confidence in the music too. I’ve been with the band as a singer for seven years now and I have never doubted the quality of the compositions, the diversity, and the energy that it transmits. I always trusted the music, I think that is what drives us.
André: You mentioned the money you need to do this. Do you all work in music for a living?
Roberto: We all have a daytime job in order to survive. Except for our drummer Manolo, who works in a commercial centre, we were all employed in a music business related kind of job. Teaching, singing, playing in other bands or composing for TV shows. Virginia and me invested a lot of time and money in the band. The band is our son!
André: Did coming over to Europe help anything for the better?
Roberto: Yes, it’s better for the trust in our music. In Europe we experience that we get a relationship between people who know about progressive music, both audience, professionals and press. The feedback we receive is really important to us.
Carlos: The first record Septentrión was released by an Italian record company but there was no promotion, it didn’t go well. After Jagannath Orbit we encountered Musea Records and they consequently got us exposed over here in Europe. The reason to come to Europe was because the people now knew about our music.
Roberto: It’s because of you!
André: Okay, we’re all trying to do our best! How did you know about progressive music, like Yes, in the first place? That they even existed out there in the early days? How did you manage to get to know this music at home in Cuba when you started the band and started composing?
Roberto: Well, you couldn’t just buy it. We had some friends who said: hey, listen to this. They got it from the black market. Since I was 17 years old I listened to Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Rick Wakeman and more. Nowadays those records are still not available in the stores.
André: Was there a way that you could keep up with the new progressive music that evolved in the world over the past few years, for example in Holland or in the UK?
Carlos: Yes, friends of ours that live abroad supply it. But the situation remains the same. We don’t have stores where you can buy foreign music, people only get to know this if a band has been to Cuba to do a live concert.
André: If I mention some bands that I’m interested in myself, can you tell me if you know these bands and their music? Bands like Haken (UK), Leprous (Norway), The Pineapple Thief (UK), Neal Morse?
Roberto: I’ve heard of the band Haken but have never been able to listen to their music. Leprous is not known to me, but we all know The Pineapple Thief. And Neal Morse too. He, the Flower Kings and Transatlantic are very famous amongst a small group of people in Havana and the rest of Cuba; maybe only two hundred people out of 13 million in the whole country…
André: Another question: When you travel through a part of Europe, last year and now, do you have the time to see and experience the countryside and the people here?
Carlos: Yeah, we’ve seen a part of European life. Not so much as a tourist but we remember Brujas (Brugge) very well. We mainly spent time secluded to rehearse, with the families that connected tous and with people that supported us. We almost don’t have any of those connections at home. And the rehearsing was necessary because all of us had some kind of serious trouble after returning to Cuba last year. Troubles with our rent, our houses and stuff. And I had some surgery myself. So we had little time to prepare for this second tour at home. In the meantime we also had to be busy working on the re-release of our first album Septentrión to mark its 10th anniversary and the production of the Live in Europe DVD and double CD.
André: I understand life has been really hard on you. Back to the music and your future. You are working on a fourth album, you’ve just played two of the new songs The Return and Tales From Endless Stars. How is the status? Does the album already have a name or a release date?
Roberto: Well, it’s work in progress. We hope it will be out in the beginning of the next year but that is not a fact. I don’t know yet if it will follow the direction of The Way. Sometimes the song itself starts to live its own life. You start a new song with a direction in mind. But it’s like painting a picture, if something doesn’t work out, you change it. The album will probably be more mystic, with lots of vocals and strange landscapes in it. That takes time. Making an album is simple, but making a good album isn’t!
André: It makes me very curious and we will just have to wait and see. I trust it will be worth the wait! The final question: Are you aware of your quality, do you know how good you are? Are you aware we rate your performance as top level?
Roberto: No, I don’t. I even think I don’t want to know!!
André: On behalf of DPRP I want to thank you for the opportunity to have this open minded chat together. I wish you all the best.
Forthcoming Anima Mundi in The Netherlands:
iO Pages Festival – Boerderij – Zoetermeer – 6th October
St. Jozef Church – Cuijk – 19th October 20:00
Poppodium Fenix – Sittard – 20nd October 20:00
Concertzaal – Oosterbeek – 21th October 15.30
Anima Mundi official website: http://animamundimusic.com/site/