Though not a familiar name beyond the island, singer Rosa María Ameneiro—known as Rochy—is a popular figure on the Cuban music scene. In a conversation with Havana music journalist and old friend Joaquín Borges Triana, Rochy talks about her music, her life, and upcoming projects.
I have known Rosa María Ameneiro—Rochy—for many years. In fact I’d rather not be too precise about how long, because when I think about it I realize how fast time has flown since we were students together at Saúl Delgado High School. Even then she was singing like no one else, giving every song her own unique interpretation.
So it’s no surprise that in an old article of mine, written after one of Rochy’s concerts, I wrote that for some inexplicable reason, I felt that her performances have the scent of saltpeter, of skin, of life. And that Rochy’s voice is a gift that even the sea would like to have—to be able to sing like that when it hides in the conch shells. It is the voice of the girl I knew when we were teenagers, of the trained architect she became, and of the mother she is to her son Rodrigo. It’s the voice of the famous singer who, fortunately, remains as unpretentious as she was many years ago.
Now, I’m talking once again to Rochy—the kid from the neighborhood, Sergio and Consuelo´s younger child. It’s an interview I’d like to share with Cuban Art News readers.
Rochy, you’re trained as an architect. To what extent does that relate to your work as a singer?
As you know, I’ve sung ever since I was a child, and at the university I represented my school in every talent show and amateur festival. And when I graduated from the José Antonio Echevarría Superior Institute (ISPJAE) I was chosen the best student precisely because of this cultural work.
That was a very important period in my life. I got to know Pavel Urquiza, who was studying Economics at the University of Havana, and we formed a duo. Pavel taught me so much about music and aesthetics, and he was a great friend. I also knew and shared the stage with many of the great artists of today who, like me, trained for other professions—the list is so long.
Later, I worked in a construction company. I also worked for design firms and companies that created exhibitions. And I made my first recordings.
Where does your love of singing come from?
Hummmmm…. I think it came from my father, because he loves music. He writes beautiful songs and he has never quit singing. When he was a child, he sang in a Radio Cadena Habana program. When he was only 11, he did some recordings in the CMBQ radio station. He used to sing and write songs for my sister and me, which we performed at school events.
When did you begin to sing professionally—which is to say, earn money from music?
I began to sing when I was a child. I was one of the original members of a TV program called Escenario Escolar directed by Luciano Mesa and Virginia Wong, who gave me my first opportunities. But it was not until early the 1990s that I began to work as a professional singer at the former National Center of Concert Music. After that, I decided to quit my job as an architect.
What are your criteria in choosing songs for your repertoire?
I sing the songs I would have liked to write. They come to me in different ways, and if I like them, or they make me cry or laugh, it’s almost certain that I’ll add them to the repertoire.
You’ve released three albums: Cantar al Che (Singing to Che, Panamerican Production S.A.), Rochy (Bis Music) and Dudas (Doubts, Colibrí). But you’ve been singing for years. Why so few records?
I don´t know. I could give many reasons, but I swear it hasn’t been my intention. It wasn’t because of me.
There are certain constants in your repertoire—for instance, songs by “Nueva Trova” writers such as Silvio Rodríguez, Pablo Milanés, Lázaro García, and Pepe Ordaz, and from what some of us call “Contemporary Cuban Song”—Carlos Varela, Gerardo Alfonso, Vanito Caballero, José Luis Medina, and Diego Gutiérrez, among others. Tell us about your attraction to this type of song.
It really hasn’t been deliberate. In songs like these I found an aesthetic that speaks to me, and many times they’ve been written by trovadors. But I also feel a connection to boleros, ‘feeling’ songs, and other types of music not related to the trovadors.
It seems as if everything in your performances is carefully organized and planned. How do you conceive the production of your concerts?
I feel that my audiences deserve my complete respect and commitment. So every presentation is carefully planned in all the details, and I try my best to make my audiences happy. I have the good fortune of working with excellent musicians and a team of wonderful technicians, who give me the confidence that everything will be done to the highest quality.
You’ve shared most of your life with Josué García, your partner and your son´s father. But he’s also your producer. What does that mean for you?
Well, trying not to offend the others—as there are many good producers, men and women, in our country—Josué is great for me, and to tell you the truth, everything is easier when I can have someone like him by my side.
By the way, Rodrigo studies piano and according to many people, he shows promise. How is the mother-son relationship?
I am very proud to be Rodrigo´s mother. We have a beautiful relationship, and I hope he can really apply himself, because he is very talented. He is a special person with a great heart—a good friend. He loves his family, he’s disciplined, and he’s very funny. Well, you know, a mother babbling on about her baby, ha ha . . .
To sum up, what would you like to do as a singer that you haven´t done so far?
There are many things I haven´t done that I would like to—for instance, to sing with artists I admire so much. Or to sing in a film.
I’m currently working on a new project called Todas contracorriente (Against the Tide), which uses music to create a more integral vision of women and raise awareness of the need for a more peaceful culture—so important nowadays. This is my immediate dream and what I want to do now, not only as a singer but as a social being.