I sleep with the radio on, and at times some of the stories that I hear while half asleep come into my head, and without my realizing it, they end up turned into dreams. This week, in one of these nightly shows, they spoke about Antonio Machín, about the story of his life, about his Galician and Afrocuban roots; and they played the songs that form a part of the generation that gave us life. And in that dream interlayered with the real sound of the radio, Machín appeared singing with my father in my grandfather’s ballroom…
When I awoke, I reflected on that vital journey of Machín’s (from Cuba to the US, from the US to Europe, from France to Spain) at a time when conflicts and wars were more than present. Machín left Paris in 1939 (at thirty-six), to arrive in post-war Spain, where a brother lived, and so begin anew a career in a country broken by civil war. I tried to imagine the complexity of that journey and of the decisions he made to survive, and of the infinite perseverance of a man who decided to devote himself to what he was passionate about, despite everything.
It is difficult to be an artist at any time period because each historic moment has its circumstances, and the arts do not always give back all one gives them. Through the radio, Machín illuminated the lives of our parents and he turned into a success story at a complex moment. And those invisible artists that interpreted his music in those beautiful rural ballrooms illuminated even more the life of a generation to which nothing came easy.
Today, the artists that live music make our lives something better form a part of that other generation that also has it difficult, and that is why they are more needed than ever.