That Cuba produces musicians like Iowa grows corn is hardly news. But even in that context the ascent of Ivette Cepeda has been remarkable. A bolero and filin singer with a powerful voice and the dramatic flair to match, Cepeda, who actually trained as a psychologist, has gone in relatively few years from working as an elementary school teacher to being not just a leading voice in Cuba but the subject of Une Cubaine a Paris (A Cuban in Paris), a 2011 documentary by director Dominique Roland.
Cepeda debuts at Miami-Dade County Auditorium Sat., March 9, opening the month-long Global Cuba Fest, featuring contemporary music and artists from Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora. The event is presented by FUNDarte.
An interpreter rather than a songwriter, Cepeda’s repertory stretches from classics such as “Bola de Nieve” and Cole Porter to the work of Juan Formell, Brazilian bossa nova master Antonio Carlos Jobim, Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquin Sabina and up and coming composers. And Cepeda interprets her material with an approach that often evokes the golden eras of those genres. Think retro — with a twist.
“I would say that I don’t consider myself a bolero singer, and I don’t consider myself a salsa singer,” she told Cuban journalist Helson Hernández of Havana Times. “ I feel that my musical world is a little more mixed and so that’s why other ways are born in me for projecting previously known works.”
But while making a point about her distinct musical identity, Cepeda also places herself within the continuum of the Cuban music tradition and some of the influences shape her style.
“Now I can say that certainly there’s a legacy, that this is most marked in certain styles, and that this inevitably comes out,” she explained to Hernández. “When I’m singing something done by Elena [Burke], there’s a lot of her form of singing in mine as well, because there’s an acceptance in me of the force that she imprinted on it, or that feeling that she expresses in it. I’m convinced that there’s a big difference — a big difference — when I put one of Elena’s recordings on and when I hear myself, but there’s something inside me that assimilates much of her, and that’s where you find the influence. …. But in short: no, I don’t believe there is any imitation in what I do, if anything, there’s an influence.” - Fernando Gonzalez, artburstmiami.com
Ivette Cepeda performs Sat., March 9th at 8:00 p.m. at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 Flagler St., Miami; tickets range from $5 to $55, 800-745-3000. fundarte website