Following in the tradition of his father, the world music legend and master guitarist, Modesto Nieves, cuatro player and proud Puerto Rican, Christian Nieves played Rumba, Chicago to a delighted crowd of salsa fans and world music lovers. Among the fine diners and bar bunnies were Sound Culture exec, David Chavez, administration from the Old Town School of Folk Music, and local celebrity, Johanny Vásquez Paz an incredibly charming and dynamic Puerto Rican poet and Spanish professor. Moments before his set, Nieves took a moment to share some of his future musical endeavors, his musical history and all about his beloved Puerto Rico.
Nieves shared his knowledge of Puerto Rican history and his passion for music. He described, ‘the Puerto Rican influence,” on the music world, and the island as a “gateway to the Latin American music scene and the world.” Nieves was eager to talk about his island’s colonial traditions, and the influential Afro-Caribbean sound that carry from the center of the tropical islands indigenous, African and Spanish roots. However, Nieves reluctantly noted the island’s favoritism towards outside influences and media barrages. He added, “unfortunately the island favors outsider sounds and often overlooks its own rich heritage of influence and instruments. Puerto Rican musicians aren’t respected. Our music isn’t played on the radios. It saddens me a little, but we’re still opening new doors internationally.”
As a well traveled folkloric, classical, jazz and traditional instrumentalist and composer, Nieves knows his instruments and musical history. Taught at a young age by his father, Christian absorbed not only cuadrito, but flamenco, Arabic and Brazilian sounds into his vast repertoire. He describes his music as following the traditions and styles of “la musica del pueblo (the music of the people).” He describes his sound as full of “timbre, guiro, bom bom, bomba and influenced by a world sound.” Describing his current project, “Mi Monte,” soon to be released in November, Nieves explains, “since I was a child I’ve dreamed of making an album like this, dedicated to my fatherland.”
Nieves, who’s worked with greats like Ricky Martin and Ely Guerra proudly explained the origins and tradition, the wealth of honor and history in playing the cuatro. He celebrates playing, as he emphasized, “our national instrument, el cuatro.” He dedicates his latest album, “Mi Monte,” to his proud island. “It’s a very emotional album for me. I wanted to revisit my whole life since childhood through music to now. I wanted to work on an album like that, where the majority of the compositions were my own. I dedicate the album to my country, where I work, where I live, where I do everything. The cuatro is a coqui. To play that intsrument is very valiant. It holds hundreds of years of history. It’s something very important to my life, being a representative of something, my island, mi monte.”
A sympathetic and open artist, Nieves’ pride and patriotism shine through his description of the island and its spirit. Nieves concluded, “Puerto Rico will never lose its essence. We see in the beaches, the mountains, the rivers, the people live grateful for what we have. We’re defined as a happy nation que goza la vida.”