Saturday night’s Wynwood Gallery Walk was steeped in July humidity, but the steam heat factor was exponentially higher at the Wynwood Walls mural courtyard, thanks to a gorgeous performance by Cuban singer Osdalgia. Soaring, belting, whispering, seducing, the Cuban diva made her U.S. debut for a small but ardent crowd of Cuban music-philes. “So you want to love me?” Osdalgia sang, at one point. “You’ll be sorry soon.”
Not likely, not with that smokey, chocolatey, honey-rich voice – although hundreds of people streamed on by, unaware that Osdalgia is one of the hottest voices in contemporary Cuba, the heiress to the mantle of legendary bolero and filin singers such as Elena Burke and Omara Portuondo. The concert, which also included pioneering Cuban rappers Doble Filo, was part of Global Cuba, an occasional series of Cuban music concerts co-presented by Miami Light Project and Fundarte. The show was originally slated for the much larger Miami Beach bandshell. But Osdalgia’s visa arrived too late for Miami Light to get the word out for such a large venue, so the show was moved to a small courtyard in the center of Wynwood Walls. Cuban website Generacion Asere, known for hosting blogs and news and debate about Cuba, streamed the concert live – it might have had more attention in Havana than in Miami.
Accompanied by a single guitarist, Osdalgia had to compete with planes roaring overhead (Wynwood lies right down the middle of an MIA flight path), traffic, what felt like 150 percent humidity, and a river of indifferent, chattering people flowing by in search of drinks and stimulus. She seemed completely undaunted. She ditched her high heeled shoes by the second song, the heart-rending over-the-top classic “La Gloria Eres Tu”, strutted, sauntered through the crowd caressing the men and elbowing the women, posed and curled on the stage like a coy 50’s cabaret sex kitten (she even did a Spanish version of 'Fever').
One minute she was wiggling her flowered and ruffled behind with an ironic wink, then she was challenging forgetful lovers and a capricious world to douse her passion, howling “Your memory is the pain I love the most.” Osdalgia is in the classic Cuban mold of the self-conscious performer who glories in full-tilt emotional and musical intensity, retreating now and then into an irony-edged humor that keeps her from seeming ridiculous.
And oh, her voice. Osdalgia has the kind of control that lets her go from bluesy belting to seductive whisper, from soaring, shiver-inducing crescendo to trembling moan, and still make it sound as natural as if the song were pouring out of her from the first time. According to Ever Chavez, the director of FundArte, Osdalgia has played late night concerts on Fridays at famous underground Havana boite El Gato Tuerco for a decade; even at 3 a.m. she can pull them in. Hopefully she’ll return to Miami, to a better place to showcase her magic.
She was followed by Cuban rappers Doble Filo, one of the pioneers of Cuban hiphop. Rappers Yrak Saenz and Edgaro fired off an intense stream of politically conscious and positive lyrics, over a pulsing band playing a mix of hiphop, funk, rock, and blasts of jazz and reggaeton. Shouting “Dance but use your head!” from their song Lo Mismo, which could have been their mantra. But the relentless heat took a toll on the crowd’s attentiveness; even more than Osdalgia, Doble Filo needed a better platform to be heard.