Jazz great, Dizzy Gillespie one said, “Ideas, ideas, backward and forward. His influence is layers and layers of spirit.”
Gillespie could have been speaking about Cuban born musician, Mario “El Indio” Hernandez Morejon. El Indio, as he prefers to be called, was born near the province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Showing great promise at the age of eight with his passion and natural understanding of the language of music, El Indio attended the prestigious, Havana School of Arts. And by the age of eighteen, he was on the road and touring with Grammy Award winning, Afro-Cuban Jazz band, Irakere. This tour led El Indio from the shores of Cuba and around the world before recording his own albums, the first, ‘Nuevos Horizontes’ under the Sony Music France label. El Indio’s musical resume is impressive but it is his sheer force of true artistic vision that makes him extraordinary.
Becca Horne: I know you play to trumpet and tenor sax, what other instruments do you play? Do you have a favorite?
Mario “El Indio” Morejon: I play piano, trumpet, tenor sax and soprano, percussion, which include a Batá hindú, and a “Shékere of Kaskabéls” which is an instrument created by myself, a little contribution to the percussion world. I mean, all my instruments are very important for me, and I am dedicated to all of them. Sometimes I feel like a painter with his brush, trying to create different colors and styles of music, and that´s what I try to do with my instruments. My favorite? I couldn´t say, I mean, the Piano is the most important instrument for every musician, because of its context. In this instrument you can develop all kinds of expressions. Piano is melody, rhythm and harmony. Piano is the most complete instrument! Sometimes when I play this instrument I experience a feeling of being in a sort of a trance. I mean, a spiritual trance, where the energy is so intense that I think I go into another world. Beyond there, that space, when I listen to the record of the concert, what I was playing, it surprises and scares me, and this is incredible. The same happens to me with the tenor sax and with the batá hindú. I think these are my favorite instruments.
BH: Who are you musical heroes?
EIM: My musical heroes are many. The great prophets and masters like; Benny Moré, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Chamber, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Emiliano Salvador, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and my greatest idol, John Coltrane, he is the reason way I play the soprano and tenor sax.
EIM: For me, music is my life! Since the time I could think and feel, music was always my obsession. Something in my body, deep inside, that I couldn´t express with words, I express in music. In my vision, my thoughts, music is the language of the universe, I think that the Creator has created everything with music! All the energies, vibrations and expansions up there have a rhythm, a cycle and a melody too, I think. Music is a process, an expression and transmission of our life. All of the positive and negative experience during our life we translate in music, especially for me it´s like that. But above all, I think that we who are, musicians and artists; we are mediums, channels, which different energies and messages from our spirit flow through. It is the most important gift that we have. That´s why I say, the more you develop your spirit, the more rich you are in music or anything, because there is nothing bigger than the human spirit, “YOUR SOUL” which is the vital source for every creation in music, art and for everything! Music is Life!
BH: What inspires you to create your music, to tap into this energy?
EIM: I get inspired by many things, but above all the power and beautiful things in nature, the colors of the scenery and the mysterious things that exist in it. All the natural phenomenon fascinates me. I´m a spiritual person who likes to spend time in free space, in nature. For instance, I can climb a mountain and stay hours up there, for me is a beautiful and incredible feeling, and this scenery and the colors, the energy up there, inspires me, and helps me to develop my spirit and vision about music, and nourishes my creativity!
BH: What projects are you currently working on?
EIM: I am working on a new album, and will be part of a trio. My new trio, The Astral Trio, plans to start recording this September in France.
BH: Finally, can you talk a little about the art and music of Cuba?
EM: I have been gone for several years, and cannot speak as to what is going on now, but Cuba has always been very rich in art and music. There is much talent there.
Mario “El Indio” Morejon embodies everything that Jazz is supposed to be. Open, honest, spiritual, emotional, creative, truthful, schooled and passionate…not a bad day’s work.