Yoel Soto

photo by Dimitris Makris

If you 've been to a Foivos Delivorias' live show over the last 5 years, I'm sure that you would have spotted an extra talented and skilled bassist, that generously unfolds his grandee basslines with remarkable virtuosity, always standing on the right side of the stage, always with a smile and always with pure and crystal emotion. He's Yoel Soto, a Cuban musician that arrived in Greece almost 15 years ago, after a brief stop to Turin. I first saw him performing along Ale Castagneri, when the two of them and Carlos Menendez run the fabulous music project of Rockuba. It was about seven years ago, in 2012.  Then it was the Panagiotara Project, an extremely innovative musical move, in which female singers were performing live, in a peaceful protesting against domestic violence, that mainly affects women. Yoel was there...

Last February (18/2), Yoel Soto released his third solo album "Con Pocas Palabras" (= "few words") and it's cool. It is a beautiful record, an inspired collection of 10 songs that the Cuban musician had written since his early 20's. It's a thick carefully crafted to every detail gem, having its basis to the Cuban folk music. "Trova", according to Yoel's words, a genre similar to what we call here in Greece "entexno". 

We are more than happy to have Yoel here in the Basement for an interview, in which he talks about his new album, but also for his life in Greece, his childhood in Cuba and many many more. Have in mind that it's not the first time that Yoel visits the Basement, he has written for us a very very interesting article when Fidel Castro had died, back in December 2016 (read here). 

Con Pocas Palabras (out 18/2/19)


The Basement: Dear Yoel, welcome to The Basement! We would like to congratulate on your solo album “Con Pocas Palabras”! How you would you describe it to someone that is not familiar with your music?
Gracias a lot for your congratulations! I am really glad that you like my new album that I call “a spiritual need”. In fact, it`s all about what surrounds me: love, sex, sensuality, Nature, social issues, dance, etc… In Cuba, we call it “Trova”, something like your “Entexno”.

The Basement: Tell us more about the album, your inspiration, the writing process, the recordings.
This album, like almost everything in my life, is not part of a plan; I knew of a competition for authors and composers in Spain and I wanted to take part of it so I started running with the whole process. I chose 10 songs between those I have written since I was 20 years old until now. We recorded and mixed at S_lab Studios of my good friend Spyros Kolaitis and mastered at Giannis Petrolias' studio! Unfortunately, I couldn`t finish it before the deadline of the competition, but I had a newborn in my hands.

The Basement: What about the people that you collaborated with and helped you with the making of it.
During all these years, I have collaborated with musicians and artists from all over the world, and I feel so lucky that I can count on them in every single project I do; this way I obtain all the colors I have in mind for my music. These artists from Chile, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Nigeria and, of course, Greece, are the reason why you can listen to Son, Samba, Hip Hop, Funk and Afro-Andean rhythms in the album. 

The Basement: Children abuse, domestic violence, care for our planet. In your songs, anyone can find out continuous worrying, about all the crucial matters of our contemporary society. Do you believe that making music is a rather political act?
Politic is a word I hate because I grew up in a place that everything you do is politic, I mean this is what they want you to believe, so there is always the fear to do something “against their politic” which makes you the enemy. I just believe that we, artists, are heard by the masses more frequently so we have the commitment to try (at least) making people consider that the future is in our hands and that everyone, each one in its way, is responsible for every act that helps or destroys the society and the earth. 

The Basement: What are your expectations and ambitions of the record?
The album is released by DDE records and distributed by The Orchard, one of the biggest digital distributor worldwide. I have the hope that through them the album will get specially there where people can understand my words so, apart of the music, they would give the value that I think it deserves. 

The Basement: You were born in Havana, Cuba. Would you like to share with us the memories of your childhood there?
I was born in Havana but grew up in a beautiful sea side city called Cienfuegos where my father`s grandmother was from, 300 km from the Cuban capital. The feelings that these memories bring to me are full of freedom, music, sport and passion - that I felt for the first time when I was around 9 years old for a beautiful “chica” that was living near to me. Back then, after school, I used to play baseball, football, spin, and other sports for many hours in the street without the fear that something bad will happen to me. There was a period, when I was 13th, that, on the way back home, I used to stop at the local library to read “El Club de Los Siete Secretos”, a police and mystery serie for children written by an English writer called Enid Blyton. After all this time, I still remember these stories with a pleasant feeling so my wife made me a Christmas present some years ago and bought the whole serie composed for 15 books. It`s one of the most beautiful things ever happened to me.

The Basement: How did you start playing music?
Cuba is a country where music and dance are part of everyday life; in almost every home somebody plays an instrument, sings or dances. Also, my father is a singer and for some reason, he loves the bass. Since I was a kid we were listening to music together at home and he used to sing to me several bass lines he liked from “Earth Wind and Fire” to “Los Karachi”. He used to take me to the rehearsals with the bands he was singing and all the family to the concerts many times very far away, so, frequently we walked long kilometres back home very late at night and wake up very early in the morning to go to school. I started music and classical guitar lessons at the age of 11. The same year I started playing the electric bass.

The Basement: The past 15+ years you live in Greece. Before Greece, what was all the journey about? How did you end up in Greece?
From Havana, when I was 18, I went to Turin, Italy, playing with a Salsa orchestra called Havana Mambo. Those years Latin music was still something new there so I was playing all around Italy and Europe very often. And I lived there 8 years. Later I travelled to Greece to perform in Thessaloniki with some Cuban friends that were already living in the country and I came to visit Athens when that work was done. I played a bit around until I decided to stay. Time passed very fast and here you see me after 15 years with a beautiful family, great friends and playing music that I love with some of the best musicians.

photo by Dimitris Makris

The Basement: What are your views on life in Athens? Which aspects do you enjoy and which ones do you dislike and hate?
Athens is a city that I love and hate at the same time. In general, is a nice place to live; people feel safe being until late in the streets; night life is rich for all ages, from theaters to bars and clubs. There are several places like platia Kotsia and the park at Evangelismo metro station where I spend time very often winter and summer alike watching the constructions, people, dogs and birds. From the other side, I can´t stand the indifference of some people throwing garbage everywhere; screaming at each other in the middle of the traffic and driving like crazy.

The Basement: You are a composer, a bassist player, a singer, a poet. Which is the occupation – if I may call it this way – that suits you most?
I think all of this go together like one thing; if you pay attention to the lyrics of my songs, read my poems and listen to the way I play bass, you will realize that the same person is behind that. It`s my personality, character, experiences what you get from everything I do.

The Basement: Back in 2014, one of the interesting shows we attended at that time, was the Panagiotara Project. Female singers performing live, in a peaceful protesting against domestic violence, that mainly affects women. Tell us a bit more about the project and let us know if you schedule such acts in the near future…
One day a girl friend had told me about her experience with her husband; he used to mistreat and hit her very often, and for that reason, their kid (4 years old then) had psychological problems. I became very sad and ungry because this is a problem we all know exist but a lot of people stay in silence. I ran to my wife and told her about the idea to make this project so she found this song and made the translation in Spanish; I did the adaptation and called all the women I knew to play and sing on it. I have to say that without the selfless availability of all these great artists, journalists sound engineers, video clip makers, family and friends this project wouldn`t have be possible. The presentation of the project took place at “Polis Art Café” on March 8th of 2014.

The Basement: We also loved the Rockuba project. Had you enjoyed that one? What happened to this really interesting and pretty innovative group? 
Rockuba was a project that everybody who knew it loved it because of the Latin colors we gave to these songs without loosing their original Rock, Garage and Blues characters. During the rehearsals setting up the playlist, sometimes it was very funny because Carlos Menendez and me, both coming from Cuba, didn`t know many of these really famous songs from Nirvana, Sex Pistols, U2, etc… that Alessandro Castagneri, singer, guitarist and director of the band used to bring to work on. We had several gigs and recorded an EP called Rockuba. At the same time, each one of us was part of other projects so unfortunately at some point it was difficult to find the time to continue playing together and at the end the band disappeared.

The Basement: Of course, your name and your extremely high skill in bass became more widely known through your collaboration with Foivos Delivorias. How did that happen at first place and how do you experience playing along Foivos and the other bandmates - Kostis, Sotiris and Kostas?
I already knew Kostis and Sotiris from other gigs we had together but it was Kostis who proposed me to join Foivos and his band. I felt nice since the beginning because they gave me the opportunity to be myself and keep my style of playing which helped me to give the 100 % of my knowledge to the music. At the same time Foivos, for me one of the greatest Greek lyricists, is an incredible open-minded musician and have been always there to support my career as songwriter playing live and recording some of my songs together. I am glad  that after 5 years I am still part of this incredible band.  

The Basement: Which bands or artists would you consider as your main influences?
I can name several of them like Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Pablo Milanés, Silvio Rodríguez, Irakere, NG La Banda, Marcus Miller, Tribal Tech, Richard Bona, Francesco de Gregori, Jacques Brel and others.

The Basement: Who is (or was) the best bassist on Earth? :) 
It`s impossible to say who is or was the best but Marcus Miller is the one I like the most. 

The Basement: What are the near future plans? Should we expect to live gigs any time soon?
For the moment I am performing with Foivos on March 30th at Mylos in Thessaloniki and April 5th at Gagarin in Athens and in the meanwhile I am preparing the presentation of my new album that will happen some time in May.

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