David Torrens 
Singer - composer

David Torrens is still shaking off sleep when we show up at his door in the Havana suburb of Guanabacoa. Like many musicians, he works night shifts. Still, he looks delighted to see us and beelines to the bodega to get refreshments for the entire crew despite our objections. That’s David Torrens for you: a modern-day Cuban troubadour and a genuinely friendly guy. 

When asked about his musical beginnings, he says that everyone in Guanabacoa is an artist of sorts. He remembers improvised song battles on Sundays with women on one side and men on the other challenging each other. For a child like David, the only way to be let in on the fun was to exploit the formal guitar training he had been receiving at the local music school. 

“When they came to my elementary looking for candidates to join the conservatory, the principal said, ‘Take that one! That one over there is always playing rumba on the desk!’”, he laughs.  

Torrens says that some of his most vivid musical memories from childhood have to do with music from “bars and cantinas”, referring to the popular songs and artists from the 1950s that seem to have vanished in the aftermath of the Revolution. As a teenager, he was exposed to Brazilian music through a neighbor who was a music producer and became fascinated. He later discovered rock in Spanish and Argentinian songwriters like Fito Paéz, Juan Carlos Baglietto, Mercedes Sosa and León Gieco.  

“I always say they did a lot of damage because I could never get them out of my head,” he says.  

David’s career took off in Mexico, where he released two albums with EMI Music. In 2010, after nearly 20 years living abroad, the idea of coming home gradually grew on him. He made up his mind after performing in several working-class neighborhoods in Havana: “It brought me closer to my people and I learned to understand them,” he says.  

Although his music had been cut off from Cuban distribution circuits during his absence, David explains that people would privately circulate his albums and keep up with his releases. “There was something exciting about receiving the music like that instead of openly,” he says. “For a lot of people, it was like a breath of fresh air.” 

David recalls that his grandmother would refer to him as “parejero” — or someone inclined to tag along with others. To this day, he seems to know everyone in the Cuban music scene and is drawn to collaboration. “I love listening to live music going to my friends’ concerts,” he says. “And I always wind up going up onstage singing something or other.” 

And, as it turns out, he wasn’t the only artist that was planning a homecoming a few years ago. Other singer-songwriters from his generation who had left the country to pursue their careers were rekindling ties with Cuba. Under the leadership of Raúl Paz and alongside artists like Descemer Bueno and Kelvis Ochoa, David took part in the incredibly successful “Habanization” concerts that were organized in Havana and Miami in 2011.  

“I think there was a need for this kind of music,” reflects David. “Cubans lived an uprooting migratory process and we lost many things.” 

These days, David spends a lot of time in his home studio working on his fourth album. He’s taking on the challenge of self-producing without any outside help. After the interview, he takes on a drive around Guanabacoa to visit childhood home as well as Bola de Nieve’s birthplace. At sunset, we join the crowd at the town square by the old church, surrounded by orange burst of flamboyant trees, and understand a little better what David meant when he said that only at home did the muses speak to him.