I was waiting for my turn in the bank in Handen, a community south of Stockholm, on Dec. 29. There appeared Bebo Valdes, six-time Grammy Award winning legend of Latin American and Jazz music, together with his son, Dr. Raymond, and his family. Bebo and I have known one another for the past four years, though we have lived in the same community for a very long time-- he for more than forty years and I for more than thirty years. One doesn`t know his neighbors in Sweden, as one does in some other countries. Perhaps a question of climate, or perhaps a lack of social facilities like cafes and pubs, which didn`t exist earlier in the Stockholm suburbs, but only mushroomed recently.
Bebo complained about getting old. He is ninety now. I assured him that the music in him will keep him young. I started to hear the melodies from his album "Lagrimas negras" in my head. He has so many lovely albums, Bebo de Cuba, El Manisero, Bebo & Cigala, Descarga Caliente, Sabor de Cuba, just to name a few.
Bebo was the top man in Tropicana in Havana in 1948 and is "the father of Mambo." He composed many unforgettable, lovely melodies. A very profound and top pianist, he often attracted top names of jazz from the USA who went to listen to him in Cuba, not to forget Edith Piaf who came from Paris to listen to him.
Bebo is a very modest neighbor for me. We talk and joke when we meet in the shopping centrum often. He is maybe getting old, but certainly the fire of music in him is keeping him young and energetic.
What is a big pity, although Swedes like music and especially jazz, many living in the same community as he does, don`t know him, though his fans all around the world are a proof of his musical genius.
I kept on joking with Bebo, while we were waiting for our turn in the New Year`s rush and crowd in the bank:
"In your concert in Madrid with Cigala," I said, "Cigala was like a volcano, you had a hard time controlling him. But, in a later concert in Mallorca, you finally succeeded in controlling him!"
"It is my job to control people!" he joked, laughing.
The beauty of the thing is that such a wonderfully talented, genius artist talks and mixes with anyone. I talked about my new book coming out in January, THE MINI-SUBMARINE which I hope will be a film under the direction of Eduardo Coronado, if we can find a producer.
"I`ll buy a copy!" Bebo shouted.
"You don`t have to," I said, "as soon as it comes out, I`ll bring you a copy."
Bebo is a fantastic pianist. I love his music, engineered by his genius, but pouring out of his heart!
Askin Ozcan is a writer with the sop.org, newsblaze.com, americanchronicle.com and is the author of WISDOM IN SMILE, THE SECOND VENICE, SMALL MIRACLES, STOCKHOLM STORIES, LIGHTNING AND A BOUQUET OF ROSES and THE-MINI-SUBMARINE.