Leonardo Acosta: Cuban National Literature Prize Laureate

Leonardo Acosta, who is 73 years old, has just been awarded the Cuban National Literature Prize for his life work in prose, essays, research, poetry, narrative and journalism.


Leonardo Acosta, who is 73 years old, has just been awarded the Cuban National Literature Prize for his life work in prose, essays, research, poetry, narrative and journalism.

This award not only enriches Cuban contemporary literature but also its connection with music because Leonardo Acosta is not only a prestigious intellectual in the field of ideas, but also one of the key musicians in Cuban culture.

On this subject he has given us Paisajes del hombre (Landscapes of Humankind), and essential titles like the essays Música y descolonización (Music and Decolonization) Del tambor al sintetizador (From the Drum to the Synthesizer) and El Jazz en Cuba (Jazz in Cuba), explaining the interrelation between history and the music of the Americas.

Acosta has also studied pre-Columbian Americas and the dramatic moments of its conquest and colonization; the life and work of Jose Martí in terms of his importance to Cuban national identity; the means of communication and, with particular lucidity, the work of Alejo Carpentier whose friendship he cultivated from childhood.

Acosta has conducted other research such as El barroco de Indias y otros ensayos (The Baroque of the Indies and Other Essays), La Novela policial y medios masivos (The Political Novel and the Mass Media) and El Medio milenio: esclavitud y ecocidio, antropofagia e identidad (Mid-Millennium: Slavery and Ecocide, Anthropophology and Identity)

Leonardo Acosta is also a poet who shaped his ideas in verses such as those of El sueño del samurai (The Samurai´s Dream), which, between the cult and the popular, shows his dedication to the study of autoctonal roots and the process of transculturation – an area in which he is most read.

Titles such as Descarga cubana: el jazz en Cuba 1900-1950 (Cuban Jamming: Jazz in Cuba 1900-1950), Raíces del jazz latino: un siglo de jazz en Cuba (Roots of Latin Jazz: A Century of Jazz in Cuba), Descarga número dos: el jazz en Cuba 1950-2000 (Jamming Number Two: Jazz in Cuba 1950-2000), Otra visión de la música popular cubana (Another View of Cuban Pop Music), as well as the much awarded book Alejo en Tierra Firme: intertextualidad y encuentros fortuitos (Alejo on Terra Firma: Intertextuality and Fortuitous Encounters), that was deservedly recognized as the best book of the year by the Cuban Language Academy. In addition to this, Acosta has written numerous anthologies and volumes, correspondence and prologues, as well as many articles, critiques and reviews published in Cuban and foreign magazines over several decades.

This Cuban intellectual, musician and artist, has shared the stage and recordings with international and national figures such as Chucho Valdés and Irakere (three Grammys), Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute Experimental Sound Group), Sergio Vitier, José María Vitier, Ernán López-Nussa, Bobby Carcassés, Pablo Menéndez and Mezcla, Ilmar and Guido López Gávilan, Juan Pablo Torres, Charlie Haden and Gonzalito Ruvalcaba (Grammy), Stephan Kurmann, Orlando Ríos and his group, Rogelio Martinez Furé and the Group Oru, Frank Emilio, Emiliano Salvador, Javier Zalba, Amadito Valdés, and others. In each of his appearances he has left a seal of interpretative quality, which speaks of the importance of his work and his contribution to Cuban culture, as well as to that of Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and the United States. Many of his books have obtained the annual Cuban Critic’s Prize. In his role as a musician, Acosta has also figured in important Cuban orchestras during the important 1950s, with the "feeling" and Latin jazz movements.

In receiving the National Literature Prize, Leonardo Acosta joins generations of musicians and teachers such as Sara Rodriguez-Baz and Gisela Hernandez, José R. Betancourt and Julian Orbón.

On the journalism side, Leonardo Acosta founded the news agency Prensa Latina, in which he evolved as correspondent in Mexico and Czechoslovakia, as well as covering other European countries.

Cuban cinema has also gained from his work. In 1969 he became a member of the Cuban Film Institute Experimental Sound Group, where he worked with musicians of the calibre of Sergio Vitier, Pablo Milanese, Silvio Rodriguez, Eduardo Ramos, Noel Nicola, Emiliano Salvador and Leoginaldo Pimentel, directed by Leo Brouwer. He made numerous compositions and recordings for the then young and emerging Cuban film industry.

Leo also performed with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction Manuel Duchesne Cuzán in works by Leo Brouwer, Sergio Vitier, Robert Valera and Hans Werner Henze.

He also played his favourite instrument, the saxophone, in the famous orchestra of Benny Moré, the most popular Cuba musician of all time.

Leonardo Acosta was also, from 1978 to 1989, music advisor to Cuban Television, and, before retiring, he worked as a literary adviser for the Cuban Book Institute.

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