Pablo Milanés Arias (born February 24, 1943) is a Cuban singer-songwriter and guitar player. He is one of the founders of the Cuban nueva trova, along with Silvio Rodríguez and Noel Nicola. His music, originating in the Trova, Son and other traditional styles of early 20th Century Cuban music, set him apart from the style of Silvio Rodríguez.
Pablo Milanés, widely known as Pablito, moved with his family from Bayamo to Havana in 1950. He studied in the Conservatorio Municipal de La Habana, at the time the most prestigious musical school in the country. His first public performance was in 1956. By age 15, he was active in "bohemian" musical circles in Havana, associated the so-called "filin" musicians.
Although he supported the Cuban Revolution, in 1965 he was sent to the UMAP agricultural forced-labor camp in Camagüey. In 1967, he escaped and fled to Havana to denounce the injustice of the labor camp. This resulted in his imprisonment, first for two months in La Cabaña, an 18th-century fortress in Havana, and then for a time in a prison camp. He was released when the prison camp was closed due to international pressure.
In 1969, he became part of the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora, a seminal group of young musicians, many of whom became founding members of the nueva trova, which started as a movement with a concert given by Pablo, Silvio Rodriguez, and Noel Nicola on February 18, 1968. Until the late 1980s, nueva trova was the unofficial musical style of the Cuban Revolution.
Since his first recording ("Versos sencillos de José Martí" in 1973),he has issued more than 40 solo records, and many more in collaboration with other artists from Cuba, elsewhere in Latin America, and Spain. His first record with original songs (the eponymous "Pablo Milanés") was not issued until 1976. The heyday of his creativity occurred probably in the early 1980s, with his records "El guerrero", "Yo me quedo", and "Comienzo y final de una verde mañana".
Within the context of the nueva trova, Pablo is widely considered one of the closest to the traditional roots of Cuban music, while being open to diverse musical influences from other contemporary traditions, such as Brazilian music and Blues. The range of his compositions extends from starkly political anthems to inspired love songs. He has set the poems of Cuban writers such as José Martí and Nicolás Guillén to music. Some of his most important musical influences have been María Teresa Vera, Lorenzo Hierrezuelo, Barbarito Diez, Benny Moré, Lucho Gatica, and Johann Sebastian Bach.
He has lived in Vigo, Spain, with his Spanish wife and two sons since 2004. In 2014, he received a kidney transplant, receiving an organ donated by his wife.
Since relocating to Spain, Milanés has been publicly critical of some aspects of the Cuban government, though he remains dedicated to the Cuban Revolution. His willingness to speak openly about the failures of the revolution strained his relations with Silvio Rodriguez. Lately, he has not participated in pro-government campaigns.
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