"El Zorro" is a musical project founded by two musicians : the swiss composer Martin Richard Lehner and the Cuban trombonist Gustavo Carlos Duran Anaya, a.k.a. "El Buda" (El Zorro -the fox- was the nickname given by the Cubans to Martin because of his ability to understand Cuban music). We thought we had found European timba. We were wrong : "El Zorro"’s music is much more than that.
- Who is Martin Richard Lehner ? What are Don Diego’s occupations when he is not el Zorro ?
Don Diego’s full-time occupation is kissing lovely and young women... just kidding. I work part-time as leader of the Jazz department at the Conservatory in Zürich. The rest of the week I work as a composer and arranger for different customers and for my musical projects. My last order was to arrange 35 tunes for a musical show. I love this kind of work, and my dream would be to work as an independent multimedia artist. I’m very interested in video, graphical work and of course in music. But there is a lot of competition in this business, and it isn’t easy to earn enough money to keep my family "alive". Therefore I will keep my part-time job.
- You wrote the songs in El Zorro project. Your songs have a special flavor. How would you define it ?
Nearly all songs are original songs written by myself. There are 2 songs form Gustavo and 1 song from Roberto (note : Roberto Pulido). In the beginning the musical style was straight Timba, but every next CD-production took more influence from Funk, Jazz and Pop music. Music must live and music has to change, develop, if not, it will be dead. So, I’m not interested to write every time just the exact same thing. My feeling is to do just those things that are creative and new for me.
- Your friend Gustavo seems to have helped you a great deal to discover Cuban music "from inside". What part of him is El Zorro ? Many guest stars sing in El Zorro albums : Mayito Rivera from Los Van Van, and most important Angel Bone. Is it thanks to Gustavo ?
Gustavo was a very important person in the whole El Zorro project. He has organized all the musicians for the recordings and conducted also the studio sessions in Cuba. He is a well known trombone-player in Havana and he knows most of the Cuban singers personally. Through his connections and his belonging to these different kinds of music communities, we were able to win all these singing stars.
- Tell me more about the band members...
There are two aspects ; one is the band here in Switzerland and the other are the recordings in Cuba. My band here is a bit smaller for economic reasons. Actually the band has 2 Cuban singers (Roberto and Michel) and the rest of the band, 8 musicians, are swiss professional musicians with extensive experience in Latin music. Most of them went several times to Cuba to study Cuban music. The CDs were recorded with some of the best Cuban musicians and without economic limits in Havana.
- There are few timba bands in Europe. Some of them are from Switzerland : Picason and Palatimba too. Is it only coincidence or do you have some explanation ?
Picason is the oldest Timba band here in Switzerland. They are the pioneers and helped make this music more popular. One reason is that Switzerland doesn’t really have it own music. Okay some yodeling, but seriously, forget this. "Swiss" isn’t an ethic origin. We are formed from different nations and we have a high rate of immigrants. So, I like to say that we are not held in a tight corset of some special type of music like in other countries. This really helps to be open and nosy to other kinds of music.
- Your music is not only timba music. Why did you make this choice ? Are you going on exploring afro-cuban music in your next album ? Do you have anything to reveal about it ?
Like I said before, I’m very interested in mixing styles, in creating new sounds. I’ve just finished the recordings for my 5th album. I used to record all the stuff in Cuba, but this time it’s different. Cubans are the best for timba music, but my musical style has changed, and I’m always looking for the best musicians for the recordings, and that’s why I decided to record just some takes in Cuba and the rest here in Europe. My new CD is called "Sin compromiso" (Without compromises).
Without compromises means, don’t worry what is allowed or not, let’s do only what you really want to. Creating, defining and mixing styles, with a strong desire of creative experiment. The result is an album of uncompromisable quality.
Through the advantage of global networks, I was able to bring together musicians from different countries and continents such as Cuba, Venezuela, Germany,
Italy, Serbia and Switzerland.
I’m very fortunate and thankful to have been able to work with all these gifted artists.
So, what do we call this music now ? Timba, Funk, Jazz, Pop ?
It doesn’t fit into any existing box, that’s why I’d like to simply call it : Contemporary Latin Music.
If you are curious about Martin’s last words, you can visit "El Zorro" MySpace, where the teaser of "Sin Compromiso" is available. Many thanks to Martin for his kindness and his time.