Cuban singer Aymee Nuviola talks about new music, how faith changed her life and the need for more Afro-Latino representation.
Getting over the jet lag after a 15-hour trip to Tokyo was a challenge, admits Aymee Nuviola, but bringing her Cuban music to an ecstatic Asian audience was well worth it. Her performance with Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba was welcomed with a standing ovation at the Blue Note jazz club. “Music truly is the universal language,” the Cuban singer says. Besides promoting her new album and documentary A Journey Through Cuban Music, Nuviola and Rubalcaba did a series of songs together titled Viento y Tiempo that they have performed together around the world. “Gonzalo is one of the 50 greatest pianists of all time. This collaboration is a step higher in my career, a new challenge,” Nuviola adds.
Nuviola says she enjoys traveling and experiencing new cultures, taking her music to new corners of the world. She will soon be performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Curaçao, and regularly opens the interactive play the Amparo Experience in Miami with a musical performance.
Those who have seen Nuviola singing live know that her stage presence is hypnotic. She has a larger than life voice, personality and style. “I love unique-looking shoes and glasses,” says the fashionista, famous for her colorful turbans and tunics on stage. “When I’m not working, you will see me in jeans and a t-shirt. I love to be comfortable.”
Nuviola’s stardom has not changed her humble essence. “I had a lot of deceptions along the way, but what strengthened me is my relationship with God. That’s what changed my perspective,” she says about her path to fame. She embraced Christianity in 1997 after some dear friends in Costa Rica talked to her about Jesus and read some of the Bible’s verses. “It bothered me at first when they talked about all that,” she recalls. “I came from Cuba and I believed in santería. That’s what many people in Cuba were involved with, but I lived in constant anxiety and didn’t see a solution, a way out of all the adversities I was facing,” she admits. “I finally read the Bible again and it impacted me. When you have a calling from God, you see things differently. The verses speak to you because the Holy Spirit works within you. When God calls you and you react, there is a change within you.”
She has witnessed the power of God’s perfect timing in her career. The role of Celia Cruz in the Telemundo series Celia came just at the right time, she says, in 2015, when she had the maturity as a performer to carry out such an iconic role. It also gave much needed visibility to Afro-Latino culture in prime-time television, Nuviola says, where she sees a lack of representation. Celia was a refreshing change, with Nuviola and Puerto Rican actress Jeimy Osorio as protagonists, playing the beloved Queen of Salsa at different stages of her life. “I don’t see a lot of participation of Afro-Latinos in Hispanic networks,” Nuviola reflects. “It’s sad. You don’t see many black anchors or telenovela stars. I was the first Afro-Latina to have a leading role, as well as Jeimy Osorio. It’s hard to get that space even though we are so representative of Latin culture.”
Nuviola is changing the game and winning the world over with her talent and charisma, having fans singing and dancing to her songs, from the streets of Havana to the nightclubs of Tokyo.