Gilberto Ortega is a musician from Cuba who came to live in Romania 9 years ago.
Gilberto Ortega recalls with clockwork precision the day when he set foot in Romania: July 11, 2006. For him it was a day that he will remember forever: “Coming to Romania, where I have been living for more than 9 years, meant to change my life. The culture in Romania is completely different. And, as a rule, it is very important not to forget the date when you move forward in your life”.
A percussion virtuoso, Gilberto came to Bucharest per the advice of a well-known Latino music singer, Analia Selis, an Argentinean musician and an expat in Romania: “She needed a percussionist and so I was offered the chance to perform. I came to Romania, I liked it and I decided to stay. That was it.”
But adapting to Romania was no easy task for Gilberto. In the course of the 9 years he has lived in Bucharest, Gilberto Ortega has accomplished many things including proficiency in the Romanian language. It was a considerable challenge for him but he is now a fluent speaker.
Gilberto Ortega: ”When I came here, Analia Selis met me at the airport from where she took me directly to rehearsals. I didn’t even know where I was going to live. The first word in Romanian I learnt was ‘boss’. Then, little by little, because I was performing only with Romanian musicians, I started asking what certain words in Romanian meant. I had a copybook in which I wrote down various words in Romanian. So, I eventually learnt Romanian. Actually, I had to”.
Gilberto Ortega is a fighter and a winner, as his life story, as much of it as we could find out, shows. Although he was born into a family of musicians, his mother wanted him to study law. But Gilberto insisted on studying music. As a self-taught artist, Gilberto said 60% up to 70% of what he learnt is the result of his individual work of knowledge he acquired from his musically-gifted relatives.
Gilberto Ortega: “From 1998, when I started my professional career, until 2006, when I came to Romania, I worked incessantly. This was my life, this is all I could do: music and nothing else!”
In his home country, Gilberto performed traditional Cuban music, and has toured almost 25 countries: “I have been to many countries. In 2000, I went to Japan, then to Mexico. In Europe I went to Italy, France, Germany, Belgium. I also went on tours in Canada, the Caribbean Islands, Chile, and so on. I have traveled a lot until I reached Romania.”
Gilberto’s travels have taken him across Romania, too. has also traveled across Romania. His favorite cities are Sibiu and Brasov, in Transylvania, and Timisoara in the west: “I like the location of Brasov city, right at the foot of the mountain. In Sibiu I like the architecture very much. I have performed a lot at a jazz festival in Sibiu, so I like that place very much”.
Gilberto Ortega has performed alongside Romanian pop music singers such as Pepe, Stefan Banica Jr., Andra, Alex Velea and Connect-R. He has also collaborated with bands such as Mandinga and Bosquito. Last but not least Gilberto has performed alongside the Radio Big Band conducted by Ionel Tudor, on the stage of the Radio Hall.
Gilberto Ortega: “Performing with the Radio Big Band is a great experience. The Big Band’s musicians have a very high level of proficiency. And the conductor Ionel Tudor is very good. I have learnt a lot from them. Which is why I intend to continue to collaborate with the Radio Big Band. Performing with them is a really special experience. We play jazz music and other different genres. For me this is a very special thing!”
Drumset, tumbadora, bongos, timbales…these words may sound strange to us, but for Gilberto Ortega they are his favorite “working instruments”. He plays all these instruments here in Romania where he enjoys living.
If Gilberto were to change anything about Romania, he would make winters milder, as he finds it kind of hard to cope with minus 15 degrees C during winter days. For the rest, Romania is dear to him, be it for the simple fact that it is here that he saw snow for the first time in his life. (translation by Lacramioara Simion)