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Brown, Roy

Written by: Edna Frese
Editor: Edna Frese
Translated by: Carol Sampson

To speak of Roy Brown Ramírez is to speak of Nueva Trova in Puerto Rico, and to speak of Nueva Trova is to speak of Roy Brown Ramírez.

Roy Brown studied at the University of Puerto Rico in the late 60s and early 70s. Those were the defining years. Roy Brown, the poet, was defined. His poetry and guitar were alongside those who fought for better conditions, against the Vietnam War, old ideas that governed universities, and in favor of Puerto Rican Independence.

Whenever he spoke about a rally, picket, or a demonstration, Roy Brown had a guitar in his hand. His first two albums Yo Protesto and Basta Ya Revolucion (1972) recorded themes that have become classics of the independence movement, moreover to document the successes of those years. Roy writes about those themes:

“Mujer de sociedad” was also a song of rebelliousness: It tries to visualize the the woman that I loved, my family in chaos. I was a royal dog, facing the theater of the university, where a young graduate student had just delivered a box to the rector at the University of Puerto Rico. I and hundreds of protesters shouted “ Benitez: come home”, and confronting the guards who protected the rector, and facing me the woman’s father with a threatening stick, I with a rock in my hand. It was a tremendous scandal. They sent her to Spanin, and I fought back with a song. (I didn’t throw the rock).

The hippies, Vietnam war, one twenty-year-old, and not knowing who he is: Puerto Rico is a small island without a history worth singing about, and.so blessed. The police followed and pursued me. They say that I’m a terrorist and want to fight the governor. My friend was in jail because he didn’t want to fight Asians, myy mom died, and I lived with ratsin the “ Last Chance”. My father and brother don’t speak to me. I was fired from my job at the university. Complete divorce. A disaster and the contect for songs like, Pa’l Viejo y que adivine, El tema, Monón, Con macana, Hablando, y Dime nina.

In the first half of the 70s, he recorded three albums: Roy Brown III., Profecia de Urayoán, and Distancias. In 1975, he traveled various U.S. cities with his Distancias concert, accompanied by José Gonzzalez and Miguel Cubano.

He moved to New York with his group Aires Bucaneros, composed of Carl Royce, Zoraida Santiago, Pablo Nieves, Ruco Gandía, among others, recorded Aires Bucaneros (1978), Casi Alba (1980), Nuyol (1983), Arboles (1988), and Balada de Otro Tiempo (1989). In those years the singer-songwriter traveled the world; Greece, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Ecuador, Cuba, Holland, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, among others. Arboles was produced by Sylvio Ridrigues in Cuba.

13 years later, he returned to Puerto Rico, and for the first time, presented his Yo Protesto concert in the University of Puerto Rico Theater, filling it to capacity. Roy writes about the concert:

That was in 1988, after 10 years in music. In the first years, no one gave concerts. We walked like troops, and each one gave 2 or three songs. The first time (1974), I tried to eave the groupand present my concert alone; they helped PAti Vicente and 13 others. Worse happened in Ponce, where only Cesar Hernández Colón y Georgina Lázaro.

From 1990-1996, he recorded Distancias en Vivo which included Oubao Moin, a href="http://www.musicofpuertorico.com/en/roy_brown.html#discography" title="">Poetas puertorriqueñas (1991), Nocturno (1991), En fuga (1995), and Colección (1996). This last work is a trip through the path of the Nueva Canción, uniting in the two CDs of over 30 songs, favorites of the Puerto Rican public and the singer himself.

In 1997, Silvio Rodriguez visited Puerto Rico and along with Roy Brown, presented a concert in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which 19,000 people attended.

Roy Brown has grown poetically and musically, and his last albums are a demonstration of that. Poeta en San Juan (1999), Noche de Roy Brown (1999), Antología (1999), Album (2000) and Balcón del fin del mundo (2004). In 2001, he created Bohemia with former Aires Bucaneros bandmate Zoraida Santiago.

His songs have been recorded by Joan Manuel Serrat, Susana Baca, Celia Cruz, Fiel a la Vega, Haciendo Punto en Otro Son, Lucecita Benitez, and Cultura Profética, among others.

His promise as a singer of our people has been maintained firmly.

On February 8, Roy Brown celebrated 35 years in his cultural fight with his concert “35 años de Trayectoria” of the same name in the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With the Antonio Paoli Hall almost filled to capacity, Puerto Ricans of all ages attended the concert that without a doubt, represented as much for Roy as the audience, an act of national reaffirmation.

Roy Brown, accompanied by the group Trova Nostra, offering a concert of 20 songs and two bonus songs. The first time it was a chronological trio through which the audience remembered, relived, came to know and learned about an aspect of Puerto Rican history. The older ones, the ones that remember Roy with street signs along with Pepe y Flora, El Topo, and Grupo Tahone, among others, relived some years in which the pamphlet protests were needed, the protest song became the slogan:

“Fire, fire, the Yankees want fire”.

Roy Brown also reminded us of the musicalization of poems of two of the greatest national poets: Clemente Soto Vélez (Arboles) and Juan Antonio Crretejer (Boricual en la luna y Obau Moin) with which he closed the concert.

He dedicated the second part of the concert to his most recent themes and introduced songs for his next recording, Balcón del Fin del Mundo (March 2004). He also sung “Ofelia”, a poem by his best friend and poet Edwin Reyes.

While those who saw Roy in the streets remembered, sang the chorus and made their own journey, the younger people learned and understood an aspect of Puerto Rican history that is still not found in today’s schoolbooks: the course of the cultural and national struggle.

That night in Bellas Artes through his music, Roy Brown became teacher, psychologist, sociologist, historian, and therapist when he sang from the stage, the national history, the history of the cultural struggle over the last 35 years.

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Discography

Balcón (2003)

Album (2000)

Poeta en San Juan (1999)

Noche de Roy Brown (1999)

Antología (1999)

Colección (1996)

En Fuga (1995)

Aires Bucaneros, Casi Alba (1993)

Poetas Puertorriqueños (1991)

Nocturno (1991)

Distancias en Vivo (1990)

Balada de Otro Tiempo (1993)

Arboles (1988)

Nuyol (1983)

Profecía de Urayoán (1979)

Distancias (1976)

Basta Ya...Revolución (1972)

Yo Protesto (1970)

Roy Brown III (----)