The Renaissance Spirit of Leonardo Acosta

Leonardo Acosta was about to celebrate his 82nd birthday when I called on him. He commented that conversation was far less productive than writing and
that it also tended to be dangerous.
Preferring to conduct his communications by email, Leonardo Acosta does not usually welcome journalists at his home, so I felt particularly privileged to be there.
According to the Cuban intellectual José Rodríguez Feo, Acosta was the foremost essayist of the 1980s, and his books about music rank amongst those that have made the greatest contribution to their field.
His vast bibliography includes titles such as “Del tambor al sintetizador” (From the Drum to the Synthesizer) “Elige tú que canto yo” (You Choose and I will Sing) and “Descarga cubana: el jazz en Cuba 1900- 1950” (Cuban Jam Sessions: Jazz in Cuba 1900-1950).
These and many other works earned him the National Literature Prize Award in 2006.
He likes things properly organized and he compiles lists: lists of national literature prizes, of Cubans who returned to the island in 1959 and of colleagues from the Prensa Latina News Agency.
This man for all seasons was a saxophonist (he even performed with the prestigious Benny Moré Band for a while), policeman, musicologist and journalist.
Acosta was one of the founders of the Prensa Latina News Agency established by Jorge Ricardo Masseti. It was there he met Rodolfo Walsh, another excellent writer.
They worked together in the Special Services Department and became friends during a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the agency, when he performed an invited musical group.
Acosta served as Prensa Latina’s Mexico correspondent for one year.
On the rainy afternoon of my visit to his apartment in Vedado he recalled that “we had group of Mexicans way older than me there that were helping us”.
He then stayed a year in Prague with Leoncio Fernández, from where he travelled to Germany. His work was mostly to assist Cubans en route to Eastern Europe.
The Czech capital served as a stopover for Moscow, where most Cubans were going then.
Widely renowned in music research, Acosta applied his knowledge of history, sociology,
philosophy, economy, psychology and anthropology to the field.
And when he passed away last September 23 at the age of 83, his renaissance spirit, as another colleague called it, was also saying goodbye.




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