You know the famous saying ‘We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are’?
I don’t know if that’s true on all levels, but if it is, then I must be one content and happy Barcelona resident, because that’s pretty much what I see in the people and faces around me. Bliss, happiness, and most of all, being happy with what you have, where you are and WHO you are.
Hugo Arán is one of the sweetest, happiest people I’ve met here. Not only am I a huge fan of his work, but he’s such a ray of sun when you meet him. Big black eyes, a curly black ‘mèche rebelle’ on his forehead. He’s just so effortlessly… ‘Spanish’, ha!
But underneath all that is a vocalist and guitarist I met when I first got here. I actually met Hugo on my very first night in Barcelona, all alone and with no friends. He was playing at Soda Acustic’s famous Brazilian jam (he actually leads the jam) and I remember thinking how warm the atmosphere there was. It clearly has its own set of followers and the musicians all seemed to genuinely enjoy working together. I timidly asked Hugo if I could sing a song, and I remember how welcoming and warm he was. He even stuck around to play some tambourine or some kind of percussion to give us more sounds to work with.
I quickly learned that with Hugo, what you see really is what you get. Such a rare quality in our industry and milieu where everyone wants to be a diva and egos often get the better of you. Hugo already has 2 gorgeous albums of his own songs under his belt, and yet, he keeps things professional and well defined: he doesn’t play his original songs at the Brazilian jam. He sticks to the Brazilian repertoire that people know and love. That’s how selfless he is with the music. This reminds me of what a fellow band member once told me his mentor had told him at the time: ‘Music is bigger than all of us’. And it should be, I believe.
Just like that song we talked about in detail on Hugo’s album ‘Flor de Loto’. Nothing even happened between the 2 people in the song. One was playing hard to get while the other played hard to give. I asked Hugo which is more painful in his opinion: to never have that love or to know it and risk heartbreak? He said he doesn’t see things this way. He doesn’t seem to linger in ‘what ifs’. As clear as day and without any hesitation he said ‘If the story gave me a song, then it still gave me something, no?’.
And it seems like Hugo applies this principle everywhere else in life. To be content with what you have. To want what you have. It’s such a simple yet unattainable way of life sometimes. It requires so much detachment, wisdom, and it starts with ‘curing one’s own blindness’ as he says in another one of his songs.
While on the subject, we talked about his collaboration with El Kanka, a fellow singer-songwriter and an old friend of Hugo’s whose name has been quickly rising in the industry the past couple years. I asked Hugo if he compares their trajectories, as they somehow started their careers around the same time and with similar roots… and that’s the thing. Hugo doesn’t compare himself to anyone. He’s unapologetically himself, one of the ‘Singulares’ he talks about in his second album. Singular. The odd one out. The alien.
Call him what you want. Hugo is one sensitive, delicate ‘flor de loto’ himself. Majestic in his simplicity and ‘felicidad’. Far from being simple or naive, It must have taken a great deal of life experience and strength to remain this soft in the face of reality. His big black eyes don't lie when he sings 'Postdata' - my personal favorite...
Hugo writes his songs in Castilian, not in Portuguese (yet!) and he writes beautifully and simply. He says he was able to be more honest with his second album where he talks about what makes a place home, details of his neighborhood that a busy person might not notice on their way to work... He talks about love that could have broken him, and maybe did…
He talks about the things that matter, things that should matter to all of us, feelings and thoughts we should trust and notice more than things to own. He makes you want to leave this corporate, consumerist world where cynicism is king. More like a fool, if you ask Hugo who knows how to live a life he has designed exactly as he wanted.
Or maybe he just learned to practice gratitude. And in his case, he couldn't ask for anything more. Beautiful music, beautiful friends, love, health, a guitar and the happiness he brings to people like me when he plays.