“Our whole life should be dedicated to serving others”
TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER PHOTOGRAPHS: ALBERTO CARRASCO
The fact that Raphael is one of Spain’s most universal artists is something we all know, although it would be fairer to say that Raphael is an entire universe in himself. A universe carved out over six decades of success on stage, during which the singer from Linares has made time for many things besides his songs. Or, rather, for many things around his songs, because, as he himself tells us, music also plays an important social role. And in the course of his life Raphael has been involved in numerous charitable causes and social action. From Father Angel’s Mensajeros de la Paz programs for the homeless, to UNICEF’s campaigns to support child vaccination in the third world, and the initiatives of the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (Federación Española del Banco de Alimentos; FESBAL) to promote food collection. It is precisely this human dimension that transcends the artist, his family values and his involvement with those most in need that has earned him the 2021 José Manuel Martínez Martínez Lifetime Achievement Award.
Does music have a social function?
Music supports people in their joy and their sorrows. The way our daily life is structured in this world we live in, a life without music would be very sad. And this is valid for all kinds of music, for classical music, for pop music, and also for that other soundtrack that accompanies us in life: the sounds of nature, the singing of birds, animals, the wind, the rain… All this music has a place in our hearts.
You have always said that from the beginning of your career you were very aware of the importance of using the microphone not only to sing, but to help move towards a more just world. At what point did you become interested in the social dimension?
It came about spontaneously when I was a child, when I started singing in a choir. From the moment I went on stage for the first time, I began to become involved and connect with others. A concert is quite complex for those who are performing, but very rewarding for those who listen to it. Because, without realizing it, that performance is remedying many things, including loneliness, a problem suffered by many millions of people.
I imagine that this message has been conveyed to you by your fans on numerous occasions.
I am fortunate to receive constant affection and respect from people. They tell me anecdotes, they remind me how long they have been listening to my music and what it means to them. And the affection that they transmit to me, for which I am very grateful, helps me to stay permanently connected with the public.
Helping others is helping yourself ?
When you do a good deed for others, it is as if they are doing it to you. I am of the opinion that not just part of our time, but our whole life should be dedicated to others, that this should be our main mission in this world. Starting with your family, your wife or husband, your children, your parents, if you are lucky enough to still have them, your friends… I do not understand a life that does not continually revolve around others. Because otherwise we would be doing things for nothing, without a purpose. And then what would be the point?
However, with the pace of life we lead today, it would seem that there is almost no time for anything other than working and worrying about our own problems. How can we make that little bit of time for others?
There is time for everything, the key is having the will to use it in one way or another. If you really want to find the time to give to others, you do find it. But if there is no will, even if you had all the time in the world at your disposal you wouldn’t do it. Those people who say, I can’t today, I’m too busy, but call me next week… Forget it; that’s not the way.
One of the groups you are most heavily involved with is the homeless through your collaborations with Mensajeros de La Paz and Padre Ángel. How can the situation of these people be improved?
Homelessness is a very serious problem that must be tackled by the authorities, the current government and, in general, the people who control our destinies, the people who are responsible for ensuring that all human beings are equal. Homeless people have the right to have a roof over their heads and to live in dignity.
“Homelessness is a very serious problem that the authorities must tackle”
Is the fact that there are so many homeless people an indication that something is not working as it should in our society?
Undoubtedly. Whenever something goes wrong, it is always society’s fault, either because we do things wrong or because we allow others to. In this case, because we tolerate the fact that there are people who have nowhere to sleep. But we must not forget that there are many people who do not want to sleep in the places where the authorities want to accommodate them. We must respect their wishes and look for alternatives so that these people can live the way they want to live, as long as this does not violate the rules of coexistence.
Spain is a leader in organ donation, and you yourself at one point were the recipient of a liver that gave you a second chance. What would you say to people who are thinking about becoming donors?
That they shouldn’t think twice, and just go for it. Why do you want something that is no longer going to be of any use to you and that, on the other hand, could do a lot of good to someone else? There is a lot of misconception and ignorance about the issue of transplants and organ donation. Schools should teach kids that being a donor does not harm you in any way; on the contrary, it is something wonderful because it allows you to save other people’s lives.
Finally, could you tell us about your next musical and social projects?
I am about to leave for the Americas, where I have a long tour in front of me, which I will combine with performances in Spain and which will last throughout most of 2022. And as for social projects, I am a very restless person and I am always on the lookout for any opportunity that may come up where I think I can contribute. Especially if it is at the hand of good-hearted people and reliable organizations, with experience and the capacity to help those who need it most. I am always willing to lend a hand when called upon.