01 June 2015

Cuba: music and opera, and using what you have

Our Cuba tour package included one of the first performances of "Cubanacán" -- the first new Cuban opera in fifty years, according to their website. It is based on a book about the building of the National Art Schools on a former golf course. Michael Cooper wrote about it in the New York Times on the day before we left for Havana. The opera was intriguing, the singers were good, and we saw it in front of the triple arch at the front of the School of Plastic Arts. Talk about context.

The worst moment of the trip for me was the evening at the Buena Vista Social Club. Tourist trap, and I felt trapped in the club when I would have loved to escape. The performers were good enough but seemed mostly to be going through the motions.

Far more exciting than Buena Vista was the music that greeted us at several sites along the way or during a meal. Here's Alabao playing at Las Terrazas:
I bought their CD and it is very evocative for me. You can google "alabao cuban band" and find several videos of them. Las Terrazas (The Terraces), by the way, is an ecopark and biosphere with reforestation and new housing. We got treated to music by a family troupe at lunch that day. Very fine.

The regular greeting drink was a mojito but these had little or no rum. Now, the Hotel Nacional bar made a yummy mojito for those late-evening discussions. My swizzle stick collection includes a turkey with drumsticks on a platter; there must have been a special on them at Walmart. Or, rather, you use what you have. I was amused to see French-language signs on a couple school buses, presumably because the buses came from a francophone country. It is more important that you have the bus than getting it repainted.
The sign above the windshield says "Ecoliers" and I saw this bus in the neighborhood around Kcho's studio. He has done a lot of neighborhood improvement and community work there (aka social practice) and pays for a wifi hotspot.

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