I'm usually silent for no good reason but last week I wasn't in because I had to test some cocktails and sample some cigars. A rather good place to do this is Cuba where you can concentrate on this serious business in nice weather, with beautiful women around you and music everywhere. Hard work, I tell you.
Tourists look for entertainment and Cubans look for convertible pesos and where both parties meet there's music. Next to asking for a contribution, the musicians generally offer a CD too. It doesn't sound as good at home as in a bar, just like the pictures don't capture the feel of sipping a daiquiri under a palmtree or smoking a Romeo y Julieta on the backseat of a 1956 Buick. You also shouldn't take this too seriously because the music played for tourists doesn't reflect the wealth of Cuban music (see Wikipedia
), although I suspect young Cubans are more into reggaetón.
I met Cuarteto Gala in tourist center Varadero, in the bar atop the Dupont mansion (picture). I was taken there by a convenient airconditioned bus; the musicians had been hitchhiking since 5 AM. These are the guys you hire to liven up a formal gathering, starting out in the background but will eventually attract attention with their renditions of Cuban classics. If the tourists want to hear "Buena Vista Social Club" they'll play that but they know their revolutionary tunes too. 'Hasta Siempre Comandante' (Che Guavara) is a popular song with everyone. 'Guantanamera' will get played at some point. Always.
Septeto Tradición is a bar band, you can probably find them in bar/restaurant La Lluvia de Oro in Havana. Enthousiastic showmen and -woman who'll try to get you to salsa with them. Not only more enjoyable live than on CD but their main singer Porfilio Maure has a truly impressive voice which can't be fully appreciated on the CD, at least not in the way he blasted through the cafe on a rare solo performance.
The CDs are 'home-pressed' or sort of at least. Cheap printwork, simple recordable CDs and the recordings leave a bit to desire but nothing worse than what the local band in the bar around the corner at home sells. It's not bad to spend money in Cuba and in stead of other tacky souvenirs these CDs bring 10 CUC (seems the price they're all asking, it's roughly 1:1 to the US dollar and the Euro) to the guys who work for it.
So mix yourself a Cuba Libre or blend a Piña Colada and enjoy the music, I can't think of another way to share the wonderful experience I had in a beautiful country with great people.Cuarteto Gala - Volumen 1
(47 MB)Septeto Tradicion - Yo Soy Cuba