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Buena Vista Social Club live

March 17, 2012

Yesterday, after completing an assignment for Currencies Direct, to Casablanca, the small fortified castle and lighthouse area across the river mouth reached, according to our tour guide and leader, that nice lady decorator, by a taxi to the port, cost 5 CUC (convertible Cuban Currency), a ferry crossing in a dangerously antiquated ferry (cost 2 CUC) used almost exclusively by the locals, an exhausting walk up a winding road and some 300 steps in 30 degree heat, a horse and cart ride (cost 3 CUC) and took about an hour and a quarter. The return trip in a taxi, through the tunnel I discovered after our intrepid and convoluted expedition out there and which had apparently escaped the notice of that nice lady decorator and which cost 5 CUC took just eleven minutes. Still, we did experience a little of real Cuban life. After a splendid lunch involving more wonderful and wonderfully cheap lobster on the roof terrace of Hotel Ambos Mundos, that nice lady decorator Informed me that we were to visit a shrine to Hemingway. It crossed my mind that “Hemingway” might be a good name for a sewing machine factory and was stupid enough to mention this to that nice lady decorator who is a huge Hemingway fan and was treated me to that glazed angry look that silences me immediately. She told me that the Hotel had room, 511, was dedicated as a shrine to writer who stayed there a lot whenever he was in Havana and always took then same room because of the view. What can I tell you? It was a basic room with a typewriter. Worth 4 CUC of anyone’s money.

After this cultural delight, a couple of mohitos at the Bodega Del Medio (upstairs is my favourite place in Havana) we set out for the highlight of the visit to Cuba, an opportunity to see The Buena Vista Social Club perform at a large restaurant bar called Cafe Taverna in the centre of down town Havana. For the uninitiated Buena Vista was a regular gathering of Cuban musicians catapulted to fame by musical collusion with Ry Cooder which turned them into international stars through a number of converts including Carnegie Hall and spawned an Academy Award winning film of the same name. However, it nearly didn’t happen at all. the sign outside, seemingly only advertising existing warned us we needed to book tickets and we were thus refused entrance. I had accepted that we were going to be denied the opportunity to see an iconic band perform at an intimate venue in their home town but they had not reckoned on that nice lady decorator. All the rock ‘n roll heritage which she has built up over the years when she was seemingly able to gain entrance to any gig anywhere by adopting a series of ploys (including one impersonating a journalist whom she knew was on the guest list for a Dr Feelgood concert and who was later denied entry as a result). It was the third time she tried and found a chink in the armour, securing seats in an unused terrace at the back giving us some of the best seats in the house.

The legendary Buena Vista social Club live at Cafe Taverna in Havana

I do not know how she did it or what it cost and I do not want to know It was hard to identify exactly who was who but given the age of some of the band all the living originals must have been there. it was an electric experience, witnessing a piece of music history live as it were, and given the ages of some of them, live is the operative word. Some twenty great performers ran through their repertoire with the rumba, a musical style reinvigorated throughout the world by this group obviously to the fore. The last full day in Havana, but an irksome trip to the UK to deal with housing and legal issues stands between me and a return to my beloved south of France. Valbonne will have to wait.

Chris France

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pinman permalink
    March 17, 2012 5:12 pm

    “a couple of monitors at the Bodega Del Paedo (upstairs is my favourite place in Havana)”

    Out of the closet at last ! You ARE a true public-school boy after all……..


    • March 17, 2012 10:59 pm

      Guilty as charged, corrected now , would hate anyone to think of me as a public schoolboy…..


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