There is a message a timba geek in Havana, out for a day faranduleando, never wants to see. It’s the one I saw tonight, when I switched on my camera to take a photo of Van Van at the Tribuna, and saw: “Images will be stored to internal memory”.
If Adalberto hadn’t been so lame at La Tropical, I would have tried to take a picture there and realised the memory card was missing, and gone home to retrieve it from the USB connector. But Adalberto was pretty flojo. And yes, I know I’m sick. And maybe if I’d been down in the thick of it, instead of up in the gods, with cigarette smoke aggravating my bronchitis, I would have enjoyed it more. Maybe. Maybe not.
What I really regret is getting there too late to see Orquesta Aragón, who had not been mentioned in the promos for the gig at all. It was a nice surprise to see them playing when we arrived, and a bit of a disappointment when they packed up about two songs later. I love charanga - such a great combo of elegant strings and multiple rhythms - and theirs is a nice, strong sound - though they lack the timba fuerza of Maravilla de Florida.
Adalberto was up on the balcón with his posse, as was Elito Revé, out for the day. This was the launch of Adalberto’s CD Gozando en La Habana (following on the heels of yesterday’s launch by Trabuco of their Control CD - I will upload that report tomorrow); and most of the songs seemed to be from that – and they were pretty underwhelming. But then Adalberto hasn’t whelmed me for a few years. They did Deja la Mala Noche, which I do like, and finished with the epic version Que tú quieres que te den, getting lasses up in the audience - the hijas of the relevant of the god to do the relevant dance. By this time the place was going off, as you’d expect, and Adalberto was already back on the balcony drinking Chivas Regal with his mates, watching his band finish of the set.
The guy on the door says this might be a regular Sunday thing for Adalberto. I’d rather see Revé there, but either way, it’s good to have big name timba/salsa/changui/charanga bands playing regularly again at La Tropical, as they seemed to be on the outer for a while. And now with more buses, it’s much easier for everyone to get there and home again.
I have been underestimating the numbers at La Tropical - it was the most packed I’d seen it so far and a guy on the door told my Kiwi friend that there were 3000 people there; that means there were probably about 2500 for Reve and about 1200-1300 for Ritmo Oriental.
After a stop at home to rest my bronchial tubes, we went down to La Tribuna for the end of Cubadisco concert. The word was that it would be NG la Banda and Van Van, but it turned out to be just Van Van, who came on about ten minutes after we got there. I was pretty happy with that. It was packed. But not nightmarish. Just lots of merry, dancing people. I was a little disappointed with the set: if they have a new album under their belts, why were all the songs old except for Me mantengo? It was more or less the same set I have seen for the last three years: Chapeando, Tim con Pop (for God’s sake, Juan, please put that one out to pasture), Despues de todo (still love it; she still does amazing improv in it), Anda ven y quiereme (still love that too); Mayito’s Prestao song (I sat down for that one); La buena (would rather hear Ven, Ven, Ven) and then - yay! - Me mantengo, which rocked. I'm loving that song, it's so damn hard. It's like timba grunge. The closer, before the tema despedida, was an old song they have redone, which is played at all the clubs here before the bands come on, that I don’t know the name of (sorry). It’s nice though.
After that, we hauled our asses up the hill, against the pummeling wind, past the Hotel Nacional, to get a cab to Galiano for Salsa Mayor’s “spectacular”. It was advertised as having dancing girls - and Vannia! - among other things. Of course Van Van had held us up, and by the time we got there, Salsa Mayor were on stage (so no Vannia for me, boohoo). The dancing girls (and a few boys) came out for Esto está, then left and changed clothes and headed home. SM had a break, and came back 20 minutes later (for reasons unknown). There were a few people there but hardly anyone on the dance floor and they couldn’t seem to get the place going. Then they got Rodney and Tanya from Bamboleo up on stage and things heated up.
Tanya told the band to stop, and told the audience they wouldn’t play another note until everyone stood up on the dance floor. And people did exactly as she said. That chick is the pied piper. She was completely in her element, surrounded by spunky young boys. She was wearing a hideous yellow playsuit that made her look like someone’s Aunty Mavis, but she got that room moving, which the band hadn’t been able to do on their own. Rodney did a very nice improv turn too actually. Maikel took the opportunity to end the night on a high and brought the curtain down with Tanya still in full swing.
It was an odd night. Shame I missed Vannia.