Friday, May 22, 2009

A tale of two cities

Alaín Daniel's chamacos de la salsa

It’s interesting going to see Pupy and Yoruba Andabo at Galiano and Alaín Daniel at the Capri/Salon Rojo on the same day - the two gigs are so different it doesn’t feel like you are in the same time zone, much less the same country.

Both gigs are packed, but by completely different crowds: the Pupy/Yoruba Andabo gig is a mostly black audience, dressed for drinking and dancing. Alaín’s farandula is mostly white, and dressed for posing - though they drink just as much; but it’s more likely to be Chivas Regal than Buccanero. The difference in dancing ability couldn’t be starker either.  

It isn’t Alaín alone who is responsible for this - I remember a couple of years ago at Cabaret Las Vegas he had a really mixed crowd - black, white; mostly Cuban, the odd foreigner. But it seemed like almost everyone was there to dance (I could be wrong about that). So it seems like it’s mostly the venue - Salon Rojo is one of the few surviving habitats of the glammed-up jinetera. There isn’t much dancing going on at all there, which is a total waste when Alaín is tearing the roof off the mother with tracks like Un loco enamorao from Vestigios. This is my favourite cut from the album, and tonight it was slammin’. It was the best song of the night - and it was the second. Alaín and his combo are an awesome sight (and sound), but their gigs have a tendency to be highjacked by reggaetoneros and raperos, and tonight it was even worse than usual because it was Osmani Garcia’s birthday. Osmani is a chiquitico white boy who cut his teeth singing coro for Paulito, among others, but has broken out with a solo career of crossover stuff, including singing the choruses on reggaeton songs (either that or the reggaetoneros rap on his - I get a little hazy when we leave timbaland). So anyway he was there, as were both Alexander and Jacob from Gente d’Zona - sitting at separate tables. (Shall we start the “Gente d’Zona in shock split” rumour now?)

About five million of these guys and their mates got up during Se pegan - it was dull as, except for the kick ass bass player and baterista, who held the groove; and the veinte y pico trombonista who insisted on flirting with me from the stage. Bless.

I will absolutely be there the next two Thursdays - all I have left (sob!). The place may be a zoo, but this is one of the funkiest, tightest and most entertaining bands in Havana.


Los Que Son Son's Michel and Rusdel

Backtracking to Pupy in the arvo, the set was criminally short, as usual (I think this means I need to take the trip with them out to the burbs on the weekend, cause I know they play longer out there - as long as it doesn’t rain!). But they had a new addition to the set: Seis semanas, sung by Michel. I was a bit unenthusiastic when it started, but Pupy has made it much tougher than either the Van Van version or the one he recorded whenever the hell that was. It sounded great and the audience loved it. It had a nice, albeit brief solo, from Oyuni (aka Avon Barksdale), the trumpeter who replaced the guy who replaced Chocolate, after he stayed in Canada last year. The only bad thing was that Timba a pogolotti started straight afterwards and it was only 8.15. Wtf? Guess Pupy had somewhere better to be. It’s the first matinee I’ve been to at either Galiano or Miramar that has finished early enough to put recorded music on after - usually the fluoro lights are going on while the band is still playing (that’s usually Havana d’Primera).

A bunch of musos stood around outside buying beer from the hole-in-the-wall shop next door to the Casa and deciding what to do. Oyuni had his not-as-swish-as-Elito’s-but-still-pretty-swish car there, and he and Rusdel and a bunch of others were going to see Bamboleo at La Tropical. Maybe they saw them; maybe they didn’t: last week they didn’t play because the police didn’t go to the venue and, according to Duni, there is no band in Havana that will play La Tropical if the police aren’t going to be there. Pussies. (Just kidding.)

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