Sunday, June 28, 2009
My interview with Alexander is finally up at Timba.com. I did it with the help of MFF, aka Paulina Vidal, one hot afternoon in early June. You can read my blogpost about it here. And you can read the interview in English here, and in Spanish here.
Alexander managed to say a lot in 30 minutes, so the interview has been edited down, and I may spill other titbits as I continue to upload video and photos.
Below is Havana D'Primera's as yet-unrecorded version of the Gente D'Zona song Lola, which is among the many things Alexander discusses in the interview. Underneath that is the Gente D'Zona original, for the reggaeton novices who have never heard it before (I hadn't before I heard Havana D'Primera do it.)
Alexander also talks a lot about Haciendo historia, the brilliant debut album that is finally available online here. I expect it will be available at Descarga within the next couple of days.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I see from the video that Dayramir is indeed on piano, replacing Tony Rodriguez, as he said he would be, and it looks like Rodney Barreto has been replaced by baterista Jannier, though it's difficult to tell from this video.
I'm actually working on something big, so this post is just something to tide you all over until I get it finished. I have a couple of other good ideas as well - mainly for more chapters in the Timba Geeks Guide to Havana, and I will get onto that as soon as I can.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
It was hard to get good video from the Capri this year. Last year it was my favourite spot, but this year, for Alaín's gigs all of the tables at the foot of the stage were always packed with moneyed up party boys and girls - some with bodyguards (seriously), making it impossible to get near the stage. Add to that the fact that they thought nothing of pushing you out of the way when they wanted to get past and you have less than ideal conditions for videoing. I really wanted to see Alaín as much as I could - he would be in my top 4 favourite bands to see in Havana (the others are of course Havana D'Primera, Pupy and Revé), but going to the Capri has really turned into such an odious experience that I was only a little sorry that I missed the last Thursday. How I long for the days when he played that crappy little club on Infanta - none of the people at the Capri would have been caught dead there.
This video of Se pegan is probably the best one I got. There is also a new song by him at youtube and I have some video of Pa que no sufriera pa que no llorara. It's not brilliant quality, but I'll upload it cause it's a good song, and it isn't on the new album - and I found out why: cause Vestigios was recorded in June 2007. Alaín has probably written a bunch of songs since then. I didn't manage to find out why the album took so long to get released.
Also: the kid rapping in the Se pegan video is Guillermo, the son of one of the original commanders of the revolution, Juan Almeida.
Below is a little video of Alaín's farandula; the Capri crowd, which seems to have more blondes than the Playboy Mansion - it's a crowd unlike any other in Havana.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Ahora que buscas was the last song from the forthcoming album, Haciendo historia, to be added to Havana D'Primera's repertoire (with the exception of Vivencias, the jazzy ballad thing which I doubt they will do live, but who knows) while I was there. The group debuted it about two weeks before I left. I think this video is of the second performance - but they were still rehearsing it after I left, along with a couple of Latin jazz numbers (which I didn't see) for any pesky jazz festivals they might be playing.
Below is La Revé, resurrecting an old hit Bicicleta, at a Galiano matinee. Sorry for the clunky edit. That's what you get with a combination of flu and jetlag.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Although the party at our house was a (mostly) well-behaved affair; there was another night where things got a little wilder - and in public too. I may have glossed over it in the original post, as there was rum involved. Suffice to say that the rain held us captive in the garden bar next to Miramar for a while, and everyone thought they'd make the most of their time there. As a result, I got my favourite pic of the trip - thanks to Kiwi Jeremy - of me disappearing into a big hug with Alexander (above).
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Friday was the penultimate day, and I was quite pleased that I had the opportunity to see Trabuco play: even though I whinge about them, they still have a lot to offer. Riverón’s thunderous drumming for example, is worth the price of admission alone. I was especially pleased when, after the opener (La Habana me llama), they launched into Hablando en serio - squee! It sounded a little raw around the beginning and end (Chino said they hadn’t played it eons) but it had a thick and chewy centre, starring the aforementioned baterista on banging bloques (see the video below). Oh yeah! I know everyone says Rodney Barreto is the bomb, but Roícel is the Rolls Royce of Cuban drummers for me. There was the usual dross - I won’t repeat myself, though there did seem to be a new and particularly odious ballad sung by Amaray - I just leant on the side of the stage until the arrival of the main attractions: Llegó la música cubana, Sacude la mata - very kicking live - and pleasingly, Saliditas contigo. Nice. Locos por mi Habana was a little disappointing - the rhythm was notably different in the marcha, and not in a good way. Turned out it was because Chino’s baby bass was in the shop with a busted pick-up which is why he’d had to play the elcctric bass all night (I had wondered). Never was there a starker illustration of the difference in the two basses’ sounds. It was quite enlightening. I just thought Manolito was ruining the band’s sound again. (Oh I am so jaundiced...)
After the show, I noticed that the usual poster advertising Havana D’Primera’s gigs was supplemented by another: the same poster (the one with the slogan “Regresa la generacion de los 90 con la musica mas chevere del momento ... pa que to lo bailes”), but the new one has “Haciendo historia” on it. On a whim, I went into the shop, which, oddly was open, even though it was after 9 (of course sometimes, it is closed at 7, when it is supposed to be open), to see if they had the CD yet, cause Alexander had said he would have it by the previous Thursday.
In the shop there three peeps just hanging out at the counter. The woman did her best work, actually offering me recent releases (Exceso de equipaje, Vestigios, Arrasando) instead of, you know, Guajiro natural). They didn’t have the HdP album. Guess I have a Descarga order coming up.
Afterwards, we waited for Chino, who we hadn’t seen much of this trip, to have a drink in the mosquito-infested beer garden next door. While I was off somewhere or other, MFF made a new acquaintance. I returned and she said, hey this guy sings with Bakuleye - I immediately recognised him as the guy who sang fuera del tono and took a step back, because I knew that Mirco, from Timba por Siempre, had told the band’s director about my review - but I wasn’t sure what, exactly, he had told them. I started to say, “Don’t tell him about the bl--” but she was already saying, “Ella tiene una pagina web...”
He specifically recalled that I had singled out the first singer - which just happened to be himself. Poor bastard. Well we had a chat, and he told me that he was new to the group - as I suspected (though I had suspected that there was perhaps more than one new muso in the group) and he agreed that, as I had written, his song should not have been the opener for the set. So we parted on good terms (I think).
In the end I didn’t get a chance to check Bakuleye out again - Disco Fiesta mentioned only two other gigs iin Havana and it always conflicted with something else. However if the album is as good as the demos, I’m still very keen to hear it.
Chino finally emerged and we went to the terrazza. A few Trabuqueros were there - Mayami and Riverón at one table with friends; Noro and Amaray at another with a group of heavily made up white girls with masses of long hair. They were playing mp3s on a phone and singing along. I think one was a Celine Dion song. I was really looking for the exit at that point.
We passed a line of girls in short skirts and flounces, sitting on the fence and waiting for the start of NG la Banda as we looked for a taxi to take us to Casa Belascoain, where the music would be better (my iPod) and the beers plentiful (thanks to the 24-hour shop over the road).
When we arrived, I called the Capri in the hope that Van Van might be playing there, as they had the previous week. Unfortunately it was Paulito. I toyed with the idea of a return trip to Miramar, to finally catch NG as I had meant to this whole six weeks, then abandoned it and went to bed. Considering what was in store for me the next day, it was probably a wise decision.
I had barely finished my cafe cubano at 11 the next morning when the first of guests arrived - the last wouldn’t leave until 9pm. By then I was a complete wreck.
Yuliesky and Bebo came by to say goodbye and demanded tortilla. Well, they were hungry, and I need to eat too, and offered, forgetting how much bloody work a tortilla is. So there I am in my morning sarong and yesterday’s tanktop - a delightful sight to be sure - chopping potato and onion and beating eggs. Trying to be coherent and flip a tortilla at the same time. I added spinach too. Amazingly, it turned out perfectly. Soon after, another friend, Orquidea, and her daughter, Yani, arrived, to deliver presents and take away unwanted items. Before I knew it, it was 3pm, and Ricardito, who we had been trying to get in contact with for days (he only lives a few blocks away on Neptuno, you wouldn’t have thought it would be so hard) turned up so I could take his pic to go with the interview. Then Trabuco’s Chino, who wanted to suck some things off my hard drive (stupidly, I forgot to take some things off his hard drive. D’oh!). By then, the sala was bursting with Cristal-drinking musos telling stories - Bebo, who played with Michel Maza and recorded on Que hablen los habladores, had quite a few good ones.
I had a dinner engagement at 6pm, so I escaped to Flor de Loto for an hour or so. When I got back, they were still there, watching video of virtuoso jazz musos on my 12” laptop.
Everyone finally cleared out about 9pm - good thing too: I was leaving for the airport at 11.30, and hadn’t yet packed. I was bloody exhausted.
Well I would have eight hours to sleep on the flight to Santiago de Chile.
And so concludes my adventures in Havana for 2009. I have more observations to post, and a fuckload of video - most of it, I must admit, of Havana D'Primera, but also some Revé and Pupy. And also loads of photos for slideshows.
There are some bands I didn't see that I wish I had: Charanga Latina, for example, whose new songs (there are some at Mucho Swing) are great. But having said that, they pretty much only played when Alaín Daniel was on. Sometimes, you have to make the tough choices. I would have liked to have seen Van Van, but I don't regret opting for the HdP matinee over theirs. I have never in my life felt so happy as when HdP are playing. Van Van have their moments, but they don't make me feel like that. No one else does. Europe: now it's your turn.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Thursday brought with it yet more rain. Things weren’t looking good for a big crowd at Pupy’s matinee, and the little soiree we had planned for afterwards was looking like it might have to be moved to my tiny living room.
I had a call from a Cuban friend at about 5pm asking "if it rains, are you still going?" My second last night in town and my last chance to see Pupy - bet your ass I was. She was still keen too. We ended up with quite a big posse.
There were more people down at Galiano than I had thought there might be, but not as many as there had been on the sunny days when Pupy had played. Never mind. I was prepared to dance for all the people who couldn’t make it.
The DJ was playing reggaeton - odd, and particularly inappropriate for a Pupy; it’s salsa that fills the dancefloor at his gigs, but when the band came on for the Que cosas tiene la vida opener, I was ready for them and edged down the front. There weren’t many people on the dance floor, and suddenly from out of nowhere, came this whirlwind - my dance teacher, who never goes out (well almost never). He scooped me and we danced at a breathtaking pace around the floor - Pupy does Que cosas live even faster than on the record (a tad too fast I think), and on top of that, my prof was intent on showing off all his moves on the half-empty floor. It was the best dance I’d had the whole trip (the second best was when we danced to Alain’s Un loco enamora'o as a warm up for a class). About ten minutes in, he asked me if I was all right. I had been flagging, it's true, but the challenge gave me a second wind, and we saw out the song; with me sweaty, gasping for breath, and possibly just a tick away from a heart attack.
It was heaps good.
The Yoruba Andabo show was a chance to catch my breath and catch up with Duni and Bombón from the band, who had been told before the show that there was a good chance they might be leaving at 7am the following day for a three-day stint in Sancti Spiritus. They would be told when the show finished whether it was on or not. That would put a crimp in Duni and my last days together. It would mean today would be the last day we would see each other.
I went and spoke to Jindra, Pupy’s daughter/manager, praising Norberto’s version of Dicen que dicen in the hope that they would add it to the set list. She was pleased to hear I thought well of his singing, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. The set was Se parece aquel, which I was glad to hear because 1) it wasn’t Calla calla; and 2) it has kind of grown on me; Un poquito al reves, El pregonero, and an older slow one sung by Rusdel that I can’t remember the name of, that featured some awesome soloing from trumpeter Oyuni - really glad Pupy rescued him from the mediocrity of Adalberto.
As soon as they launched into La fiera, I knew my hopes of seeing Dicen que dicen were in vain - it features solos from both Pupy and timbalero Miguelito, about a zillion coros and goes for about half an hour. It's good, but I kinda vagued out in the middle somewhere. As I suspected, the "doot-doot-doot" of the synth immediately followed, signalling Timba a pogolotti and the all-in that sees the rumberos join the timberos on stage for a bit of cacophony.
Once the curtain came down on the rabble, I bailed - there is no time for shilly-shallying when one is a hostess. Outside it was a relief to see the rain had subsided. I sprinted up Neptuno, my co-hostess and guests in tow.
It ended up being a small, but festive gathering (the table was set for 12, to the endless mirth of one of my guests). The musos, from Pupy, Havana D’Primera and Ritmo Oriental talked shop - always amusing. There was fried chicken and a bit of dancing. There was a lot of beer drinking and rum-slinging. Duni and Bombón had been told that yes, they would be boarding a bus for the sticks at 7am, but neither seemed in a hurry to turn in. Plenty of time to sleep on the 5-6 hour ride I guess.
I had hoped to be able to check out Alaín Daniel for the last time at the Capri, but at 1.30am, when Aláin would have been poised under the Capri’s giant chandelier, my guests were still knocking back the rum and I had to face the fact that I wouldn’t see Alaín again until my next trip. Still there was quite enough going on on the rooftop on Belascoain, a fair bit of which is unprintable. (And would probably bore the reader anyway.)
It was a top night.
This probably doesn't do the experience justice, but it might give you an idea.
It's the first part of Cuando el río suena, that usually (but not always) starts with solos from Rodney and Alexander.
I have a part 2 as well - it's kind of the opposite of part 1 ...
Saturday, June 06, 2009
I was supposed to go back to Guanabacoa for a last look at Havana D’Primera in rehearsal. But when I woke, I realised that the dull grinding pain in the left side of my brain was a migraine, and that sharing close quarters with a 16-piece band in full swing might not be a good idea. I took some pills and retired to bed, so I would be in shape to see the day’s matinee: Azúcar Negra at Galiano.
When the time came to leave, I wasn’t in tip-top condition, but codeine always helps (codeine always helps) so off we went.
The enormous poster of band director Leonel Limonta that had been behind the band during the previous concert was outside on the street. Inside there was a reasonable crowd of what seemed to be mostly Cubans. Azúcar Negra get that idiot Pedry DJ in for their gigs, and there he was playing those same fucking reggaeton videos - in the same order - with his name all over them in lame lime green graphics.
I don’t find most of the reggaeton songs as obnoxious this year as in previous years - there has been a real swing away from the super-aggressive sound that dominated when it first became popular here in favour of a much poppier sound with singalong coros - the Los Cuatro song, for instance, samples Hey Jude, which is cheesy, but at least you don’t feel like your eardrums have been assaulted. I think Gente D’Zona may have lead this change, but I know fuck-all about reggaeton, so that’s just a guess. In any case, even this new, softer reggaeton wears thin on me after 45 minutes or so, and when the Casa de la Musica theme song came on, I said out loud, to no one in particular, “thank fucking Christ” and headed for the front.
The metales were on the riser along the back - all three of them! Why is Limonta so stingy? Would it kill him to splurge on a trombone? I know a couple of good ones.
Ailyn looked spectacular - she had put her breasts away and looked gorgeous in a draped floral print top that looked like it was made from some lovely Italian fabric (probably from China). Everyone (men and women in the extranjera camp) fell in love with her. Although for me it’s a toss up between her and Dayan. Limonta must have two of the most charismatic singers in Havana in those two - maybe that’s why he skimps on the horns. The third, Yordis, is no slouch either, but he was continually upstaged by Dayan’s supple writhing in the background during his songs. Poor bastard.
I knew what to expect after last time: a mix of some great songs, and some awful ones. The new song, the one about looking for love on the Internet, is truly lame; a cheesy coro offsets lazy lyrics. Too bad Dayan gets lumped with that one. Mi barrio made an early appearance and was way too long. I wandered around, taking pics and killing time until it finished. Fortunately Que pasa con las mujeres was in there as was La identidad - they have both been big radio hits. Also Exceso de equipaje, but not Cola Loka, unfortunately. Mujeres had a mock fight between the sexes led by Ailyn and Dayan. They both played the roles well, but as an idea it’s probably a bit hackneyed.
Limonta said that next week they would be doing two “estrenos” one of which would be Si no hablaras tanto, originally recorded by Bamboleo some time ago. Not sure how a song that is about 10 years old qualifies as an estreno. I didn’t catch the other. It’s all moot for me anyway. One of the worst things about leaving is hearing about the gigs you won’t be here to see. So far, as well as the Azúcar Negra estrenos, we will miss a Klimax matinee on Sunday at La Tropical (it will probably rain for that one anyway, she wrote petulantly), and Havana D’Primera with guests Alaín Daniel and Alexander from Gente D’Zona at Miramar on Monday night.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Tuesday was our last chance to see Havana D’Primera. OUR LAST CHANCE. Goddamit. Why must life be so cruel?
When we arrived at Miramar, Napoles was sitting outside on the fence, so I went and had a chat, because most of our communication has been via looks and mirrored dance steps from stage to dancefloor. Jaja. He said that maybe tomorrow he would be going to China with the Buena Vista Social Club, but he didn’t know yet. Even for Cuba this was so last minute it was ridiculous. He thought it was pretty hilarious, as did Alexander and Harrold when he told them. If he goes, he will join HdP in Paris later on. I guess they won’t be playing Despues de un beso on those early gigs then. He is pretty crucial for that one.
There were a lot of people at the matinee - more than there had been at any other. Maybe the Cubans are actually thinking ahead and realise they only have one more matinee before the band disappears for 10 weeks. I don’t know. But I managed to claim a patch of dance floor down the front, which was all that mattered.
The crowd was mainly locals with a smattering of tourists - and what seemed like the Rodney Barretto fan club: the introduction to his solo brought squeals from the audience. He attacked the skins with with his usual ferocity, and when one of the drumsticks flew out of his hand he grabbed at the air, caught it, and continued drumming, much to the crowd’s, his fellow musos’ and his own delight. There was laughter and more screams and a tecnico rushed on stage with a fire extinguisher to hose him down. Jaja. Hilarious.
Alexander’s ensuing solo was also fabulous. He walked to the lip of the stage, eschewing the microphone and stood, looming over the audience. He started gently as usual, building to awe-inspring blasts. One of the fantastic things about this band is how they play around each other during their solos. It’s not a matter of just dropping back and letting whoever it is noodle away. Even the solos are a team effort: when it’s Rodney, there is Tony (piano) and Harold (keyboards) and Yandy (bass) joining in with a thumping groove; it’s vice versa when Tony solos in Mi Música, and Tony’s lovely little echoes of Alexander’s licks during his solo are just heavenly.
This is Alexander’s jazz side - the solo is the intro to Cuando el rio suena; and at all the gigs here, this song is also a showcase for how switched on he is to reggaeton, and how he can use that to power up his audience. The song (both on the disc and live) features a line from Don Omar’s Bandolero, and live, it’s a springboard into a whole bunch of reggaeton hits: Alexander singing one line; the audience singing the next. It’s amazing to see - the energy that comes out of the room, everyone (except the foreigners, who in our case, were hearing these songs for the first time) singing every line. When we arrived, as well as Bandolero, he was doing a Yulien Oviedo song, and one by Kola Loka - as well as Gente d’Zona’s Los artistas, which is also a regular part of it (and also on the studio version), but as the weeks went by, he added new hits, Los Cuatros’ “Ya sabes mi nombre” song and the “echalo un palo” one.
I have some video of it, so when I get back, you’ll be able to see it on youtube. You probably won’t see it live though, cause Alexander thinks that, like us, most foreigners won’t get it. Hope we didn’t set a bad example for y’all.
Afterwards, Alexander said he was nervous about the forthcoming European tour - the band is new and very important to him, and of course he wants it to be a success. We tried to reassure him. Everybody in Europe reading this - go to the concerts with a million of your friends - don’t make us liars! Of course, you will be the winners in that scenario, because you will come away so happy. I was telling him about how when they are playing everyone looks so happy.
I remember still my first impression of the band last year: they were playing a Galiano matinee; it was my first week and even though I live a 10-minute walk away, I got there late, after they had started. I walked in, they were in full swing, the place was packed with people dancing and my first impression was that everyone was happy. People were smiling and swinging.
A couple of weeks ago during the epic and impossibly beautiful Mi música, I looked around, at MFF, at Karina from France, at the tall black guy who comes and knows every word (and I think he works at Miramar when he isn’t seeing HdP): everyone was beaming and serene, lost in the music, and transported to a higher plane.
Alexander said this is the idea with his music, to spread joy. It makes me happy now. I’ll be crying in a week.
We hung out in the beer garden next to the Casa a while and MFF spent some time talking to Rodney’s mum, Rosa - she goes to all the HDP gigs, and in fact is a ligger from way back - I have pics of her from various gigs through the ages, before I even knew her. Rodney came over for a while too, and it turns out he speaks English, which is unusual for a muso here. Much beer and rum was consumed (a bit too much). Goodbyes were said. Very sad. We were invited to a rehearsal out at Guanabacoa again, which seemed like a good idea.
We ended the night at Dimar again - not quite as successful as previous nights, as they were out of everything except camarones and pizza. Could have been worse: they could have been out of those too.
Monday afternoon I went out to the Pachito matinee, mainly because I was bored, but also because I had some business to conduct with the lovely DJ there. Salsa Mayor’s Pavel was out the front with some of the KiniKini when I arrived, so he was obviously planning a big day out, what with his gig later on at Cafe Cantante. Inside, there was no sign of Pachito himself - Cristian and Rey seem to be being pushed as the stars now, so I guess it means the now senior Alonso doesn’t have to turn up if he doesn’t feel like it. They had the same bass-heavy and derivative timba sound I recalled from previous gigs which completely underwhelmed me. I concluded my business, ran for the P-5 bus and came back into town. I decided to give Salsa Mayor another shot, seeing as it was my last chance, and Havana D’Primera weren’t playing (jaja). At 12.30am at Cafe Cantante, things were as usual: Pedry DJ playing pretty much the same videos, in the same order (Gente D’Zona, Yulien Oviedo with PFG; Los Cuatro, more Gente D’Zona and Manolito's La Habana Me Llama), that he plays wherever he DJs. The numbers were down on the last time I saw them there, but it was still pretty busy. The catwalk was gone; it was just your bog-standard Cafe stage. They started with Esto está, sung by Yasser, which was heaps of fun. What a great song. I’d forgotten. Followed it up with El destino. Yet more thrills. Then there was a bit of a slump for me as they went into Adivina papa and Si le gusta repite. The show picked up any time Yasser was on lead - that guy is a powderkeg - not vocally, but energywise - he’s a total livewire. He goes nuts. I don’t know how he can keep it up, but he does, and the last song was his Debajo de la balancera.
I don’t think it was meant to be the last song, but things kind of got out of control with invitados, and those invitados who weren’t quite welcome: there was the guy from Los Cuatro, who sings the “ya sabes me nombre” song, who sang that coro in a different key to whatever Salsa Mayor were playing, and assorted reggaetoneros and raperos as well as a guest guiro player wearing sunglasses (those Cafe lights are murder). One guy grabbed the mic and Maikel went “hey hey hey...” It was futile: he had lost all control of his own show. Suddenly Ulises, trombonist extraodinaire with Revé appeared in the metales. He was there for a while before Maikel gave him a big welcome: “And now, ladies and gentlemen...” But at that very moment, Ulises was busy examining his trombone - which was in two pieces - and nowhere near ready to play. Much laughter ensued while he hurriedly put it back together in order to deliver a virtuosic solo.I came away with a more favourable impression than the previous gig - the fact that they didn’t do Marisela probably helped. Again the metales impressed - especially the trombones (even without Ulises). Actually the band itself is pretty good, and as I’ve said before, Pepitín is a good singer and Yasser a kickarse performer. The biggest problems for me are the bulk of the material and the third singer, Pavel. Though there are quite a few members of the audience who have no problems with him at all with him. Guess I’m missing something there.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Outside was Revé’s manager and a trombonista (not sure of his name - not Ulises), waiting for the bus to take them to Pinar del Rio - MFF was gutted that we weren’t going with them. We could have changed our plans, except I was dressed for the theatre - not for carnival in a country town street with a bunch of exceedingly inebriated people. They also gave us the bad news that they weren’t playing the usual Monday matinee at Galiano (it’s a matinee larga with Eddy K’s band Los Cuatro), and in fact, wouldn’t be playing all week, so we have seen the last of Revé this trip. I tried to console MFF as we trouped inside the aptly named Gran Teatro. It’s as fabulous inside as out, but as with the Amadeo Roldan, I could smell the spores growing.
The work was to Orff’s Carmina Burana. Yikes. The dance, costumes and choreography was excellent. It was a big company, and it’s always great to see a large group dance on stage - you don’t often have the opportunity to see that (well we don’t in Australia). There were black and white videos shown on the screen behind, which added to the performance without distracting. The dancers were athletic and disciplined and the choreography interpreted the music well, but it was the last thing that was the problem - Carmina Burana is such heavy going. I would have been happier had it been 50 minutes long. The rain had stopped when we left, and we headed to Hanoi, as I was craving black beans - if anyone knows of another restaurant that makes them - preferably in Centro Habana, please let me know. I had the fish - it was excellent.
The thunder and lightning began again as we were just wrapping up and applauding the fact that yes, they did have flan today (though it was so sweet I couldn’t finish it). The rain that followed made the afternoon storm seem like a dripping tap. It came down in sheets. And kept coming down. We sat, and talked, and talked and talked and talked. At 8.30, when it slackened off to a downpour, we decided to make a dash for Montserrat and the nearest taxi. In hindsight it wasn’t a smart move, but you know, sometimes, the rain just doesn’t fucking stop here. So we ran, and got soaked - and bloody cold, too. A bicitaxi driver tried to get us to go with him but 1) he had never heard of Belascoain (only a 10 minute walk from his current location) and 2) he was clutching a box of Planchao rum in his hand.
A Cubataxi passed, and we flagged him wildly. Of course by the time we arrived home, it had pretty much stopped. When I got to the casa, I found that it had rained on my bed and there was a flood in my bathroom. Awesome.
Had a few hours to kill before Havana D’Primera. (Yes, I opted for them over Klimax - I’m an addict, I confess, and soon I will go cold turkey, but I’m going to delay it as long as possible.) After I hung out my sheets and the landlord flipped over my mattress, I took in an Omara concert on TV, with Rodney Barretto on drums and the outstanding guy we had seen on piano at Amadeo Roldan. After that I watched a bit of Fame. Jaja. I’d never seen it before - Richard Belzer is in it!
At midnight we went downstairs - the streets are even more devoid of taxis on rainy days; they just bloody disappear. We waited in front of our house, then went to Zanja, where the street lights are out - and hey, that isn’t creepy at all. Then went down to Neptuno, where a guy yelled at me and came running towards me - great. Turns out it was Franky, trumpeter for Gente D’Zona and Capri regular who lives nearby on Belascoain. He was off to PMM at the Capri. He didn’t seem that happy about it, but I suspect he gets in for free, so when a car passed by, he yelled out “Coppelia?” and off he went.
We had less luck, and decided to walk down further, towards San Lazaro, when finally a Cubataxi came who, wonder of wonders, put the meter on. Get the fuck out. Unheard of to use a meter after midnight, but there you go. Bless him.
We thought Miramar might be empty because of the rain, but there were quite a few people there, though as it turned out, they didn’t really get into the swing of things. The DJ was playing songs from the new Charanga album. I was just waiting for one thing of course.
It was another short set - probably the way it’s going to be until they go - they’ve got visits to embassies for visas and the usual problems with papers and so on, so they're all knackered.
Alexander still wants to practice the new songs, I think, as they appear reguarly, and as I mentioned, there are new coros and so on, but the band is about as a tight as it could be. Rodney is still playing with them, so I don’t know if it’s true that he is playing with Omara and will be replaced by someone else - I heard it from a musician outside the band. In any case, his replacement is said to Jannier, the baterista I saw at the jazz gig at Amadeo Roldan, who is eminently qualified and should have no trouble filling in at short notice.
Without the Revé matinee, there are slim pickings for Monday. There is Pachito Alonso, as always, at Miramar. No idea what is at El Cafe, or if they even have a matinee on Mondays. And for the night only Habana C at Miramar and ... Salsa Mayor at El Cafe. Guess it has to be that then.
Note: I notice that Mister Bryans has a post about Echalo un palo, one of the current Havana reggaeton hits, much quoted by all and sundry at the moment. The other one that all the singers reference is one that goes “Ya sabes mi nombre, mami no me digas na’; si se va a formar que se forme”. As you can see, I have no idea of the title. (I just saw the singer sing it with Salsa Mayor - report coming tomorrow - but I don’t know who he is.) Also on reggaeton news, it turns out that as well playing La Cecila on Saturday for $30CUC cada uno, Gente D'Zona also played Friday at Teatro America in moneda nacional. I can't imagine the scene on Galiano when those tickets went on sale. It was part of a weekend of reggaeton at the ageing theatre that also included gigs by Baby Lores and Kola Loka.