After the usual epic journey, this time through Canada, instead of Chile (same flying time, oddly), and a lovely welcome in Toronto by some timba geek stalwarts, I finally arrived in Havana on Saturday. I got in late after the plane from Toronto broke down and we had to wait for another to arrive from Halifax. Smooth through customs and immigration in Havana (yay!) and back to la casa mia on Belsacoain.
I went out to buy the immediate essentials - water etc - and showered. Went to a local paladar cause it's fast (usually) and good (usually) so I could get to Casa de la Musica for the Combinacion de la Habana matinee. Unfortunately on this night it was busy, so I had to wait a while, and the rice in the congris was a little nuttier than I would like; and they were out of fish. Bienvenido a La Habana!
The sun had gone down about six and it was weird going to a matinee in the dark - it's the first time I've been here in winter. Not that cool, though. Not hot either. Weather a bit weird, like it could turn any minute. Kinda like a Sydney autumn or spring I guess.
The band was playing El Pillo when I arrived, with a fourth vocalist on lead - someone I didn't immediately recognise. Before I long I realised it was Pavel, lately of Salsa Mayor. He sang the whole song, and I wondered whether he was a new addition to the line-up, but as the song neared its end, he made a few extra posturings, practically threw the microphone at one of the regular singers and raced down the stairs.
The place was much quieter than on the summer matinees in Saturday. I don't know if Cubans are like Sydneysiders, ie they don't go out in winter, or if many were just saving themselves for the big concert at La Tropical with Trabuco and Adalberto that night. I had some personal business to attend to (that's what happens when you're here on your ninth trip), so I couldn't go, but I wasn't that keen anyway. I'd had very little sleep on the trip - lamentably little time in the fabulous bed of my Toronto hotel. I had called Salon Rojo just to make sure Havana D'Primera weren't playing there (it was Los Cuatro), cause I will drag my jetlagged ass anywhere for Alexander. A call to Miramar however confirmed they were playing there Sunday night. Woohoo!
Earlier this year I wrote a post about the regular penas - nights when various bands could be counted on to be playing at a certain venue. Will it looks like that has gone to hell, with some exceptions. Bamboleo and NG la Banda's residencies remain the same, Combinacion de la Habana still play Saturday afternoons at Galiano and Havana D'Primera are down for Miramar on Tuesday afternoon as usual. But Trabuco have given up Thursday matinees and Cafe Cantante and Salsa Mayor have given up Monday nights there. By the time I leave in seven weeks I'll be able to report more thoroughly on what the sitch is.