Well the lurgy has knocked me off my feet and had me more or less out of action for the week. After the ballet Yarima and I went to the Hanoi where we had my favourite, frijoles negros, and flan which would have been great if it hadn’t been drizzled with mint syrup. Weird choice. It was freezing when we left around 9 and the streets around Parque Central were almost completely devoid of pedestrians. There were a few on San Rafael, mostly guys who commented on either a) our gait or b) our relative hotness (my age is a factor that warrants comment).
Uyuni had said Havana D’Primera were playing el campo instead of Miramar, but it turned out they were playing in town - I guess the country gig got cancelled and they were able to hold on to the regular gig. It’s so weird that Miramar is locked up with regular gigs every night except Monday (which is the death slot).
Thursday: Sur Caribe
Friday: NG la Banda
Sunday: Havana D’Primera
Very grateful for the last one, but otherwise not very interested in any of the others.
Anyway, considering my cold and the night spent outdoors the previous day I decided to give it a miss in order to recuperate. Sob.
It didn’t work: Monday I felt worse. Thought I’d drop into the Trabuco matinee at Galiano anyway, just for a while. It was a late one, so I didn’t go till after 10. The place was about as packed as I’d ever seen it. Almost overflowing. It was insane. I met some interesting Americans at the ticket booth and spent the time before the band came on chatting to them.
Amaray appeared in a gigantic puffy jacket. I would have made a joke about that before the temperature dropped to 7C. (I am indebted to Japanese rumbera Masaco, now sadly back in Japan, for lending me a warm hooded top.)
There were great parties of people all dancing wildly with cups of rum in their hands. I found a spot literally at the foot of the stage, in front of Miguelito. They did a song I’d not heard before: had a Brazilian feel. Unusual. Not as good as the new Mayami song. When Pepitin took the mic, La Rubia said, Jeez, he’s even worse than the other two [singers]. It sounded like something I’d say, and I was really glad someone else had said it. Mayami really is the pick of the bunch at the moment, not just because it sounds like he’s done some serious work on his singing and it has paid off but because, unlike Amaray, he knows his limits and doesn’t over-reach and, unlike Pepitin, he can sing in tune.
When they did control Control I quit my position at the front which was a bad idea. Turned out that was the most sheltered spot: it was chaos everywhere else. I didn’t last much longer after that. A girl from the support band - who were rockeros of some kind - got up and sang - it wasn’t very interesting - and I left.
Tuesday, I felt worse. Given Havana D’Primera’s matinee has a comfort level of zero I decided to skip it and spend the entire day in the flat in hope that that would finally knock the fucking cold on the head. Watched some Dexter and read a great book (We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson, a gothic American mystery from the first half of last century) and some New Yorkers.
Turns out Duni, who never goes out, even though I invite him all the time, went to Havana D’Primera, and got up and played with them. La Rubia said the crowd was even more mental than usual, so I was glad I didn’t go.
Tuesday about 6.30 my sim card stopped working. The guy who had got it for me had cancelled it. Nice one, mate. Fortunately Martin said he’d get one for me. (Previously only foreigners could get them; now only Cubans can, or foreigners who are here for more than three months.)
When I woke up on Wednesday I felt worse. Cancelled my Spanish class but then I realised I felt a bit better. Took advantage of the fact that it wasn’t bitingly cold and heated some water to wash my hair. Went to Duni’s and found his loungeroom full of chicas rehearsing. Marbis has a New Year’s Eve gig at the hotel. Didn’t stay long: the sound was sweet enough but it was loud and my head couldn’t handle it. Duni kept talking about how Alexander called him to get up on stage - he was thrilled, and thought it was pretty funny that Alexander called him the conguero de Bamboleo. Been a while since he played with them.
Went home and Martin dropped my sim off on his way to see Machete at the Yarra in Vedado.
I decided to go to Pupy. When I got there I cringed: the place was seething with people. I realised that all the matinees would be like this for a while. Apart from work groups celebrating El fin de año, there are loads of cashed up Cubans from el extranjero all keen to see their favourite groups. I lurked up the back for a while, then La Rubia said she had a spot down the front, so I joined her and her mates in the corner. It was OK. But I might steer clear of the matinees for the next week or so. They’re just not much fun. I imagine the night gigs will be more sparsely attended. Gonna try for Tumbao Havana tonight.
I left with the Pupy percussion section - Duni, Bombón and Albertico. They were all stoked cause they had just received the news that they would be playing first at their January 1 gig at the Tribuna - they’ll be on at 9; they’ll play, then they can go home (in the case of Duni) or go and party (in the case of Dayan, I imagine - he’s a bit of a farandulero). Trabuco is on after them. I’m not sure I have warm enough clothes for those winds off the bay. I guess I could just layer on everything I brought with me.
All the other bands are playing in the suburbs or out of town: Azucar Negra are at Teatro America, then Cotorro (I’ll see them at the Teatro matinee the next day), Combinacion de la Habana are doing their usual Galiano matinee, then playing Guanabacoa, Havana D’Primera are at Pinar de Rio I think. Reve are in Matanzas. Lazaro is in Mexico, so Bamboleo are on enforced leave I guess. Not sure where Salsa Mayor are, but it’s out of town. Adalberto is at Galiano at night, but Miramar is closed.
I think Gente D’Zona are at La Tropical. Imagine the insanity.