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Cuba

by Stephen Kaye
Wed Jun 8th, 2016

Our publisher, Stephen Kaye and his wife Bindy are accompanying the Bard Music Conservatory on their tour of Cuba. Although access to Wi-Fi is sporadic, Stephen has managed to send several reports via his iPhone.

After a three hour flight on Jet blue they landed in Havana where they waited for three hours to get their bags. We could only surmise that the base fiddle and cello cases caused a small snafu in security. Did they search each bag for prohibited substances like books on democracy or human rights? It took an official to make an inquiry that unearthed a trombone and a bag stuck in the conveyor belt, causing anxiety in the orchestral leadership who was wondering how does one compensate for a missing trombone?

Anjeo is a rum aged seven years in casque. It is a good and sufficient reason to travel to Cuba, the land of the 1957 Chevrolet.

We are camp followers of the Bard Music Conservatory's tour through provincial towns as they warm up before their Havana performance. They are adjusting to the heat and humidity even while playing Hindemith and Brahms. They play in buildings constructed around the same time as Brahms composed his Second symphony - charming concert halls lined with boxes once inhabited by the sugar aristocracy that vanished long ago. The audience fans themselves while the hundred or so players visibly perspire on stage. 

On the bus rides through the countryside we see images we barely understand. The few tractors date to the early 1950's; cattle, mostly on the scrawny side, graze in overgrazed fields; a few bigger fields look well tended. We hear the country is short of food but we see much of the countryside given over to scrub. The amount of land devoted to food production seems negligible. We pass through verdant valleys green and tidy. Transportation is in dismal shape. Horses seem to be a primary means of conveyance. The cars and trucks have a curatorial integrity as if they were in a film with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

The people give us the impression of happiness, a paradox that needs a deeper understanding to resolve. Today (Monday) we heard a local music group play the classics from the pop - mountain -jazz typical of this area. The music generates a conviction of happiness, pride, love and place. 

There are no new cars, buildings need repairs, the public works barely work, air conditioning is a rarity, there are few goods in the stores but people are happy. 

Learning soccer in bare feet on concrete may produce tomorrow's stars. These kids were swift and adept.

A car collector's Dream

They just keep running

Quintero Criollo played Guajira music for the Bard group

We visited a graphic arts studio. We read into this fence sitting bird a message: it is sitting on its hands while two crows perhaps representing the US on the right and Europe on the left hover by; but the bird is happy just where he is.

Street scene

A bat flew over the orchestra on the opening night clearing the insects caught in the limelight while The band played the William Tell Overture.