HAVANA TIMES, December 26. – An unprecedented concert extravaganza featuring the Los Van Van, Paulo FG and the famous Tropicana Nightclub dancers will usher in the New Year and the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution on January 1 at the Anti-Imperialist rally and concert venue located near the Malecon seawall in front of the US Interests Section.
Los Van Van is the oldest Cuban salsa band and has managed to remain among the most popular on the island since its founding in 1969. Paulo FG and his timba group have been performing for 15 years with success on both Cuban and foreign stages. The Tropicana is a cabaret famous for its mythical dance shows, its choreographies, top musicians and afro-Cuban folklore.
While some might think the selection of the feature bands was random, it’s also valid to believe it was carefully thought out, since the three groupings represent three different stages of popular music in Cuba: the cabarets of the 1950s (Tropicana), the salsa orchestras of the 70s (Los Van Van) and the younger heirs of those precedents that mesh tradition with modern musical tendencies (Paulo FG).
For those that think such symbolism is too naïve and romantic, there’s a more pragmatic theory. The purpose is not only to bring three emblematic groups of Cuban culture together but also three very expensive shows (inaccessible to the average Cuban). The free concert can be seen as a unique opportunity and a reward to Cubans that during the entire year couldn’t pay to enjoy one of the three groups’ individual shows.
An evening at the Tropicana Night Club runs between US $60 and $100 per person, while the Van Van and Paulo FG concerts -besides being very expensive- tend to be quite sporadic since they perform most of the time outside the country.
And if that’s not enough reason to head to the concert on New Years, Paulo FG is fresh off a media scandal during his recent tour in the United States.
In November, before his concerts in Miami, Paulo FG was interviewed on the program Entre Nos on the Gen TV station, where he said: “If I have been able to make my music in my country, it’s because Fidel has not tricked me, and because the system permitted it.”
Those and other comments by FG praising Fidel Castro unleashed a wave of hate from the old guard Cuban-American groups in Miami. His concerts took place amid demonstrations, threats and riot police to control attacks and acts of violence.
Upon returning to Cuba, FG’s fans have been looking forward to his first performance, finally announced for January 1.
The Anti-Imperialist Esplanade, a political rally and concert venue, has room for around 80,000 dancing people, but many more are expected to fill bordering streets on both sides.
Simultaneously other top bands will be performing in the different municipalities that make up the capital. In Boyeros: Manolito Simonet and the Santiago Alfonso Co.; La Lisa: La Charanga Habanera, Vania and the Caribbean Dance Show; Habana del Este: Pupy y los que Son Son y el Cuban TV Ballet; San Miguel del Padron: Bamboleo and the Andres Gutierrez Show; Cotorro: Adalberto Alvarez and his orchestra, The Aragon orchestra, Sexto Sentido and the Habana Mia Show; 10 de Octubre: Gardi y su grupo, Osdalgia y los Guaracheros de Regla; Marianao: NG La Banda and the Racatan Show; El Cerro: Yumuri y sus Hermanos and the La Giraldilla Comparsa.