A Wanna Be a Bongo Player

Erasmo Calzadilla

We’re living in interesting moments these days here in Havana.  You can feel a kind of volatility characteristic of times of change, although it’s subtle and probably wouldn’t be noticed by an unobservant foreign visitor.

People walk around like they’re expecting something to happen, as if they need only give a good stomp on the ground for some prophet of doom to appear, or old political figures to fall into disfavor, or for the “Ladies in White” to become active like never before (and with them the “Rapid Response” squads).  On any corner it seems you can run into one kind or another.

A political prisoner died recently during a hunger strike, a pretty uncommon event here; though food and basic goods are scarce, the State maintains at least the minimal level of services.

They also speak a lot on the radio and television about a world media campaign against “Cuba” (that’s how they refer to it), while here on the island the State seems to be taking it out on us.  To make matters worse, there was a minor earthquake on the east of the island.  It’s not much but makes the difference.

In the middle of these large storm clouds gathering, with the temperature rising, I asked myself: What am I supposed to do?

Well…I bought a bongo.

I hope no one is going to quickly label me as having become alienated.  I too worry about what’s happening and I’m trying to come to terms with it with the greatest conscientiousness possible, but this instrument was an excellent opportunity – so I took advantage of it.  After all, didn’t everything in the Haitian Revolution begin with the riotous beating of drums?

Through income that had nothing to do my official job —which never would have allowed me to think about buying the instrument— I was able to accumulate some CUCs.  In turn, a succession of coincidences worked out so that I could buy the bongos for only 15 CUC (19 USD).

It’s old, faded, and rusty; plus it has termites, cracked wood and beat-up leather; but in the stores they cost nearly 70 CUCs [almost $90 USD].  If I had to wait until I was able to save that amount from the wages from my job, the coming revolution would remain a utopia.

I still haven’t found anyone to give me bongo lessons, but I’m already studying African and traditional Cuban culture.  This is a marvelous universe to discover (for myself I mean) and I feel impassioned and blessed to be submerging myself in it.

So that’s what I have to recount today, while I beat out a few rhythms with my new friend, the bongo.

2 thoughts on “A Wanna Be a Bongo Player

  • Come on, grok, don’t tell me we can’t have some leisure time whatsoever? Sometimes we all need our ‘escape valves’ in order to sustain our own sanity…

  • You are definitely alienated. What a damned shame.

    As for “what’s in the air”: it’s World war and international revolution, in the deepening capitalist crisis — which the imperialists fully intend to take out on all of America Latina, if only they can subjugate all of Afrika, the Middle East, and Central Asia at the same time as well… Truly, these are Nazi-esque delusions of grandeur that can — and likely will — get tens of millions of people slaughtered by the trainload.

    And little Cuba stands in the way of so much of this… Another damned shame. So paddle away on those bongos and discover your roots, eh?

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