The Van Van Effect (II)

Francisco Rafael Castro Cariacedo
Francisco Rafael Castro Cariacedo

We ended up beside this man, a professional wearing a suit and tie, just at the moment he opened the eyes. His age? – about 40 or so. He asked us to take care of his books, which he had clearly bought that day at the recently opened Havana Book Fair; he had to go to the bathroom.

He had three copies of A Hundred Hours with Fidel, by Ignacio Ramonet -two in English and one in Spanish- and several copies of the Cuban movie “Kangamba” by Rogelio Paris. We divided up his belongings, just in case he forgot how to get back and decided to sleep off his buzz at home. To be honest, we were actually a little sad when we saw him staggering back, and with an enormous smile of gratitude.

We were all anxiously awaiting the entrance of the Van Van musicians, but we also enjoyed the incredible performances of the other Cuban artists, and especially the Swedes of Jump4Joy. That group made everyone bounce to their rock and roll chords, and astonished the crowd with their excellent Spanish.

The arrival of Van Van was as emotional as I had imagined, but what I could not suspect was that one of my friends, who is a first year student of studies in my department, would break into tears.

She displayed no type of hysteria or shouting, simply tears. I thought that she felt bad, but when I asked her, she told me that nothing was wrong, that she was only excited because this was the first time she had ever seen Van Van live, and that I shouldn’t worry.

But indeed, I had to worry, because suddenly the whole audience began to pressing closer to the stage, and we were in the second or third row. But nothing happened – nothing bad, I mean.

However, things were happening. For example, my freshman friend suddenly decided that she wouldn’t dance with anyone. She said she didn’t want anybody to bother her because she wanted to see the musicians performing, she wanted to hear the music coming directly from the instruments, she wanted to see the sweat running off Mayita and Samuel…

What also happened was that when the band was getting warmed up around me formed a tremendous soul train, everybody with everybody, with strangers or whomever – it didn’t matter, the thing was to dance.

The concert concluded with an enormous human mass walking along Linea Street towards the bus stops. Everyone was laughing, happy and tired, all in a good mood. I didn’t hear a single disrupting fight inside or outside the culture center.