Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES — It is encouraging for those who love rock music to see foreign bands visit the country and stage the occasional concert. Music is one the arts closest to human feelings and one of the things that unites people the most. That was something the Beatles used to say often.

Rock bands from English-speaking countries, however, don’t often come over for a visit, even though they would be more than welcome here. I recall when Rick Wakeman, the keyboard player for the progressive rock band Yes who later went solo, was in Cuba. He is the composer of Arthur (the well-known piece used for the opening sequence of Historia del Cine, a Cuban television program).

The musician came with some of the members of Yes and new partners, including the son of one of them. They played songs by Yes in Havana’s Karl Marx theater. The new band was called N.E.R.E (New English Rock Ensemble). They also performed at the city’s Anti-Imperialist Bandstand, located right beside Havana’s Malecon ocean-drive.

One of the things that caught my eye was that he was surrounded by a semicircle of key instruments (synthesizers, an electronic piano an electric organ) and that he would play them alternatively, revealing the mastery and virtuosity he has maintained for years. He wore a multi-colored, bright outfit that was half raspberry-color. He had blond, straight hair that was almost white.

All of us felt the magic of that legendary figure and could hardly believe he was there, that he was right in front of us performing those classic numbers. Some listened in ecstasy, while others gesticulated wildly with their arms. The most daring wore hippy costumes which recalled the 60s and 70s. A kid wearing a T-shirt with the English flag would lift it up and kiss it with emotion.

With Air Supply, many were taken back to their high school years and first romances. Couples would embrace and kiss passionately, becoming romantic thanks to the music.

At one point during the show, the lead singer invited the audience to join him and sing one of those classic pieces, without realizing they know the music but didn’t know the lyrics.

We, the fans, are constantly hoping that classic rock bands will come play in Cuba. It is ironic, perhaps a dirty trick destiny is playing us, that musicians such as Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, should come to our country as tourists and remain in utter anonymity here.

A friend told me that, if Aeorosmith ever decided to play at Havana’s Revolution Square, so many people would attend that she would not be able to take her longed-for picture next to Steven Tyler.

6 thoughts on “Few Foreign Rock Bands Play in Cuba

  • I’ve got no connection to any youth organization (or any organization in Cuba for that matter). My wife and I were tourists on our first visit to Cuba, our hotel was not too far from the concert, and we just went over to check it out. There weren’t even any chairs in the area we were in, just a huge swath of standing concert goers. We were able to just wander through the crowd uncontested. If there was a closed-off reserved section, it must have been much closer to the stage. Perhaps right in the middle where the runway jutted out?

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