February 28, 2004

History Will Absolve This... Another Cuba Story

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2004

Last night Ola and I went to go and see the piano player from Buena Vista (I can't remember his name) accompanied by the Afrocuban Allstars with others. The price: $25 USD. Expensive, but considering the fact that the two hour concert was held at Hotel Nacional - the most posh space in all of Cuba - made it worth it. Just seeing how rich Americans and exiled Cubans lived when they visited Havana, was truly an experience to learn from. We went with a couple of other Norwegians (all together we were four who bothered to go to this great musical and historical event) named Eirik and David, two nice guys I'd had the fun of meeting the previous night.

After a beer, we got a cab to the hotel to pick up the tickets and hung around until the show started. We were astonished by the luxury, and not surprised at all that gangsters and corporate men wished to stay there when in Cuba. We drank a couple of beers, accompanied by a mobile band playing "El Comandante Che Guivarra" (real name of the song is: "Hasta Siempre Comandante"), a propaganda song I had learned the day before. Really great, but it drove away all the other hotel guests trying to hide from reality.

So, before the show started, this very old guy held up by two younger relatives came towards us at the concert hall's entrance. We recognized him as one of the legendary musicians we were going to see and we were pretty excited to have seen him. When he came to our table, he shook hands with us all and asked if we were ready for a night of partying and dancing. HOW COOL IS THAT?

The concert was great, opened by a Latin-American singer who must have been around seventy or something, who really knew how to shake that booty and sing! Then another legend in Latin-American music played and really delivered some great blues, jazz and salsa on the piano. Then, last but not least, our hero from before entered the stage and appeared to be one of the most interesting vocalists I've ever heard live (and I've heard quite a few). His blues-voice was similar to great people like Tom Waits and B.B. King, but he really, really kicked it on the salsa and rumba tunes! Those people were so charming, and not at all in a distance from the audience. If you wished to, you could just leave the table and start dancing. Which we did.

After the concert, having spent quite a few dollars, we were happy as bunnies on the open fields after quite an entertaining and heartwarming concert. (And that's not to mention that we were beginning to get pretty drunk too.) We decided to go find a disco or a club of some sort, to shake some more. I'd been paying for my friend Ola for some time now, so we decided to find a mini-bank to get some more cash, which can be a pretty hard task in the middle of the night in a city like Havana. We found it, however, and the night was saved. Or so we thought.

A couple of very feminine guys agreed to help us find some club where we could have a couple of drinks or beers, dance and meet Cuban girls. They only led us to a couple of places where the girls were jinteras, which is a national phenomena after the entering of tourism, and you might say that jinteras are prostitutes. Being men of principles, we sent them away, and decided to head for Malecon - to ggrab a cab and head home. The two guys waere ditched by some guards at the door of one of these places, because they didn't serve homosexuals. Heh.

When we got there, however, we met someone we'd seen before: the entire Afrocuban Allstars were hanging around with a group of American girls. "Hey! Let's crash the party!" I thought. So we bought some beers and started to soicialize with the guys, who turned out to be pretty nice and not arrogant at all (to be such great musicians)! Hanging there for a couple of beers, until all the Americans and musicians had gone, we went on walking to find some more partying. Have you ever heard about Malecon? It's really something special. Just this mile-and-mile long pavement by the seashore. Just the kind of place to have a walk with your girlfriend if you want to impress her. We didn't find any more cool people there, though, most of them were just waiting for a ride home..

BUT, after a while we found this staircase with a 24/7 bar and music, and even though it was 3 AM, we decided to have a couple of beers and shake that ass! It was really funny, I can tell you. I mean, I'm not much of a dancer, but when noone in a mile's distance is standing still, you can´t just sit down and drink beer; you've got to dance! And it was great fun! We stayed there till about five in the morning, and by that time I was so exhausted having been drinking, dancing and walking all around Havana all night, so I was practically ready to hit the sack. We found a Cuban who was willing to take us home for a dollar each (quite cheap considering). When we got home, at 5:30 am, we were all so hungry, that we decided to stay awake till breakfast. And we did, accompanied by Cuba Libre - a drink consisting of Rum and Coke. Not that good, but it keeps you awake.

All in all it was a great experience, I can tell you. If I'd had the memory and patience to tell you all the details which makes the whole story a whole lot better, I would.

Sigge Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

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