My life and times in Havana. Video below. Subscribe to the YouTube channel for updates!!
CUBA. Growing up in South Florida I learned a lot about Cuba. For instance if a Cuban citizen made it from Cuba to the shore of Florida, they were welcomed. However if they were stopped by the US Coast Guard before they touched land they were sent back to Castro.
I went to school with the sons and daughters of Cuban refugees who would smuggle food and medicine back to Cuba during humanitarian family visits. An Advil bottle sewn into a dress, a little Tylenol stitched into some pants etc.. etc..
Everyone says it’s 90 miles from Cuba to the US. Actually it’s 90 miles from the Northern most point of Cuba to Key West, FL. To continental Florida it’s just over 200 miles. 200 miles of open ocean to a time capsule from the 1950s. Godfather II. Hyman Roth. I had to check this place out.
The idea of going to Cuba was born from a meeting in which a major publisher said I should wait 10 years before I traveled out of the country specifically to record music. If you look up “failing upwards” in the dictionary you’d see this guys picture. I generally listen carefully to what these knuckleheads say, then do the exact and total opposite having booked a ticket to Cuba the minute i got home.
The flight from Miami only took 45 minutes and the Cuban border agents were nice and friendly. As an American I was charged $100 for an “instant visa” in addition to a 13% conversion fee on my American Dollars. Good thing I had a bunch of a Euros and Canadian Dollars on hand from earlier in the year. The authorities didn’t have to ask where i was staying or who i was staying with because they already knew. Dictatorships can be efficient!
After a 90 minute car trip from Varadero to Havana I found myself at the Cuban Ministry of Culture. It was an old, sturdy building with a large entrance way and bright courtyards with cool looking sculptures. The good folks there explained since I was American, I’d need clearance from some Government office in Washington DC to work with any “official” recording studio in Havana. This became a mute point since I met some musicians later that night by the Hotel Cohiba that set me up with a recording studio in a Havana apartment.
We recorded for two days straight. I’m happy to say I got exactly what I was looking for in terms of sound and performance. The next couple of days were spent checking out things like historical monuments and art galleries. They definitely had some cool stuff in the art galleries but the paintings and sculptures were too big to carry back to Miami and Los Angeles.
After the first day of recording I ran into the Justin Trudeau (the prime minister of Canada) at the Hotel Cohiba. I hope he wasn’t there to use the wifi since it’s alot cheaper at the hotel Grand Caribe across the street. Surprisingly he didn’t have a huge entourage of security guards so when he walked past I got some great video footage.
A definite highlight of the trip was Lano, the coolest Horn player in Havana. Of course I didn’t have my video camera with me, only my cell phone but I managed to record some video of him playing in the street. He pied-pipered about 10 people to come watch him perform with just a solo trumpet.
It was definitely a fun time, although I’d like to learn Spanish before I head back. Maybe take a camera crew with me?? Lets hope!!