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Halifax friends! I’ll be bringing some more Cuban fire to the 1313 All DJ end of year party this Thursday, along with Andres, Bill, Luis and Al -  come on out!

Music and Revolution

Robin D. Moore, University of California Press, 2006, Book 9 in the Music of the African Diaspora series
 
 

In an earlier newsletter I mentioned a Robin Moore title, Nationalizing Blackness.  Roughly ten years after that title, Moore released another – Music and Revolution. Perhaps we grew as a writer over that ten year period, because in my estimation this is a vastly superior, more readable and enjoyable effort.

Where Nationalizing Blackness left the reader in 1940s Cuba, Music and Revolution picks up in hedonistic 1950s Cuba and sets the stage with a look at the musical and political culture of the time leading up to the revolution. Moore goes on to look at music in the early stages of the revolution, goes on to cover perhaps misguided but well-intentioned effort democratize music by encouraging performances by amateurs, for example, as well as other early institutions, initiatives and polices.

The author continues on through chapters on dance music, nueva trova, afro-cuban folklore, sacred music in the context of communism, and then finishes up with a look at the special period and the shift towards commercialism and capitalism. Being an American writer, Moore wasn’t able to resit the urge to spend most of the conclusion discussing Cuba in relation to Miami and US policy. This was in my mind perhaps the only curious misstep in an otherwise excellent read on music in post-revolutionary Cuba.

Overall, Music and Revolution is a balanced effort – criticizing the failures and acknowledging the successes.

There were lots of good intentions and spectacularly successful things that came as a result of the revolution – racism was immediately tackled and diminished – although by no means eliminated, music education became a priority and an egalitarian option that led to extraordinarily skilled musicians.

Lots of failures and unfortunate periods too – single-mindedness related to politics that led to e.g. first the suppression of nueva trova, and later the exclusive focus on it, an almost complete disappearance of the recording industry, the failure to acknowledge the significance and value of afro-cuban music, dance and religion in favour of European art traditions, etc…

Strangely the book ends as it begins, in a sense. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the special period, Cuba was forced to explore other options for hard money and turned its focus away from sugar, rum and cigars, towards tourism, which led Cuba back to all kinds of trouble that the revolution had aimed to wash away.

A good read for those curious about the realities of music and culture under communism, socialism, and in Cuba’s revolution in particular.

Events
  • Jan 4-12 - 7 days in Habana - $950 USD package tour includes dance instruction, clubs, activities, transportation to activities, airport transfers, accommodation, breakfast, dinner etc – put together by Julio Montero from Casino Tradicional
  • Feb 8-23Rueda in Playa Del Carmen - very open-ended opportunity to do and learn rueda in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico with people from Boston Rueda
  • Feb 25 - Mar 3 - Festival de la Salsa En Cuba - 5th edition of the Havana salsa festival that Maykel Blanco organizes. Workshops with dance Cuban dance superstars Maykel Fonts and Jenyselt Galata Calvo and concerts from a literal who’s who of Cuban timba plus an as yet unnamed international artist.
  • Feb 13-16 - Salsa Rueda Festival - in San Francisco. The 2020 schedule is not up yet but you can see from the 2019 schedule that it will be an impressive program
  • Mar 7-15 -  7 days in Habana - $950 USD package tour includes dance instruction, clubs, activities, transportation to activities, airport transfers, accommodation, breakfast, dinner etc – put together by Julio Montero from Casino Tradicional
  • Mar 15-27  - 10 days across Cuba - $1150 USD package tour includes dance instruction, clubs, activities, transportation to activities, airport transfers, accommodation, breakfast, dinner etc – put together by Julio Montero from Casino Tradicional
  • Mar 29-Apr 5 2020 - Havana Dance Experience 2020 - Group from Halifax, NS going to Cuba for private classes and dancing. $1349 fixed price includes accommodations, breakfast, a SIM card, classes and taxi dancers as well as some daytime activities. Airfare, transportation and admission to dance clubs not included.  
  • Apr 20-26 2020 - Ritmo Cuba – includes 7 days of workshops and classes (30 hours of classes I believe, with four tracks to choose from), tours, a pool party, a beach party, as well as admission every night to the best clubs in the city with top bands in Cuba
  • May 29-31 2020Rueda Fest - in Brighton UK - has some intriguing workshops on rueda in all kinds of funky formations and more
  • Jun 20-28 7 days in Santiago - $950 USD package tour includes dance instruction, clubs, activities, transportation to activities, airport transfers, accommodation, breakfast, dinner etc – put together by Julio Montero from Casino Tradicional
  • Aug 28-30 Timba Cuba Festival - Portorož (Slovenia) – this is a festival at a beachfront hotel apparently organized or curated by Yeni Molinet, and features a who’s who of Cuban teachers including Alberto Valdes, Yeni Molinet, Jenyselt Galata, Maykel Fonts, Hector Oviedo, etc. Parties, workshops, live music, DJs, a boat trip. This looks incredible. 
Halifax Events
  • Thu Dec 19 - 1313 All DJ Party - 9-11pm, $3, Latin dancing social with a wild and wonderful mix of music from the various 1313 DJs, myself included
  • Fri Dec 28 - Haliente New Year Social, 7:45pm-midnight, mixed social and lessons with cha cha, west coast swing, kizomba, bachata, and salsa, $5
That’s all for this week, thanks for reading!
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Copyright © 2019 Gordon B. Isnor, All rights reserved.


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