TIME Mag: Can Music Save Cuba?

“…change is coming to Cuba, and if the island is going to preserve its identity, it will need its music more than ever.”

The Sound of Change: Can Music Save Cuba?

From the story, I can’t tell whether music will save the nation…but music’s clearly kept it alive through a failed economic and political system. Here are more bites from the article:

– Now the band has new members, neither well-off nor famous: just another group of ridiculously skilled Cubans trying to hit a seam in a tightening music market.

– What I remember from 1999 was the ubiquity of music: everywhere, every day, in clubs at night and on the Malecón in the mornings–music. At González Coro hospital in Vedado, where my wife was working for the summer, surgeons broke out a boom box in between patients and invited nurses and med students alike for an impromptu salsa session. Dance, sing, smile, repeat: the cultural cure for whatever ailed the revolution.

– for indigenous, righteous, complex and complete music, there is nothing like Cuba’s timba. It has been a vital outlet for taking on taboos, like Los Van Van’s early critique of rampant prostitution in a 1996 song about papayas: go ahead, they sang, touch it; it’s a national product. During the economic crisis following the Soviet collapse, music was the one thing that held the island together, a common passion for both revolutionaries and reactionaries.

– marrying a Cuban musician is like marrying a soldier or a doctor, she said. They’re always on call; they’re always overseas.

– most Cubans earn from $15 to $25 a month and survive off the ration books that offer them sugar, rice, beans and (only for the elderly) cigars.

– He plays for tourists in Old Havana but earns just a few dollars a night. The strings for his instrument are made out of recycled telephone wire; he cuts his guitar picks from shampoo bottles. He is still restless, eager for an upgrade in life.

– More and more Cubans are looking for common ground.