Met with two of my favorite artists today to continue a dialogue about our series. Mabel Poblet had several pieces in last year’s Havana Biennale, and her work is striking. She did several pieces with incarcerated women called, “Simple Beauty.” She told me how lucky she felt to be born an artist in Cuba, rather in the US, where it is so hard for artists to earn a living. Kadir Lopez-Nievesdoes mixed-media work about history and memory, often mounted on old porcelain signs left by American companies (Esso, Texaco, Wells Fargo, etc) and shot up by rebels during the revolution. Both are interested in participating in our series.
We started filming the preamble to Los Rollings the morning of the concert. The line was quite short—don’t they know that they should line up for 3 days and hold a bacchanale while waiting? Apparently not. There were a few hundred people in two lines, clearly enjoying themselves, but not unruly. They were in their 60s and teens, pierced and clean-cut, Cuban British, American, German, Mexican. Our conversations with them were quite moving—this was a historic moment, the first big show in the history of Cuba, whom had once banned the music. It was both a reflection and an announcement of the change taking place. David Blanco, one of the most well-known pop/rock musicians here, described it as an opening , a bridge builder. Of course, they want more concerts, but he was expressing more than that. A man in his 60s told me that this indeed was their Woodstock.
A very nice lady and her mom who live across the street from the venue invited us to her rooftop perch, where we set up a camera to capture 2 PM--the moment when the gates opened and Cuba poured in. I was on the ground filming, and it was exuberant. I spent the next six hours conversing, with and without the camera, and the pulse of Cuba beats pretty well today. A large (estimates were 500,000) but civil and polite crowd—people gently touching my shoulder if they needed to move past me, no strung-out people, little overt drunkenness. And tremendous enthusiasm, with an understanding of both the gravity and joy of the moment.The two port-a-potties on my side of the field could have used help though, like another dozen. I imagine that Los Rollings brought them in, as the Cuban version was a rusted stall placed every few hundred yards on the street.
Mick and the boys are quite incredible in their early 70s. They still put on quite the show, although the voices are not what they once were. For me the music was fun (they did play a few of my favorite Stones tunes, and even threw in “You Got the Silver” when they needed a rest on stage), butthe event was spectacular. And, by the way, free. And therein lies the rub. More bands will certainly come; they are already lining up. Will they too give free concerts? Or will future concerts rely on a middle and upper class to pay for tickets? Change here is inevitable, and the creating of said classes is already underway. Many Cubans I talk to embrace that aspect of the change—at least the creation of a middle class. But yesterday I saw a broad swath of el pueblo, the Cuban people, in attendance. What happens if, next year, a band plays, and it costs $20 to attend?