There's a saying in Cuba...." Barriga llena, Corazon contento ". " A full stomach is a happy heart. "
Xmas eve in L'habana was just that. I'd been invited by friends to their homes for Xmas eve but decided to stay at my place, Neida's house, where Neida herself and Maribel the housekeeper slaved all day concocting one blast of a Xmas feast. Just like my parents used to do. I was astounded by the finesse of the dishes that the two of them produced, all with the minimum of fuss and better than any restaurant I've eaten at so far here in
L' habana. Including myself, the 14 of us ate and drank like there was no tomorrow or if there was a tomorrow, we wouldn't have to eat.
From 6pm, music and the sounds of happy revellers enveloped our street from all directions, and this was happening all over Havana. And something curious, comforting and civilised ; here in Cuba when people drink, they drink long and hard, they get drunk too.....But their drinking does not lead to punch ups or violence or throwing up or car accidents or rape and murder or slovenly behaviour like in Australia where drinking is an excuse for all kinds of degeneracy and tragedy. Here in Cuba, they even drink on the beach. They carry bottles of Rum into the sea and drink while playing and swimming in the ocean and still don't lose it. Instead, here in Cuba drinking leads to singing and dancing and joking and playing and story telling and over zealous expressions of brotherly love. How's that? Maybe I can organise a government sponsored " Drinking Programme " by importing Cuban drinkers as instructors to Australia.
Again I've not written for days because I've been busy. Busy going to the beach,visiting friends, cooking, walking, listening, looking, feeling. Busy rehearsing songs I've composed, and also some arrangements covers of some famous and old Cuban pieces that I want to record with Coto, the Tresoro from hell, Hayden Soul, the Flautist from the clouds and yesterday a new addition Randolpho who plays double bass and has his feet planted firmly on terra firma. This is concept of "Terra Firma" or " Solid Ground " is an important one for me because, although the rhythms and rhymes of Cuban music are probably one of, if not, the most precise and sophisticated forms in the world and the Cuban's sense of keeping time is incredible, their ability to keep time in the sense of being punctual or keeping an appointment or meeting is laughable. If a Cuban says " I'll be there at 8 a.m ", don't hold you're breath, it's a fantasy. Especially with musicians. While waiting for you're meeting to fruit you could get married, consummate your marriage, have children, send them to school, watch them grow and get a divorce. Then the musicians will show up for the rehearsal with a quiver full of excuses as to why they're late.
" I had a baby. "
" I had a dentist appointment "
" I had to be at another rehearsal with an orchestra "
" Did we say 8 a.m, I thought it was 11p.m."
And my question is.."Then why do you arrive at 1 p.m?"
I'm finding it almost impossible to get used to.
In Cuba, most babies of musicians are born about 3 months late, more or less.
Withstanding all this we're making considerable musical progress, thank god.
Tomorrow is the 30th of December. My friend Yovany has invited me to spend a week at his family's farm in Cienfuegos. I don't like dropping names but, Yovany is the nephew of the late and great Cuban singer Benny Morre. So I'll be staying and playing with Music Royalty. All of the family are musicians.....and little old me. WOW !!!!
Yovany keeps reminding me about the huge monster of a pig we're going to consume and how we're all going to bury ourselves alive in music and dancing and swimming in the river and riding horses and cows, bareback. If you read my previous blog you'll see how my father was kind of psychic when he bought me a horse and then later swapped it for a cow. My father was a visionary in preparing me for my time with Morre family.
Last night I went out with Maribel the housekeeper, her novio ( boyfriend ) Machichi and her brother Yusdel, down to the Malecon and the sea. A seven piece Mariachi band showed up and played to a group of people on our right while on our left a guy with giant Ghetto Blaster tore at my attention with his collection of thumping Rigatone, Cuban Hip Hop and Reggae. We spent the evening drinking rum and coke ( Cuba Libre )'and eating copious amounts of roasted peanuts which the street vendors sold at a cent a cone. We joked, told stories, and I danced and sweated my ass off to the sounds of the Ghetto Blaster's pumping Salsa Hip Hop Mix. We ploughed through 2 bottles of Rum and all of us shared the same plastic cup. Now that's socialism !
This morning I popped into my second Revival meeting at the Methodist Church just around the corner where a charismatic Pastor preaches, and a giant group of musicians, singers and dancers chant and play their hearts out in praise of The Lord ....it's a humid, colourful, multi rhythmic, exotic spiritual get together for the local community every Sunday morning where every body sings and gyrates in an expression of devotion to their maker. They welcome me there with open arms. I was born a Jew and I love it. People is People!
Early tomorrow morning at 6 a.m ( I'll believe it when I see it and I won't hold my breath ), Yovany, his brother and father are coming to pick me up and then it's a two and a half hour drive to Cienfuegos. I'm paying for the car and driver for the trip there..$100. Yovany has organised the car at a discount and has implored me, to the point of being pedantic, not to utter a single word in front of the driver because if the driver thinks that a foreigner is paying, then it'll be a lot dearer...more like $170. So it'll have to be silent bliss for me all the way there. Then on the way back, they're paying...so I can talk my freakin head off.
Until next year, to my brother Alexander I wish you a full and utter recovery and only the best, and to all the people dear to me I wish you all a really healthy, happy and prosperous and safe New Year.!!!!!! Xxxxxx
Joy and salud to you all.