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This is a long, self-indulgent essay on my recent trip to Havana. It is not strictly about the music, but it is not a travel essay, either. It is somewhere in-between, and my intended audience is me, fifteen to twenty years from now, when I want to refresh my memory. Hopefully you will find some of it interesting as well.

I generally despise travel narratives that throw in the occasional ¡caramba! to spice up the prose, so I will write as much as possible in English, although the vast majority of the conversations took place in Spanish. Occasionally, I will break this rule, because some things are best left untranslated. Yes, I am contradicting myself here.

Note: Although I realize that it is next to impossible to separate music and politics when discussing Cuban Music, politics has nothing to do with the reason I go there. If there was a music scene like this in Albania, Timbuktu or Akron, Ohio, I would go there. Politics don't even enter into the picture.


First, I would like to personally thank Britney Spears. Cuban women have totally embraced and adopted the style of wearing low-riding skin tight hiphugger jeans with a bare midriff top, and they wear it so well. Huge improvement over the neon spandex look they sported for too many years.

There were some names I dropped in Havana that opened a lot of doors and made new friends for me. First was Jimmy Branly. Everyone in Havana remembers, respects and misses him, not only for his musicianship, but because he's a great guy. Second was Kevin Moore, el loco de la timba. Every musician down there knows Kevin, because he's interviewed practically all of them for, and has made tons of fascinating MIDI recordings with the top piano players there. Other names included Chuck "Palito" Silverman, Jack O'Neill of Blue Jackel Records, and of course, all of the amazing Cuban musicians that I am privileged to work with here in California. Thanks to all of you.

Bill Wolfer, May 26, 2002

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