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Friday, May 3, 2002 — the evening

I stopped at Manolito's and explained that I couldn't go to Cienfuegos and at 9:30 that night, I met Osiris at El Rapido and we grabbed a taxi to the studio. I bought a bottle of Havana Club Reserva so as not to show up at the session empty-handed.

The amazingly cool thing about Cuban recording studios is that they all have bars. American studios are missing a great opportunity for additional revenue with this feature. After all, how much of a recording session is spent waiting around for the engineers to get the stuff set up and get the sounds on the drums? A lot. The bar didn't mind that we brought our own rum, and we sat down in the bar and they provided us with glasses and a bucket of ice.

Osiris and I were joined by the legendary Changuito. Osiris told him what I had said the night before: that percussionists all over the world bow down to the great Changuito as their Santo. Changuito laughed hearing this, and put his hand over his heart in a gesture of humility. The next four hours the three of us sat there and did away with that bottle of Havana Club. I told Changuito I had seen his interview in the Van Van movie, Empezó La Fiesta. He seemed puzzled by this, he had no idea that there was any such movie. I described the location of the interview and then he seemed to remember. Changuito told stories, and every time I asked him if he knew such and such a musician, he would switch to English and say, "Ee's my brother!" with one hand over his heart.

As the rum flowed, I noticed that he and Osiris were talking faster and faster. Americans tend to get real slow and slur their words when they get drunk, but these guys were getting more and more fired up, their words becoming totally indistinguishable to me, but not to each other. They were speaking in sixteenth note triplets and flailing their hands, gesturing madly to illustrate each point. Cubans talk more with their hands than any Italian I've ever met.

Pupy came into the bar to announce that they were ready to record, and I asked him and Changuito to pose for a picture with me. Then we all trooped into the studio, and the group started recording. They started out by doing a couple of tunes from Pupy's last record, and I was wondering what was going on—maybe he was re-recording the stuff for some reason? After one take, they went back and blasted through another tune from the album.

At this point, it was getting close to three in the morning, and I was fading fast. I caught myself drifting off in my chair in the control room, so after a bit I decided to pack it in. It had been a long day, and apparently Changuito and Osiris had a far greater tolerance for Havana Club than I do. I figured that Osiris had been mistaken about recording a new song, so I wouldn't be missing anything They were just doing the old tunes, for whatever reason. I said my goodbyes and thanks, and I left. The next day, Osiris told me that they did indeed record a new song, one that Osiris really liked. ¡Que lástima por mi!

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Juegala, from Cesar Pedroso's Pupy, Y Los Que Son, Son. El Indio from Trabuco guests on lead vocal.

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