Sunday, 22 April 2018

In Manzanillo, Cruising For Cuban Music

We're cruising the world to meet good people, drink good wine and listen to good music.

In the 20 odd years since the Buena Vista Social Club (both the music album and the documentary) made Cuban music famous again, we've dreamed about the great live music we might experience here.

The fun started in Santiago De Cuba, where we found that a few venues and bands were playing to the tourists, while very many others (often just around the corner) were performing for the love and joy of entertaining friends and locals. That's the music we wanted to hear!

Of course there are many styles of Cuban music, with cultural roots that spread from Spain to Africa and the Caribbean. Across the country, these influences can be heard in every town. On a recent Sunday morning, the food, wine and music all came together for us in the form of a regular local performance.

Strolling through Manzanillo town, looking for a restaurant for lunch, the music simply came roaring down the laneway at us, around the corner and across the cobblestones. Lunch was quickly forgotten as we squeezed into a crowded old bar, with windows open to the street and a beautiful courtyard within - all very Spanish.

The patrons shuffled tables and chairs around and made space for us, some offered rum, placing glasses of the clear and delicious local alcohol on our table. Cruising friends soon arrived, also attracted by the sound, and ordered a bottle of rum to share with our neighbours - and so the party developed. The band was outstanding, crowds gathered on the street outside to listen, while we were hosted by locals and danced our feet off in the limited space available. This is Cuba. Nothing fancy, just a heartfelt joy and great community spirit.

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