We’re putting a lot of time into expanding our links with Cuba following up on our trip there last March.
So many exciting things are going on, but our main focus is creating a Cuba Jazz News Service.
Believe it or not, for all practical purposes there is no Internet in Cuba. There is no country I’ve been in – and that includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua – with such limited access.
You can and send and receive email, but accessing the web, looking at videos, and publishing web sites from Cuba is so difficult as to practically be impossible for the average person.
Therefore the vibrant music scene there – which includes jazz of all types – is unknown outside of the country and no one “up here” reports on it.
Even Downbeat failed to include Havana’s three excellent venues dedicated to jazz in their 2016 jazz venue listings.
Certainly big name players who perform outside of Cuba are well known, but the scene on the island is unknown and unless you’re physically there, unknowable.
We’re working to change that.
Our dream is to have a correspondent in Havana who can send us a weekly bulletin about what’s happening: performances, club schedules, artist profiles, CD review, venue profiles etc.
* Horns to Havana
We’re making contacts with groups that are working with and helping jazz music education projects in Cuba.
Cuba has a world class musical education system, but there is very little opportunity for formal jazz instruction.
“Horns to Havana” which we featured recently on the Jazz on the Tube site is helping change that.
First, they’re sending instruments and parts which are in extreme short supply in the country.
Second, they’ve created an instrument repair shop in Havana.
Third, they are sending experienced jazz musicians and educators to teach in Cuba like Victor Goimes (director of jazz studies and Northwestern University and a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Workshop)
Fourth, they are starting to bring Cuban kids to the US to perform and be exposed to our jazz scene. A group of VERY accomplished teenaged jazz musicians were in New York City and just performed at Lincoln Center. We covered their performance at the United Palace of Arts in Upper Manhattan for school kids.
* The flash drive project
As I mentioned, things we take for granted here like casually watching jazz videos on the Internet are impossible in Cuba right now.
So how do people “access” the Internet?
With flash drives.
Someone will come to the country with a flash drive full of whatever and then it gets passed around from person to person.
We used to call this “Sneaker Net” in the days before the Internet.
Someone – and I don’t remember who – put 100 top videos such as the kind that we legally stream on Jazz on the Tube on a flash drive and gave it to a person who is central to the jazz education scene in Cuba. (Hopefully this violated no laws, but in any event I have total amnesia on the subject.)
Armstrong, Ellington, Basie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and a whole lot more.
As best as anyone knows, this is the first time these clips have ever been available on the island of Cuba.
We expect these “seeds” to bear fruit in the fertile soil of Cuba.
And that, by the way, is what Cuba is: Fertile Soil.
With this 50+ year trade and travel ban, we’ve forgotten the depth and breadth of the Cuban contribution to American music and the brother-to-brother relationship that American and Cuban musicians and fans used to share as a matter of course.
We’re going to do everything we can to help bring it back.
Meanwhile, pray we don’t get a crazy person in the White House next year who undoes the progress that was made this past year.
* Links to check out
Here’s the reporting we’ve done so far on music in Cuba.
Much much more is coming:
– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube
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