Cuba: While The Politicians Argued, The Musicians Jammed

Sep 30, 2016
Originally published on July 12, 2017 10:57 am

Editor's note: This is an encore presentation of a show that originally aired Sept. 30, 2016.

"Go before it changes!"

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that charge since the thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which has prompted so many people to visit the island nation.

No doubt there will be quite a few changes in the coming years, especially economic ones. How it will all shake out is anyone's guess. But what hasn't changed is the close relationship that exists between the music of our two countries, which goes back at least to the 19th century. Spanish speakers use the phrase primos hermanos to refer to the relationship between familial first cousins, and that seems an appropriate description for the give-and-take that has been going on between the U.S. and Cuba, too.

During a recent visit to Havana, I sat down in cafes and home studios with Cuban musicians to trace that history in words and music. The politicians in both countries could learn a few things from those who make music about bridging gaps, finding common ground and even celebrating differences — because those are the kinds of skills needed to get a group of people together to play music.

And why not use those skills in geopolitics, right?

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