Archive for August, 2011

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Cuban Flag

Photo by Martin Abegglen — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Harald Himsel, a German documentary filmmaker and managing director of a consultancy firm that works in developing countries, continues his KadmusArts’ blogs on Cuba’s music history and today’s artists. Himsel is in the process of creating a new film on Silvio Rodríguez.

I am back in Havana. It’s July 26th, and the whole country is celebrating for three days the anniversary of the failed attack of Fidel Castro and his “barbudos” (so called because of their beards) on the Moncada barracks in 1953. Castro was imprisoned and then later deported to Mexico. There he met with Che Guevara and together they returned to Cuba to take on the Batista regime.

Seven years earlier, Havana felt as though it hosted history’s largest congregation of organized crime: over 500 mobsters of all Mafia clans met at the posh Hotel Nacional to discuss plans to make Las Vegas and Havana the world’s centers of gambling, drugs and prostitution. Among those attending were the likes of Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky and Frank Sinatra. Yes, Frank Sinatra.

Although Havana already had gambling, along with available drugs and prostitutes, the mafia planned for more. Hundreds of luxury hotels with casinos were to be built along the coastal stretch from Havana to Varadero. Their project would have generated enormous profits and created an easy way to launder money from the mafia’s illegal activities in the U.S. The mafia bosses could move freely in Cuba because they had the protection of Cuba’s President Batista, with whom Meyer Lansky met frequently to discuss business. However, the mafia clans couldn’t reach an agreement. A bitter and bloody feud broke out between the Sicily-based families and Meyer Lansky’s Las Vegas-Havana clan. (Remember The Godfather, Part II?)

The Revolution with its climax in 1958 came as a shock for the mobsters, ruining their most profitable business. When Batista resigned on New Year’s Eve 1958, in a desperate move, Meyer Lansky collected all that night’s money from the casinos, including their reserves. Using an Israeli passport, he managed to get out of the country with reportedly over 2 million U.S. dollars in cash packed in his suitcase. He later claimed that he lost all all the money he collected that New Year’s Eve to those “barbudos” in Cuba. He returned twice to Havana after the Revolution, the last time in April 1959. His plan to keep the casinos and his business interests alive failed.

Now in 2011, in the year 53 of the Revolution, I am at a concert and listening to a new “trovador”, Tony Avila. One fan of Tony’s music and lyrics is the Cuban musical legend, Silvio Rodriguez. Avila sings about everyday life in Cuba. He does not shy away from criticizing Cuba’s current conditions. This concert was remarkable, the audience frenetic. One song was was the audience favorite. (“”) is a song about Cuba and the need for change. He sang: “and, although I feel content in my house, I see where changes have to be made, however my parents are hesitant”. The audience responded with a standing ovation.

The last song he performed was a solo piece, only Tony and his guitar. He dedicated the song to his brother, who fell in the Angolan Civil War as so many young Cubans did. All that was left from his brother was a medal, an “ornamental piece”. Tony couldn’t finish the song. Overcome by grief, he stopped singing. He could only play the chords on his guitar. Then, all of a sudden from the back of the audience, somebody stood up and finished the song for him.

- Harald Himsel

See Harald Himsel’s other KadmusArts Blogs from Cuba:

Rap, Peasants and Grammy

Revolution is Art. Art is Revolution

Revolution 10: Evolution

Ay la Vida: A Hippie in Communism

Coffee with Fidel

In Search of Silvio Rodríguez

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Essential Festival Tips: Best of Festival Swag, Trinkets & Takeaways

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Guitars T-Shirt

Photo by Incase — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Don’ t worry about the global economy, government defaults, or self-serving politicians. You deserve to buy a festival keepsake, a memento to help you not only remember the festival, but to keep that festival feeling alive for months to come.

From the festival producers, artists and most especially festival fans on KadmusArts, here’s a list of the best in festival swag, trinkets and takeaways:

  • Bandanas (usually for hipster wannabees, but go ahead)
  • Baseball Jerseys (better to wear a festival jersey than pretend you are a pro athlete)
  • Beer Kozies (old school, but expected attribute of a dorm room)
  • Bottle Openers (see above, “beer kozie”)
  • Bumper Stickers (for the other drivers to think about where else they could be other than in traffic)
  • Condoms (very much new school, but what better way to show your love?)
  • Cups (best way to recycle is to take them home and use again and again)
  • Dog Tags (good for the kids, careful if you’re over 18)
  • Fake Backstage Passes (looks great hanging in a work cubicle)
  • Flutes (similar to those little wooden ones you played as a kid)
  • Frisbees (they do last a long, long time)
  • Golf Towels (ok, a bit upscale, but they do have multiple uses)
  • Gym Shorts (very popular right now, especially for women)
  • Hats (baseball, very American; sun, very practical; visor, very cool; floppy, very hippy; cowboy, very country)
  • Key Chain (old school, but still useful)
  • Knapsacks (carry your memories wherever you go)
  • Masks (you’ll have something for your next dress-up party)
  • Posters (classic)
  • Playing Cards (helps the cool factor no matter where you play)
  • Refrigerator Magnets (always useful, and you get to remember the event every day)
  • Scarf (works well for football clubs & universities, why not festivals, too?)
  • Shot Glasses (still valuable in a dorm room)
  • Sunglasses (classic and hip at the same time)
  • T-Shirts & Sweatshirts (everyone has them; what’s an event without a t-shirt?)
  • Women’s Thongs (yep, it’s a new thing and it’s certainly one way to come across a festival!)

What have we missed?

Who has created a new kind of festival takeaway?

- Bill Reichblum

Also See:
Essential Festival Tips: How to Stay Healthy?
Essential Festival Tips: Your Festival Packing List
Essential Festival Tips: How to Save Money on Your Festival Travels
Essential Festival Tips: Kids at Festivals

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