…………..or “Hello Mr.Soul, I dropped by to pick up a reason.”
Rene Ruiz and his trio with a female vocalist: “Chan Chan” – (click and scroll) 🙂
The arrival of the New Year has occasioned us to sift through some old photographs for inclusion on our new super-whizzo digital photo frame. There are some chestnuts amongst them and a whole load of memories promise to fade in and out every 30 seconds or so during the next few months. Favoured amongst them is our visit some years ago to Cuba, a trip we had pencilled in for some time, and on the spur of the moment we packed our bags and flew to Havana full of anticipation for what we might find. Cuba being, as it is, a country of “mystery” and much hype. This will be the first of a Cuba series so I’ll keep my powder dry on some incidents and adventures and for now focus on the vibrancy of the music and bars that can be found in Havana itself.
Without fail, whenever we arrive anywhere, it’s Check-In – drop bags – explore. This, before anything else – even eating. You can imagine our excitement at finding ourselves in such a fabled city, for it’s myriad of reasons, and wide-eyed, off we went. We found Havana to be bustling, glorious in it’s grandeur, an elder-statesman of a city, and quickly skipping to the point of the Post – alive with music. During our time spent in the city we discovered that every bar has it’s live music regardless of the size of the bar itself. It’s almost as if music is mandatory. Life springs from it. Passion, exuberance and friendship blurs our photographs. Havana is alive with music.
On one hot early evening, wandering the dusty streets and after several mojitos in some lively bars, we found ourselves on O’Reilly, an oddly named street in the heart of old Havana. Of course, “O’Reilly’s Bar” is to be found about half way along. Under normal circumstances when we travel we avoid the Irish pubs and the “Genuine English Pub”s like the plague. Who wants that when you’re exploring? But an Irish bar in Havana ? This had to be seen to be believed. So in we went, to find……………..that it’s not an Irish bar. Phew.
Rene Ruiz and his band were charming the customers with their mix of Latin rhythm and song. Smiles and hip sway all round.
The trio approached our table and played away for a buck. One thing that struck me in the city was the excellent standard of the musicians. (Although we did encounter one Canadian father, shepherding his family across a square pursued by a troubadoring trio, finally lose his cool. One version of “Chan Chan” too many. The only cross words we heard in 2 weeks ! 😦 )
We talked with Rene about his guitar and his music.
His guitar, or guitarro, as he termed it, is tuned a fifth higher than a standard guitar. This leads to some lovely space between his playing and that of his fellow guitarist whose guitar is tuned to standard and was, as I noticed, playing some great bass runs for Rene to solo over. Delighted, we tipped them and bought the album. Everybody went away happy.
And so to our final morning in Havana, a Sunday as it transpired, and we sauntered towards the main square in old Havana for our last cerveva or mojito before flying home. The streets were quiet, little to be seen, since everyone was attending the vegetable market, which, since the Special Period, springs up in the streets of Havana every Sunday morning. The people of Havana have turned their city into a giant vegetable growing eco-system and old wooden tables creak under their surplus, sold each week, to friends and neighbours. Community in action.
We wandered over towards what we knew was the most popular bar to await it’s opening. A small group of early morning tourists sat quietly at a table chatting and waiting. Fi chose a table whilst I shaped up to take her picture from a distance. Imagine my surprise when looking through my zoom I saw David Soul sitting at the next table. Bless her, she didn’t know who it was (and he didn’t know who she was). Mr. Soul probably thought I was some paparazzo or something.
Anyway, he didn’t demand I delete my shot, but simply sat quietly chatting, awaiting his beer like the rest of us. Fi, however, couldn’t believe it was “Hutch”.
“Hutch ! Wait till I get home and tell them I’ve been drinking with David Soul.” Hardly, but nice thought, anyway.