The Cork Board, World Music

How about Havana, “Hutch” ?………..

…………..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.

Rene Ruiz y su amigos

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.

.....well, hello, Mr.Soul.............

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.

22 thoughts on “How about Havana, “Hutch” ?………..”

    1. Lisa, seriously, I know you might have some Visa problems and stuff, but if you can get there – GO. Cuba is a unique place in so many ways for a thousand different reasons but it’s great. I’d go back tomorrow.

  1. Sounds like a wonderful journey and Havana a place I would love to visit. My father was Latin and our home was filled with music, dancing and singing. He was so proud of his Latin Percussion and he bought me my first guitar (Spanish)
    I love mojitos 😆 go figure 😉
    Listening to Rene Ruiz as I dance in my chair, beautifulxx

    1. Maybe one day the White House will just chill out and they’ll let you all discover this place without the hassle. I love Latin music and the sound of Spanish song. Glad you liked the post, Raven.

  2. This place is legendary. Though i have to admit, rather abashedly I’m afraid, that I had to look up David Soul.
    Hutch! Duh! It’s right in the title. Sighhh… I need coffee…
    Awesome post, really good music to read by. I like when you do that, it matches the words as I read too — or maybe I’m crazy, either way.
    Anywho, You, My dear friend, are one of my 7 picks to receive the 7×7 blogging award. This is my post about it, and if you find time — check it out 🙂

    1. I popped over to your post, Jared, and am most moved. Many thanks for the support – seriously. There’d be no point to all this if nobody read any of it so spreading the word is kind and appreciated.
      Anyway, to the Post – Havana is legendary and if you get chance go there. As I’ve said, I know it ain’t easy.
      And you can meet celebs in the strangest of places (though I guess you bump into them all the time 🙂 )…..I was standing next to Reginald D Hunter at a urinal once….but that’s another story… (caution: rude but funny)

    1. You are dead right, Tony. I dare say that the White House and certain Republican dimwits have a complete blind spot when it comes to dealing with Cuba. The economic embargo is 50 years old this year. Embargo Post on it’s way. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. You’ve got a good eye! I’m usually good at faces but I haven’t seen him in so long that I wouldn’t have recognized him.

    Your experience in Havana sounds wonderful. Thanks for the photos. 🙂

    I almost didn’t recognize you here. The new theme looks lovely with your words and pictures.

    1. Thanks Ré. I can usually spot a star. I don’t know why. I’m not really a celeb hunter or anything but their faces seem to stick to some part of my brain. And thank you for the thumbs up on the theme change. I thought it was time for a revamp and a cleaner look.

  4. Oh yeah…I can definitely relate to that…back when I was actually playing guitar on stage…I was tuned a “5th” higher than standard too…a Fifth of Scotch…but, a fifth nonetheless
    God Bless You

    1. Thanks for stopping by and the comment, Paul. I’m inclined to try this “5th” thing but I get stressed just tuning up to standard. Any higher and I’m likely to lose an eye ! …..and, with my builders hat on, the stress on the neck must be horrendous. Nothing ventured – nothing gained though.

  5. I’m with Jared, I had to google David Soul (yes, even though you mentioned Hutch!)
    Had no idea he was a singer as well! How lucky to have a last name like Soul then 🙂
    I love Chan Chan…but I think I might get a bit bugged too if I was followed by musicians wherever I went, haha!
    Great post once again (love hearing about places you’ve been) and the new clean look is a very refreshing start to 2012 🙂

    1. Thanks Munira, glad you like the new page.
      I’m sympathetic to the street musicians. They’re only trying to earn a living from one of Cuba’s few growing industries, tourism. And I could also understand the Canadian guy’s reaction – he just went a bit over the top, unfortunately, which wasn’t called for.

  6. I love Cuba and am heading off there in February again. I have yet to spend any amount of time in Havana but will definitely make room for it. Music everywhere is wonderful, haven’t come across any yet I don’t like. I am looking forward to Reading more of your Cuba adventures!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Chris. Darn, I wish I was there in February too. If you make it to Havana..I’ve got some great restaurant recommendations for you. True Cuban ones where the locals eat. 🙂

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