Thursday, December 10, 2015

Architecture and Morality (2)

Russian Embassy
Edificio Bacardi
You could say the architecture here divides into pre- and post-1960. You'd be wrong but let's say it anyway. The pre- is generally Spanish colonial, American art deco and much of it in an advance state of decay. The post- is generally Soviet-style monolithic and fascinatingly ugly. The Russian Embassy, for example, built in the 80s, is quite possibly the ugliest, most sinister building I've ever seen. The Edificio Bacardi on the other hand, is one of the best examples of art deco anywhere in the world.      
After some serious cud-chewing sessions for the major part of the day, we headed off to the Teatro Nacional de Cuba (opened in 1979 and now seriously stained) to see a special in-rehearsal performance by Danca Contemporanea de Cuba. I think it was called Inversion ('Reversal') and certainly it mixed up genders with guys in skirts and girls in trousers. It was brilliant, not gimmicky in the slightest. Nothing too abstract, experimental or clever-clever, just fantastic dance moves set to pulsating music.  
Talking of which, a few of us then went on to a 'casa de musica' to sample Cuba's most famous export. Of course there have been many famous Cuban musicians over the years (Gloria Estefan was born in Havana but given her father was a bodyguard to Batista they were one of the first families to flee to Miami), but it took until the late '90s for Cuban music to really get international recognition, and a British producer, Nick Gold, and an American guitarist, Ry Cooder, to make it happen. The pair had originally intended to record a world music collaboration between Malian and Cuban musicians but the former couldn't get visas so it became all Cuba only project and thus, Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon was born. 
I wondered whether the original club still existed. It doesn't. In fact, no-one can really agree on where it was (it closed in the 1940s). But the one we went to was fine, packed and probably typical of the scene here. No oldies though - it was a young crowd.

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