Cuba, A Forbidden Musical Paradise

La Habana


Sonoc Drum factory.

My first trip to Cuba was in 2002 when I went on an organized, licensed tour with educator/clinician Chuck Silverman for the Havana Drum Festival. Trips like these are a way to quickly get connected to artists and events on the ground in a way that you could never plan in advance. Even on organized tours a lot of events are last minute. On a typical day we’d have breakfast as a group at Hotel Lincoln and Chuck would say something like, “Well, I’ve heard that some of you want to study Makuta with Lali today, so we have a class scheduled for 10 A.M. We’ve also been invited to a Klimax rehearsal at noon and they said you guys can sit in on instruments if you want. Also, if any of you are interested in a drum factory tour, we have a mini-bus coming to take us to the Sonoc factory so you can see how congas are made. I personally was thinking of going to the Partagas cigar factory after the drum factory tour and then stopping off at the fruit market on the way – the papayas are in season. Let’s see … there’s a national league baseball game in Centro Habana tonight, the Industriales vs. Cienfuegos. Oh, and there’s some crushin’ timba tonight with Manolito at 6 P.M., and Paulo F.G at 11 at Casa de la Musica down the street. Let’s see a show of hands for who wants to do what.” Every day was an action-packed drummer’s dream, and every day began at the breakfast table with a menu of opportunity.


Beco makes handmade bells for the top players.

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