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New Left Review I/238, November-December 1999

Michael Chanan

Play It Again, or, Old-Time Cuban Music on the screen

A friend of mine, a Cuban film director, writes to me about visiting the Salzburg Festival. [1] Personal communication with Julio García Espinosa has recently become more frequent thanks to the internet, now that e-mail has been made accessible to a small sector of the population of Havana. After enjoying operas by Berlioz and Mozart, he says, the big surprise was the Festival’s closing event, a concert by the Cuban old-timers La Vieja Trova Santiaguera, chosen by the Festival’s special guest of the year, the poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger. ‘It was tremendous. Austrians in elegant dresses and tuxedos cutting a caper and going crazy with the rhythm of one of the most traditional of our musical styles. Everyone danced and enjoyed themselves till the early hours. I can only tell you,’ my friend adds, ‘that wherever I go I find this incredible popularity of Cuban music.’

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Michael Chanan, ‘Play It Again, or, Old-Time Cuban Music on the Screen’, NLR I/238: £3

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