Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sintesis & salsa lessons @ SOBs! Free ticket give-away

This is not a radio station.

However, SOBs (Sounds of Brazil) contacted me yesterday to see if I would publicize at El Yuma their "After Work Friday's SalsaGroove Party" in combination with the concert of the Afro-Cuba Rock Fusion group SINTESIS set for this Friday night, April 20. [Door: 6:00 p.m.; Show: 8:00 p.m.]

They also gave me a pair of free tickets to give away to my readers.  (Full disclosure: They also promised me my own pair of tickets!)

So, the first caller - no, I mean the first El Yuma reader who e-mails me with the correct answer to the following Cuban music trivia question will have their name (and that of a guest) put on the guest list for tomorrow night's show.

Question: What are the names of the three kinds of Cuban classic neighborhood ("solar") rumba and how are they different from one another?  (NB: Spelling counts!)

Keep reading below for more info on SOB's After work Friday's SalsaGroove Party and on Sintesis.

Backyard Boogie with Omni in NOLA tonight & an old interview newly translated

The Three Amigos at the Hi-Ho Lounge

As I mentioned in my previous post, Amaury Pacheco and Luis Eligio d'Omni of Omni-Zona Franca are currently in the Big Easy on the most recent leg of their Mákina Total City tour of the U.S.

You should check out their blog for updates on their tour dates in New Orleans but TONIGHT, Thursday, April 19, @ 7:30 p.m. they will give a unique performance @

The Backyard Boogie
215 South Clark Street, Mid-City 
New Orleans

This event is taking place in the backyard (literally) of the home of two of my best friends from Tulane who returned to live and work and start a family in the City that Care Forgot after Katrina.  They are Nikki Thanos and Leo Gorman and you can reach them at

Phone: 504-616-1888

Knowing Nikki & Leo, and Luis Eligio and Amaury, as I do - I can assure you that a good, mind-bending and soul-enriching time will be had by all.

Amaury and I, Funkin' It Up, with the Stooges Brass Band.

Finally, as readers of El Yuma might remember, a few weeks ago I put up a 19-minute video interview (with English subtitles) that Yoani Sanchez did late last year with three members of Omni in Havana.  I also provided a link to the text of an extended Spanish-language interview she did with them back in 2007.
Now that first interview is available in English as:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

OMNI, the Big Easy, & an old interview newly translated

As I have done each spring break for 5 of the past 6 years, I spent the last 10 days in New Orleans, Louisiana, leading 25 of my top students on a service-learning (aka, trabajo voluntario) adventure.

Here are my students standing atop the levee on the London Avenue canal 
(one of the ones that failed during Katrina)!

We dined in style at Dooky Chase's Creole restaurant in the historic Tremé neighborhood and visited the site at Press and Royal Streets where Homer Plessy attempted to board a segregated passenger train in 1892 (leading to the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson "separate but equal" ruling and 60 years of Jim Crow).

We also did a guided tour of the city's infamous levee system, worked on an organic urban youth farm (Grow Dat! in City Park), and helped build the foundation of a home in Central City with Habitat for Humanity.

I'll have more to report on all that later, but here I want to briefly report on some of the "after hours" highlights of the trip. The first was the Pigeon Town Steppers Easter Sunday second line parade on April 8. You've never experienced the New Orleans spirit or the true neighborhood roots of what we like to think of as a Mardi Gras parade until you witness (and participate in) a second line parade!

The second "after hours" event of note was a fabulous Saturday night concert by the New Orleans Creole vocal sensation John Boutté at dba on Frenchmen Street - winding up both my trip and the day's French Quarter Festival activities.

Boutté's unmistakable voice is featured in the opening credits to the HBO series Tremé singing the appropriately titled "Tremé Song" - which I think he also wrote.  Thought of as "the voice of New Orleans," he has been voted the city that care forgot's best male vocalist the last 6 years in a row.

To learn more about his Creole background and why he gave up a lucrative but boring banking career to become a musician, I highly recommend a two-part interview he did late last year with Bob Edwards (Part 1 and Part 2).

If you like what you hear, you might want to check out his newest album, "All About Everything" which was officially released today, Tuesday, April 17 (though I managed to score an early release copy of it - yes I bought an actual, physical CD - at the Louisiana Music Factory).  Incidentally, during the concert on Saturday night, I discovered to my very pleasant surprise that none other than my fellow Cuba/Nola-file friend Ned Sublette did the translation of the title track from Chico Buarque's original "Sobre Todas as Coisas."

The third "after hours" event that will remain with me for some time to come, and my personal favorite, was the Stooges Brass Band Thursday night jam that takes place every week at the Hi-Ho Lounge.  As you can see from the photo below, a pair of Cuban friends - Amaury Pacheco and Luis Eligio d'Omni of Omni-Zona Franca - had just arrived in town and were able to join us at the ear-ringing, high-energy event.

(You can check out their blog for their tour dates in NOLA, but I recommend their Thursday, April 19, 7:30 p.m. performance @ The Backyard Boogie, 215 South Clark Street,  Mid-City, contact e-mail: and phone: 504-616-1888).

While soaking up the wall of sound at the Hi-Ho, Omni gave the Stooges the best musical compliment possible when one of them screamed at me over the multiple blasting horns on stage and amid the frenzied footwork of the many dancers on the floor that he felt like he was back in Cuba (culturally speaking, of course)!

Finally, let me add this: As readers of El Yuma might remember, a few weeks ago I put up a 19-minute video interview (with English subtitles) that Yoani Sanchez did late last year with three members of Omni.  I also provided a link to the text of an extended Spanish-language interview she did with them back in 2007.  Well, now that first interview is available in English as:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Un Cubano Más - Eliecer Avila kicks off his new YouTube show

If you understand Cuban Spanish, just sit back and listen as Eliecer Avila holds forth with his incisive critiques about the Cuban press. However, as an aide to those who have trouble with those signature missing "esses," I have taken the liberty to transcribe, translate, and subtitle a small portion of this clip in English. This is a 1 minute, 40 second section that starts at 16:58, ending at 18:38.

If you're a Cuba watcher, you will remember that Eliecer first came to public attention when he took the mic in a public Q&A at Havana's UCI (University of Technology) with the President of the Cuban National Assembly Ricardo Alarcón and asked him a number of pointed and inconvenient questions about voting, travel, and Internet access.

In late November, 2011, he appeared on Twitter @Eliecer_Cuba and Estado de SATS did an extended interview with him here and here.  He even met up with Yoani Sánchez at her home on December 4 for coffee and conversation.  This is the impression he was left with as he stated on Twitter at the time:

"Today I visited the home of Yoani. I was impressed. You can just breathe the creativity, intelligence, love, respect, education, and faith."

Today, I discovered that he has just launched a new YouTube channel/program entitled "Un cubano más" (Just Another Cuban), where he takes digital media into his own hands and creates some hard-hitting citizen journalism. The topic of this first show is... you guessed it:

The Cuban Press.


Here's the portion of the video subtitled above:

"Not long ago, Cuba carried out... the government calls it "restructuring" of the labor force, where in the first phase - as I understand it - half-a-million workers were laid off.  And what really happened? No one protested?  Everyone was perfectly fine with the decision that they should lose their job?  Remember, we're not questioning whether or not it was necessary or not, or legitimate or not that Cuba restructure these posts, no, no, no...

We are talking about the fact that I have spoken personally with a mountain of people who feel very manipulated... who have been working for any number of years in support of what is called the "revolution," and now they are simply left out of work and, even worse, are not at all in agreement with what is going on.  And they have families to support.  They have wives, elderly relatives at home, children to support.

And all this has caused a problem for a good part of the people.  And where are these people marching?  Simply put, what has happened is that the culture of protest in Cuba is totally extinguished.

It's like the arms of the people have been taken from them.  The arms of popular struggle that the people can never lose.  Any other arms can be under control of the army.  But the right to protest, the right to express one's opinion in masse is an arm that the people can never relinquish because afterward, getting back that right is a problem."