Written by 11:57 am Music

Carlos Varela & the Freedom of a Woodcutter With out a Forest

Carlos Varela on the Ciudad Deportiva

By Jose Leandro Garbey Castillo (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – It’s the Havana World Music festival (May 19-21) on the Ciudad Deportiva. It’s my first Carlos Varela concert after so a few years of waiting.

It’s about to show midnight and also you barely see anything just thirty meters away from the stage. Lights. A number of drinks. Nearby, two girls take a selfie to upload to their Instagram stories. Two lovers kiss one another energetically to the beat of the music. Just a few people buy beer. So much. Right behind my seat, three 30-year-olds, two girls and a man, sing. The song Siete plays. They cry.

Those of us present could all tell a story of a family divided by politics, the story of a friend or a frustrated lover that’s heading for the US’ southern border. A story of censorship, of intolerance or not very much hope. It’s Carlos Varela’s Cuba, my Cuba, the Cuba of lots of those present, mostly young people.

Varela connects his music to many generations of Cubans, like only a few artists know the best way to do. Perhaps that’s due to the rattling paradox that his generation’s problems at the moment are our own. Perhaps even worse. It’s the sensation of continuity. The truth of a rustic that’s drifting within the ebb and flow of a political game where we’re nothing greater than pawns. The sentiment of generations who’ve suffered the implications of intolerance on either side of this cemetery that’s the Florida Strait. Bitterness that has been sown.

Our inheritance. This burden that we’re forced to hold on our shoulders, possibly even looking like we’re willing to hold it, but we don’t wish to. A minimum of we don’t. Much less so today.

His latest song, La feria de los tontos, triggers euphoria amongst those present. A lady moves her lips along to the unbridled chanting of those round her. She doesn’t know the words. She probably hasn’t ever listened to the music of a singer who has been singing concerning the same thing for over thirty years: an island and its demons.

“They made us all crazy, hoping for a dream, a broken dream!” They sing. She likes it. She smiles.

In accordance with many individuals present, because the song played on, the police began to crowd across the platform. Minutes later, just a couple of meters from where we were standing, any individual shouted “libertad” (freedom). Tons of followed. Most people within the Ciudad Deportiva did. Others clapped. The police remained stunned, shocked. Such a display of insubordination is out of their hands. A small act of rebel. Cries in a mute city. Deeply spontaneous, temporarily free. 

In today’s Cuba, libertad is a demonized word; perhaps essentially the most prostituted and manipulated word. It’s a term that’s capable of provoke an almost obsessive and irrational fear in certain minds. How could they not be afraid of the cry of a whole lot of young individuals who, at a concert, with alcohol running through their veins, are capable of speak about freedom?

They didn’t see it coming. They were afraid. I’m sure. You may sense it. They didn’t cordon off the space between the steps and stage for no reason. Greater police presence outside once we left wasn’t for no reason either. Tension.

Probably for several years, most people present won’t find a way to go to a different Carlos Varela concert in Havana. Emigration is a cancer that spreads and eats away and bleeds the country dry. Cuba is a frail country that you simply only visit every year to see your elderly parents. My friends also want to depart. They like “to be forgotten before being taken for a idiot.” We’re one other generation of woodcutters and not using a forest.

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