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On the road in Cuba with Solidarity Rock

This year a group of enthused Canadians went to Cuba for the first tour across Cuba by a Cuban rock band, a defining moment in rock and roll history, in Cuba and beyond.

If you know anything about Cuba, then you know that this is no small feat.  A Canadian punk band from Winnipeg, Kids on Fire, in partnership with the new Winnipeg chapter of Solidarity Rock had been staging benefit shows.  These shows raised the funds required to get Kids on Fire to Cuba and to facilitate the joint Canadian/Cuban tour of the country.

We toured in a huge old school bus painted all over with amazing political images.   A far cry from donkey and cart, we spent 11 days in it, traveling Cuba with two punk rock bands. The Cuban band is Arrabio, I’d describe as great band mixing punk rock and classic heavy metal.

Our home base was Sancti Spiritus, a wonderful place that up until only two years ago was called “a sleepy little city with not much happening in it” by the tour guides.  Now, the same travel books hail it as “a cultural hub that is a place for musicians and artists to gather”. What a difference some gear and some courage make.

The town is amazing.  We’d meet every day around noon in the main square for lots of laughs and many fresh beers to formulate plans for the day. It was a ritual, and it felt like home. We had our casa particulares, two people per place, and it was like having a second little family. So friendly, so much respect and a ton of smiles. Lots of good food too.

It’s hard to write down all of my experiences there: the park during the evenings, meeting new people, Ten cent pizzas, the music, the bus, the wacky folks we met, the cheap alcohol (oh jeez), a couple of goof-off days on the beach, the cities, the shows, the venues, the beaming sun and +42C weather, and most importantly the new friends we made.

It all boils down to the people you share things with. Don’t let me forget a tour bus full of people yelling “super hambergasa!” over and over and over… and ovVisit Siteer, while the Cuban’s around us look at us like total aliens.  The stories are endless.

I did all the rocking out I could; I went into incredibly crazy mosh pits with my camera to get some shots.  I dangled myself out the bus window, stayed up late and made life long friends.  I guess it was just a lot of things all going on at once. I’ll never forget any of it.

 

About Solidarity Rock

Solidarity Rock is an artist run organization working to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond. The core of the movement is to help rock and roll thrive in Cuba.   Sure, rock and roll has been there.  But not too long ago, being a punk rocker, a metal head, a rocker, was discouraged.

Solidarity Rock, with the support of Canadian musicians, hold benefit shows to raise awareness and funds, and collect gear they might not need anymore.  A patch cord, guitar strings, an old amp, drum pieces; no donation is too great or small! The equipment is taken to Cuba and distributed to the people who need it the most.

In the past, something as simple as a guitar string could put an entire band on hold for a few weeks, while phone calls were made across the province(s) in Cuba looking for someone who might have a solution. While that is still the case in some parts of Cuba, things are changing, a lot. There is now equipment for bands to share, and people have access to music and expression like never before.  The initiative has been a huge success.

Sandy Phimester

Canadian photography, Sandy Phimester provides a fascinating portrait of life on the back of the bus in Cuba touring with Canadian punk rock band, Kids on Fire and Cuban punk rock band Arrabioas part of Solidarity Rock’s effort to spread the love in rock & roll Cuban style.

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