I remember being in Havana in February, 2016 and hearing a buzz about this band that was due to play there soon called “Major Lazer”. I was confused with the reverence people said the name since I had never heard of them myself. Well, it seemed as if I was not the only one in the dark as practically everyone on the island had the same dilemma, not for lack of trying but mainly due to lack of Internet. However, thanks to savvy marketing-“Cuban-style”- which meant downloading every Major Lazer track to “el paquete seminal” (translated as “the weekly package” -a curated collection of downloaded TV shows, movies, music and news that is distributed island-wide via a network of thumb drives) soon anticipation was building on this imminent free, outdoor show. And sure enough, by the time Florida-based Major Lazer hit the stage set up directly in front of the newly re-christened U.S Embassy (known up to then for the site of regular “anti-Imperialist” rallies and demonstrations) over 400,000 enthusiastic, young Cubans were now dancing and singing every word to the Major Lazer hits!
Major Lazer, as I have come to learn, is a Electronic Dance Music (EDM) trio of DJs and performers by the name of Diplo, Jillionaire and DJ Walshy Fire who thrive in bringing their musical collaboration (and mesmerizing dancers) to difficult-to-play destinations such as Islamadad, Pakistan and Caracas, Venezuela (as part of their aptly titled “Free the Universe” tour not to be confused with their current “Peace is the Mission” tour. Next stop? The United Nations?)
On March 6, 2016 Major Lazer climbed into a vintage Cuba taxi at the Hotel Nacional and made the tense, short drive to the “Tribunal” stage where the pulsating throng of concert-goers was getting dangerously impatient with the wait for the U.S. stars. When the trio finally sprinted on stage, a crowd the size of Woodstock lay in front of them as far as the eye could see-and beyond!
Fortunately for all of us who were not at the show, the band had the foresight to enlist film director, Austin Peters, to capture not only the concert but, perhaps more intriguing and insightful, the preparations for the concert from both a logistic and marketing point of view. While the film, entitled “Give me Future” was originally conceived as a concert film it quickly deviates into an exploration of Cuban youth and musical culture which is rich and constantly on the cusp of an exciting breakout. It turns out, most of their external source of information and influences are, in fact, from the weekly “paquete”.
The end product of Major Lazer’s “Give Me Future” is succinctly summed up in a Vice interview by Peters: “Our movie is about empathy, about people coming together, about unity”. And the film delivers all of this and more.
Featuring local acts such as Orishas (why their song “Represent” is not a Number-One-Hit-with-a-bullet is beyond me) and Osain del Monte, the concert throws many crowd-pleasing musical acts at the appreciative crowd while the cameras did their best to capture the essence of the event.
It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the teeming mass of acceptance and adulation of all Major Lazer could possibly fit on the stage during a single performance.
See the film for yourself on Apple Music and elsewhere.
A. J. Twist is a Montreal-based travel writer who is working diligently on his first EDM hit. Ajtwist@me.com
“Give Me Future: Major Lazer in Cuba (2017)”