Hang Loose spread the love in Cuba's rock scene 
 by Sandy Phimester
 
 
Part 2
Canadian photography, Sandy Phimester provides a fascinating portrait of life on the back of the bus in Cuba touring with Canadian rock band, Hang Loose aspart of Solidarity Rock’s effort to spread the love in rock & roll Cuban style. This was his second piece he wrote and you can see a clear evolution from the first band he took to Cuba.


 
 

Going back to Cuba for a third time in less than a year makes me think, long and hard about what is really going on there with Solidarity Rock. But I think it’s more than that, it’s figuring out our future, as a whole, and as individuals. When we go there, it’s like being brought into a different family, often we sit around the table and share our stories and our thoughts, we are made to feel very much a part of something that a lot of tourists never get to even get a glimpse of, let alone experience. I feel honored by that, I feel lucky… very lucky. I simply cannot express how it feels, it is very much like having a home away from home. Where do things go from here? Well, we shall see, we will work it out together.

We all spend a lot of time on the tour bus, luckily it’s large, and has lots of room) for everyone and the gear. It’s often a time of peace, a time to catch up on sleep, or listen to music and stare endlessly out the window at all the things that pass us by. At other times it’s when we can all have a great discussion and share a lot of laughs, it’s a safe place that we all feel comfortable with, I know I’ve been so thankful for it on many occasions.
It’s not just all-new for the Canadians on the trip either, a few of the Cuban musicians had never really been on a tour bus before, or played very much in other parts of Cuba. You could tell that it was something special to get on that bus and hit the road; you could feel that, a very tangible sense of excitement and adventure. When we left Cuba, one of the musicians had said, “We’re going to the Airport? I’ve never been to one before”, I guess that makes sense, and puts things into perspective a little bit. Things are very different…

A few of my favorite moments have been experienced while driving at night back from a show, staring out at the ocean while the moonlight reflects delicately on the water, talking in the dark with the windows down, the fresh humid air rushing in. Talking about life, when we were kids, the places we always wanted to go, where we had been and why it was always so special to us. Hearing stories of visiting the ocean or going camping in the mountains from the Cuban friends, and our stories, which seem so similar in many ways… It’s wonderful. I truly enjoy this time on the bus.

The live shows were pretty incredible and the language of punk rock and rock are truly universal and I think that no real barriers can exist when you break it down into its finest elements. Everyone loves to rock out and express themselves in their own way. I’ve said it before, but the amount of audience participation at the shows is quite wonderful, back home it’s not so often that you see a large group of people really rocking out at the live shows. In Cuba, it seems to be the norm, for what reason I can’t really say, but it sure puts a lot of energy in the room, the whole venue just feels alive. People truly seem appreciative of this sort of thing, it’s something special, and I’m sure that notion is not lost on anyone involved.

It was HOT, like… HOT! With humidity, some days it was hovering around +50c! One day that we spent on the beach (the only day) nearly sent a few of us into some serious trouble with heat stroke. It was unrelenting at times, everyone was a sweaty mess most of the time, except our Cuban friends, who definitely disliked the extreme heat but did not seem nearly as physically battered by it as we were. The word we used to describe it was oppressive, it was an attack from early morning to late at night. Even at live shows the heat would take its toll, you drink a lot more water than you’d ever think you could.

Things have been moving quickly since the last trip earlier this year, we’ve been dreaming up some really great plans for the future, and I’m just overwhelmed with how important and personally touching this has been for me. I’ve made some life long friends out of this, and had a glimpse into a whole other world of possibilities when it comes to passion and creativity.
Since the last trip, Drew has helped send down many more instruments and music supplies, which were promptly taken away by authorities when they arrived, but the Solidarity Rock movement has been gaining so much steam that after some talks and local pressure, the gear was released and given back to the folks who need it most. All is well!
In one month from now we will be embarking on the biggest tour yet, with a band from Vancouver, Vicious Cycles, and the plans we have once we are down there are going to be incredible (let’s hope it all works out!).
Cuba is a very beautiful place, the people we have made connections with are truly some of the kindest souls I’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing, we’ve all helped each other so much, it’s hard to imagine life without this.

About Solidarity Rock
Solidarity Rock is an artist run organization working to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond.  It was started by Drew in 2007. 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, raise awareness and funds, and collect gear they might not need anymore.  A patch cord, guitar strings, an old amp, a bass, drum pieces, no donation is too great or small! The equipment is taken down 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.
For more information please go to http://www.sandyphimester.com

Hang Loose spread the love in Cuba's rock scene
February 2011
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