Cuba's digital destination
by Victoria Alcalá
After The Beatles broke up, we were left with The Rolling Stones as the most important rock band in the world. In the 1990s, they became a pretty powerful musical empire, difficult to ignore. After over 50 years, they are the oldest active rock and roll group on the planet today, having entertained several generations of fans who cover a broad range of musical tastes.
Raw, often scandalous lyrics doing nothing to cover up sexual desires or pithy criticisms, protesting against the status quo and stereotypical morals, basically uncomplicated structures with frequent repetitions, undeniably original and imaginative, the magical combo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards is responsible for all that. Onstage, Jagger’s sinuous energy, the explosive bass guitar maneuvers of Ronnie Wood, Keith’s iconic intensity and the sure touch of Charlie Watts on drums have mesmerized millions on countless tours through a long list of countries over the years, proof of the band’s acceptance by different cultures. Add to that the seductive backup singer Sasha Allen and a handful of excellent musicians and the result is their legendary mix of jazz, blues, rock and roll, hard rock, punk and experiments with funk, reggae, gospel, country and electronic music, incorporating wind and brass instruments, orchestras and choirs. It is a hypnotic spectacle punctuated by lights and innovative graphics on the huge screens and marvelous sound and special effects. This group has assimilated changes and created a legacy that encapsulates everything popular modern music has been able to come up with for half a century.
When I first heard that Mick Jagger was on a visit to Havana and rumors started floating around about a Stones concert in Havana, I knew for sure that my true-blue “Historical Event” was about to happen and I would be able to see and hear the biggest musical show ever. As if in a dream, the official announcement was made and the Ciudad Deportiva started to be transformed into the scenario, with the stage growing day by day before the eyes of amazed passersby and anxious fans as if it was part of some fairy tale.
And so it happened: The Stones came to Cuba to play a single, free, over two-hour long concert. The crowds walking along Santa Catalina Street reminded you of First of May parades. The audience covered three, maybe four, generations and there were visitors from around the world, some carrying the flags of their countries (or even of other countries). Everyone wanted to be there to experience the 1,300 kilos of sound that would let the festivities be enjoyed in precise tone and volume anywhere on the grounds and in their close proximity.
In a mood of peaceful euphoria, teenagers interacted with their youthful panache as they watched in amazement the joy of the “veterans”—some with long hair and most with grey hair—flying the peace symbol and sedately (or less sedately) moving along with the rhythm. Grandparents may have arrived with their canes but soon they were unable to stay completely still or to refrain from singing along. We heard that half a million people were there that night, dancing, singing, shouting and crying. A few fainted but nothing serious marred the occasion.
Veni, vidi, vici: the Rolling Stones came and conquered but we, who have always loved them and who have waited for them for over 50 years, saw them and came out the real winners!