Cuba is a fascinating place, especially its capital city, Havana. And if you wander its wayward streets. you’re sure to hear music. Cuban music pours out of bars, restaurants, clubs, sometimes just from a street corner. Most of the time it’s the distinctive Cuban jazz, with its stiff, moving rhythms and infectious Latin beat. Even if jazz is not your taste, it’s hard to resist.
Musicians seem to be everywhere in Havana. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I looked into an empty courtyard in the city’s historic district and found an older gentleman practising his art. The piano is no Steinway — in fact, one end is held up by a block of stone, possibly salvaged from some ancient wall. No stand for his sheet music? No problem, he’ll just use his old Panama hat. It’s the music that counts, not the equipment. And if the elegant old bench has a wonky leg, what of it? You can play music on three legs.
It was a random moment, but at the same time it seemed a perfect portrait of Cuban music. A lone musician playing for the joy of it, on whatever instrument he could find, in a setting that says “old Havana”. The wall and doorway, painted in Caribbean colours, were once bright and gay — now, a bit scuffed and faded. But if the surroundings had seen better days, the magic of Cuban music could fill them with life.
Hint: click on the photograph to see it full-size.