Cuba, el ombligo del mundo

Any words I could write about the videos here would be superfluous if you experience some of the videos for yourself. If you don’t experience any of the videos (which hopefully will endure on the Internet), then my words about them would be pointless for you. What you would see here is music and musicians fulfilling their highest calling.


Soy Todo (Ay Dios Ampárame)
(Mario “Mayito” Rivera, Miami Arena 1999, 10:21)

Temba, tumba y timba
(Mario “Mayito” Rivera, Miami 1999, 10:00)

Después de todo (2004)
(Yeni Valdés, 8:49)

Anda, ven y quiéreme (2004)

Me mantengo (2011)
(5:49, a very nice commercial for dance lessons)

Los Van Van – Miami Arena (1999)
(2:12:52, the concert)

PAZ SIN FRONTERAS, 20 Septiembre 2009

Paz Sin Fronteras – Final (Chan Chan) – Los Van Van, y todos los cantantes.
Peace Without Borders – Finale (Chan Chan) – Los Van Van, and all the singers.
(10:59, end of concert on 20 September 2009)

Paz Sin Fronteras 2009 – (Almost full concert)
(2:23:49; this video mainly shows the non-Cuban singers and bands)
Live concert in Havana before an audience of 1,150,000 people.
Singers/acts shown in this video:
Olga Tañón (0-35), Puerto Rico merengue
X Alfonso (35-41) funk-rhythm chorus (Cuba)
Dani Rivera (41-44:50) Latino blues
Juan Fernando Velasco (44:50-49:20) (Ecuador)
Amaury Pérez (49:20-55:00) Bolero-son
Víctor Manuel (from Spain, not shown)
Miguel Bosé (55:00-1:00:00) (Spain)
Jovanotti (1:00:00-1:12:02) Funk Italiano; Cuba = “Ombligo del mundo” (“Navel of the world”)
Cucu Diamante y Yerba Buena (Cuba, not shown)
Orishas (1:12:02-1:20:40) Cuban rap
Juanes (1:20:40-1:44:00) Cumbia-rock, trova/ballad, cumbia (Colombia)
Juanes y Miguel Bosé (1:44:00-1:58:25) “Tiempo de cambiar,” “Time to change” (el odio por amór)
Silvio Rodríguez (Cuba, not shown)
Luis Eduardo Aute (not shown)
Carlos Varela (not shown)
Los Van Van (Juan Formell, Mario “Mayito” Rivera, y todos) (1:58:25-2:06:00)
Finale (Los Van Van, and everybody, “Chan Chan”; 2:06:00-2:23:49)
Olga Tañón and Miguel Bosé in tears (2:19:40-2:20:25)

Cucu Diamante & Yerba Buena – Paz Sin Fronteras
(9:31, Cuban act from Paz Sin Fronteras concert, not shown 2 hour video above)

Silvio Rodríguez – Paz Sin Fronteras – Septiembre 21 2009
(9:01; Cuban act from Paz Sin Fronteras concert, not shown in 2 hour video above)

Los Van Van – Paz Sin Fronteras – Cuba 09-20-09
(10:45; Los Van Van performances not shown in 2 hour video above)
(9:56; Los Van Van, continuation of above, and then into the finale)

El día en que la música tomó la Plaza de la Revolución
Cuba 20/sep/2009


Olga Tañón -En su 1era. Presentación en T.V. (16 años de edad)

Olga Tañon – Vivo La Vida (2015)


L’Estate Addosso – Video Ufficiale – Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini
(3:52; 2015)

Jovanotti – Paz Sin Fronteras – Yo pienso positivo – #1
(4:08; has good intro by Jovanotti, but cuts off coda, in English, of song)

Jovanotti – Paz Sin Fronteras – Yo pienso positivo – #2
(5:02; cuts off Jovanotti’s intro, but has conclusion of song)


If Bernie is Impossible You’re Old

If you remember the 1960s, or studied them in one of your ancient history classes in college day-care, you will recall: “don’t trust anyone over 30.” This piece is somewhat along the same lines, from someone on Medicare.

Typical readers of left wing websites (like the lively Counter Punch) may feel that Bernie Sanders “is pulling his punches” with regard to countering Hillary Clinton’s campaign hysterics (and their echoes in the NYT and similar organs of the apparatchikarchy). But, Bernie (and his campaign tacticians) may in fact be calibrating his fire just right. There are overwhelmingly more Americans who are not so politically turbocharged as the Internet Leftists, and the present level of intensity of Bernie’s rhetoric seems to be very effective at waking them up and drawing them in. A more strident presentation by Bernie now might strike the blacks, women and middle-of-the-roaders in the Carolinas (and beyond) as insulting and off-putting (as for instance Trump’s attacks are for many despite their sympathy with his politics).

Bernie is an experienced politician (get over it) and like a cobra knows it is important to keep his limited amount of venom in reserve, and to not spit it all out against lesser provocations early in the hunt, but to save it for a fatal strike nearer the end of the chase, and at the crescendo of the drama. Many of the Republicans and Hillary now look increasingly impotent because they spit out big wads of their venom early, which were quickly seen by the public to be ineffective (lies, hissy fits, clumsy fumbles), and these failures shifted the public image of such candidates from being powerful leaders to being bumblers and pathetic losers.

Bernie is doing so well in corralling the public consciousness because he is pursuing his own agenda as regards delivering his message, rather than allowing himself to be distracted and diverted into taking red herring poisoned bait tossed in his path by the despairing Clintonites. In brief, in this election cycle Bernie’s campaign is the most successful of any candidate so far (he must be doing something right), AND there is still a long way to go.

Bernie Sanders is younger than most politicians, pundits (whether unpaid freelance amateurs or professional touts), lobbyists, and professionals of every sort: the people who are all set, the people whose youth is behind them. Sanders is like Michael Moore in this regard (see “Where To Invade Next”). Like the childish youth who didn’t need a weatherman to tell them which way the wind blew in 1989, and chiseled away at the Berlin Wall, Sanders is like all kids when told by mommy and daddy “no, you can’t do that” and asks: “Why not?” Is there some law of physics preventing it? It is obvious why he carries the youth vote: anyone with any future yet to be achieved wants to support a politics that favors their aspirations in the here and now.

The insurmountable barriers seen by the people who are all set — people who criticize or oppose Bernie — are entirely mental ones, an inertia anchored in place by habits and “investments,” both of money and ego. I have children aged between 16 and 34, and I view the political scene through the potentialities for their futures, as do they. It’s not about old me or the satisfaction of my sophisticated political tastes.

If the sclerotic politburo of the Democratic Party ultimately thwarts progress and puts Hillary up as the candidate, I’ll vote for Jill Stein. There are still 9 months to go before I have to consider that; much can happen between now and then.

If Bernie is ultimately sidelined, his movement won’t actually go away because the “movers,” the “youth” who still want futures (my children included), will still be there. They (we) will just shift to other vehicles to carry on the fight.

Bernie has already done a lot, many millions of people have been awakened: fire is ours.

Fire Is Ours


Left Conservatives Under Right Progressives

To me, Bernie Sanders is a democratic socialist conservative pragmatist. I explain what I mean by this four-part label in the following article, originally published at on 3 December 2012.


Left Conservatives under Right Progressives

This is an essay in analytical politics. In it I present a precise terminology for describing the general forms that the political orientation of a collectivity or an individual can assume in regard to national and international affairs.

The model to be presented allows any political tendency to be classified in a linguistically simple, conceptually clear manner, and it allows for making comparisons among all the varieties of politics and politicians at large today, and recorded by history. This is possible because only a small number of archetypes of political orientation are used, which are analogous to the genus and family units in the Linnaean taxonomy of biology. As with the Linnaean system, the purpose of this political taxonomy is to bring order and clarity to a topic usually clouded with partisan obfuscation.

Definition of Political Orientation

Any political orientation is composed of four factors, labeled as: power, economy, engagement, and character.


The form in which political power is held in a collectivity, such as a nation state, is determined by its degree of concentration, which will occur within a range of possibilities bracketed by dictatorship and anarchy. I collapse all the complexities by allowing for only two opposing forms: authoritarian and democratic.


The economy of any society is a political statement of the balance of power of the constituencies within that society; it is the structure determining the cycles of production and consumption, and the distribution of benefits and costs. The relationship of the individual to the society is characterized by two parameters: equality and freedom.

Economically, each individual is a person with some accumulation of personal wealth and property. An individual can either be burdened with or relieved of social responsibilities, and his or her accumulation can be taxed, or untaxed, or augmented by the collectivity, all depending on the specific nature of this individual’s relationship to the collectivity.

Equality characterizes the degree of social responsibility the individual has to the collectivity.

Freedom characterizes the degree of liberty the individual has to dispose of his or her accumulation.

Equality is measured by the degree of socialism in the society, which is the degree to which accumulation is bound to social responsibilities, and need is alleviated by public support.

Freedom is measured by the degree of liberality of the society, which is the degree to which accumulation is free of public responsibilities, and need is left to personal responsibility and charity.

The economic factor of any particular political orientation is assigned to one of two general types: socialist or liberal.

An economic outlook characterized as socialist has a greater proportion of equality (social responsibility) than an economic outlook characterized as liberal (economic liberty), in which freedom is dominant.


While the economy describes the internal or domestic structure of a political collectivity (whether a real society or an individual’s idealization), the attitude of that collectivity toward the rest of the world is termed its engagement.

A society reticent to engage with the rest of the world and preferring to withdraw from it is isolationist, while a society eager to expand its influence in the wider world, and which is forward with its diplomacy, trade and military force, is internationalist.

The isolationist attitude is anti-interventionist, anti-imperialist, anti-war, and fundamentally conservative.

The internationalist attitude has a tendency to be interventionist, imperialist, expansionist, and is fundamentally progressive.

Conservative engagement is that which seeks to preserve the insularity of the domestic realm from international turmoil, to minimize conflicts with foreigners, and to focus political effort into the consolidation of power in the domestic realm.

Progressive engagement is that which seeks to change the existing international order to the advantage of an actively outgoing political collectivity. Internationalist societies can export their domestic political ambitions and problems in the form of a foreign policy — diplomacy plus commerce or war — seeking “advantages” by reshaping (moving, or progressing) international norms and the international order.


A political orientation is a guide for personal action, so how do individuals act politically? This fourth factor is determined by personal character, which is limited to three types in this model, those of the: ideologue, pragmatist, and opportunist.


This is a person with principles, which could be either humanistic (e.g., abolitionist, Marxist socialism) or inhumane (e.g., slavery, fascist socialism), and who could be seen as either admirably firm in advocating for these principles even against contrary public opinion, or as obtusely rigid in disregarding human needs while seeking to impose an ideology upon society. Uncompromising.


This is also a person with a set of principles and a political orientation aimed at actualizing those principles. However, this type of individual is politically flexible, adjusting tactics to suit the circumstances of the moment in the effort to best approach the motivating ideals, both in the near term and further future. Willing to compromise.


This is the self-centered careerist who makes Machiavellian use of people and ideas to acquire power and wealth. The opportunist is free of the restrictions imposed by principles, so finds it easy to espouse allegiances and then dispose of them by betrayal as is expedient. Unprincipled.

Political Orientations

The political orientation of any collectivity is one of eight types determined by the specific values of its power, economy and engagement factors:



The political orientation of an individual is given by one of the eight triads just described, expanded into a quartet with the addition of the character factor set to one of its three possible values: ideologue, pragmatist, opportunist, and which are identified by the labels i, p, o, respectively.


Authoritarian socialist conservatives:
Joseph Stalin (o), Mao Zedong (i), Fidel Castro (i).

Authoritarian socialist progressives:
Leon Trotsky (i), Adolph Hitler (o), Che Guevara (i).

Authoritarian liberal conservatives:
Francisco Franco (o), Augusto Pinochet (o), China since Deng Xiaoping (o).

Authoritarian liberal progressives:
Roman Caesars (o), Napoleon Bonaparte (o), Imperial Japan 1932-1945 (o).

Democratic socialist conservatives:
Eugene V. Debs (i), Noam Chomsky (i), Willy Brandt (p).

Democratic socialist progressives:
George Orwell (p), J. Robert Oppenheimer (p), leftists for responsibility to protect (R2P) (p).

Democratic liberal conservatives:
Charles de Gaulle (i), Georges Pompidou (p), Ron Paul (i).

Democratic liberal progressives:
Winston Churchill (p), J. F. Kennedy (i), Ronald Reagan (i), G. W. Bush (o).

Conservative versus Progressive Wars

Conservative States confine their military deployments and wars to their domestic realms (as civil wars or defense against invasion), and to the countries or “buffer zones” just past their borders. Most nation states are of this type, and notable examples during the twentieth century were the U.S.S.R., the People’s Republic of China, and Iran.

Progressive States have (or had) large navies, such as: Periclean Athens, the British Empire, the U.S.A., and Imperial Japan; or they initiated wide-ranging military expeditions, such as by Imperial Rome, Napoleonic France, and Nazi Germany.

Authoritarian conservatives have been responsible for a great deal of bloody repression, and authoritarian progressives have been responsible for a great deal of aggressive warfare.

Democratic Tendencies

Left Isolationists

Democratic socialist conservatives form the largest contingent of the political left in the United States (and perhaps Europe) today, the anti-interventionists. This orientation looks back with dismay at the UN and NATO military interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya, and opposes any such intervention in the Syrian Civil War now raging.

Left Internationalists

Democratic socialist progressives can support the resort to military interventions on the R2P principle, the “responsibility to protect” unarmed populations in immediate danger of attack, or under such attack, by armed forces of any kind including that of their own government. R2P is an evolving international norm, and all its applications to date have been controversial. Left Internationalists believe the principle behind R2P is correct, “preventing and halting mass atrocity crimes,” and that it is worth making the effort to bring more of the world into compliance with civilized political behavior. Ultimately, in terms of social evolution such an advance would be comparable to the abolition of legal slavery worldwide.

Right Isolationists

Democratic liberal conservatives, like Ron Paul and the Libertarians in the United States, want freedom from government regulations and release from tax liabilities. Since they are most sensitively attached to their accumulations they painfully feel the expenditure of public funds domestically as “welfare” and internationally as “adventurism.” They are anti-war anti-federalists, liberal isolationists, hence liberal conservatives.

Right Internationalists

Democratic liberal progressives include George W. Bush and the “neocons,” who propelled the United States into the Iraq War. Since nothing is more radical in terms of trying to progress or move international politics than to launch wars, the GWB bunch were radical progressives.

Such an identification only appears surprising to people indoctrinated by the broadcasts on US politics by corporate mass media, with grossing misleading labels. The GWB bunch were very liberal economically, as they created a huge public debt burden by major tax reductions on large accumulations, and by enormous expenditures for wars.

The G. W. Bush Administration was entirely one of economically liberal progressives, and not as usually mislabeled “social conservatives” (actually: reactionaries), “fiscal conservatives” (actually: liberals) and “political conservatives” (actually: radicals); reactionary liberal radicals.

The lies about our politics begin immediately with its mislabeling.

The Contemporary American Scene

The United States today is a democratic liberal progressive state, locked into that orientation by the overwhelming political power of incorporated accumulations, which favor inequitable freedom, and collectively sponsor the anti-parliamentarian bipartisan electoral system.

The essence of the presidential election of 2012 is that voters were limited to choosing between Barack Obama’s pragmatism and Mitt Romney’s opportunism. Neither the form of the nation’s economy nor the degree of its engagement were open to electoral influence.

The post-election dismay of the defeated Mitt Romney and the dominantly older white male would-be authoritarian liberals he personifies is that of ideologues and opportunists who find themselves trapped in a multi-cultural democracy with a popular preference for democratic socialist conservatism.

The illusion of democratic socialist conservatives who were co-opted to support the Democratic Party in the recent election, instead of building up a democratic socialist “third party,” is that despite Barack Obama being a liberal progressive, his pragmatism offered the possibility of advancing popular socialist conservative aspirations, by the workings of Obama’s assumed political flexibility from a position of electoral strength.

The disdain of the deeper left democratic socialist conservatives who rejected Democratic Party co-optation, and saw only differences of appearance and not of substance between Obama’s pragmatism and Romney’s opportunism, led them to support the Green Party, or the Peace And Freedom Party, or to boycott the election.

Given the containment of the dominant popular preference on political economy, by an elite with an opposing political orientation, we can say that the United States is a nation of left conservatives under right progressives.


I wish to acknowledge Michael Neumann, professor of philosophy at Trent University at Ontario, Canada, who spurred my thinking on themes entwined in this essay. [But don’t blame him for the result.]


Bernie Sanders’ (and our) “revolution” is about the left conservatives (the 99%) throwing over the right progressives (the 1%).

Left Conservatives Under Right Progressives
3 December 2012

12 February 2016 is the 207th birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

‘Splaining Bernie to Charles M. Blow

Dear Mr. Charles M. Blow (,

This letter is in response to your Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, on 10 February 2016,

Stop Bernie-Splaining to Black Voters
10 February 2016

[The NYT endorsed Hillary Clinton on 31 January 2016]

In response to your article:

Younger people of all types are not as tied to the political traditions and habits of the past as are their elders, primarily those over 45, and today’s high-earning professionals for whom the status quo is just fine. There are many young black faces in the enthusiastic crowds Bernie Sanders draws.

Young blacks are most likely to think for themselves as regards candidate appeals, as is true of young women, who overwhelmingly support Bernie (most recently in the New Hampshire primary), despite the “instructions” given them by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright, because for today’s young women the point of women’s lib was to free them to think and act for themselves instead of robotically obeying old programming that required them to vote solely on the basis of gender (and more generally, to submit to instruction from “authority”).

So, I agree that it is counterproductive for Bernie supporters to “splain” to black Americans: the young ones don’t need it (and most of these will vote for Bernie, I bet), and the older ones (supporting Clinton) aren’t going to be convinced and contradict a lifetime of political habit. Unfortunately for the country, the Clintons have been able to exploit that traditional black political loyalty, which you described in your article.

My hope is that older people will think of their children’s and grandchildren’s futures when considering how to vote. To me, Bernie Sanders is the obvious best choice based on that consideration. But, I have come to realize that it is impossible (at least for me) to convince anyone about anything political because everyone wants to “think” for themselves, and because I have found that people, generally, believe what they want to believe, regardless of logic and facts.

You might find the following article interesting, about the different potentialities to the American political economy that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton represent. Forwarding this article is as far as I’ll go in “splaining” Bernie.

Why Bernie vs Hillary Matters More Than People Think
5 February 2016

Kind regards,


Update: an interesting new article by Benjamin Studebaker

Why Bernie Sanders is More Electable Than People Think
by Benjamin Studebaker
10 February 2016


On: “Is Bernie Sanders a Socialist?”

William Blum, (and then) Manuel García, Jr.

On Feb 5, 2016, Bill Blum ( wrote:

Anti-Empire Report, February 5, 2016

Blum’s discussion of Sanders, in the above, was published by Counter Punch:

Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?



“It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States.” [Bill Blum]

This is the essential fact that I came to long ago. I think this a universal truth, like “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is probably embedded in our genetic coding. Richard Dawkins’ book “The Selfish Gene” would lead you to that realization.

Ambrose Bierce wrote “Politics, n. strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” After having read Dawkins, one could put the adjective “selfish” in front of “interests” in Bierce’s definition, though it is a bit redundant.

On your earlier points about short memory and/or attention span in public political speech, John Kenneth Galbraith said: “Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.” In his day this was understood to be irony.

I found the writings of Toni Judt (1948-2010) to be the clearest on the use to the labels “socialist” versus “social democrat,” and the value of applying that political approach in the U.S. (the closest to it now in the U.S. is Bernie).

Judt was a historian of the 20th century, he grew up in a Jewish Marxist Eastern European family that emigrated to England, and he benefited from post WWII English socialism to become a university scholar and writer, eventually teaching at NYU. Judt was superb.

If the insights and attitudes that Judt represented could become mainstream in this country then it wouldn’t require a WWII-type holocaust to reorient the U.S. social fabric.

Kind regards,


Hi Manuel,

I found the writings of Toni Judt to be the clearest on the use to the labels “socialist” versus “social democrat,” and the value of applying that political approach in the U.S. (the closest to it now in the U.S. is Bernie). [MG,Jr.]

He’s the closest to what? An example of the uncertainty surrounding the two concepts?



Judt’s point is that the word “socialist” is too prejudiced in the American public mind (from decades of anti-communist propaganda) as equal to “communist” = “bad” = dictatorial = enslaving. Rather than fruitlessly trying to correct this imprinted misrepresentation, Judt believed American style “social democrats” should use that label, and emphasize their preference for popular democracy (as opposed to Citizens’ United style corporate “democracy” = oligarchy), which was aimed for social benefit.

The social democracy that reigned in Western Europe from 1945 to 1975 was demonstrably the most successful form of socialism ever practiced, where it is clearly understood that it was a “compromise,” it was capitalism restrained by socialist goals.

The fundamental point here is that political pragmatism motivated by socialist ideals has been proven to work for the good of many millions of people for at least three decades: “social democracy.” On the other hand, the imposition of ideological purity on populations (in the name of a higher and future good) was a failure that has poisoned the words “communist” and “socialist” in billions of minds around the world.

The quibbling by comfortable armchair leftists about whether Bernie Sanders is a “real” socialist or not is just silly. He is obviously a social democrat of the classic European post WWII mold, and that is by far the best alternative now realistically available to the American electorate.

“In a land without sheep, a goat is a prized possession.”

Manuel Garcia, Jr.


My comments above are also my response to the articles below (also from 5 February 2016).

When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine

Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign


In Conclusion:

Hillary Clinton is the past, she is the candidate of the people who run the country (the parasites of the status quo).

Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the people who are the country, and of the generation that will be the country for the next three to four decades.

Bernie Sanders has accomplished what no leftist and ultra-leftist organization, big or small, has been able to do since at least the presidential campaign of George McGovern, and probably since the Great Depression: motivate millions of Americans to become politically active for a socialist agenda (an agenda of “social democracy”).

The carping by ideologues to the orthodox far left from Sanders only highlights how far removed from reality they remain, where reality in this case means having any significant impact on the pubic political consciousness, and any practical effect in causing some substantive improvement in the lives of the American people.

As Jorge Semprún (1923-2011) learned from an old communist wise man, when they were both imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, dialectical materialism “is the art and technique of always landing on your feet.” The criticisms of Sanders by leftist ideologues strikes me as a nervous dance in which the authors are trying to arrive at positions they can later point to as justified by the subsequent course of events (“I told you so.”). But, as they haven’t a clue as to what that course of events will be, they are either nervously equivocal and prolix, or stridently sarcastic to cloak that nervousness: will they land on their feet?

The hundreds of millions of Americans who work for a living, struggle to raise families, and desperately want a fairer political economy that is not a myriad of interlocking rip-offs that feed off of them are showing themselves ready to listen to the message of Bernie Sanders. They are not concerned with leftist orthodoxy and ideological purity, they want pragmatic social democracy now. Also, they have zero interest in the nuanced critiques of avocational leftists who are anxious to land on the feet, whatever happens.

From Son Cubano to Cowboy Rumba

I just love the sound of the musical instrument the tres in traditional Cuban music, the son de Oriente.

Pancho Amat: Cuba’s Tresero Mayor

Tresero: Pepito Domingo

Hear how elegantly the tres is played in the following performances (El Carretero, Bachata Rosa, Lágrimas Negras) by the trio Son del Patio (all wonderful musicians). ¡Arriba guajiro!

Tresero: Ernesto Luis Gil

For the guitaristas among you who may be intrigued by the tres, here is a tutorial:

How to play Lágrimas Negras on the Tres Cubano

Lágrimas Negras has come a long way since Miguel Matamoros wrote it in 1925. Here is a live version (from 2015) at the Bodeguita del Medio (where I ate a lunch — moros y cristianos — in 1959/1960), in La Habana, Cuba. If you like flute playing, and a mixed group of instrumentalists and singers, you will enjoy this.

Lágrimas Negras – La Bodeguita del Medio en La Habana, Cuba – Grupo Manantial

This group is fronted by three sensational young women performers (instrumental and vocal), and backed by a bunch of old guys (who know what they’re doing) on guitars and bongos.

The following selection has a wonderful flute solo. Don’t you think the young flute students you know would be captivated by it?

Chan Chan – Grupo Manantial – Bodeguita del Medio – La Habana, Cuba

Grupo Manantial has six instrumentalists and six singers — with only six people. If you like writing songs for bands, you might find it interesting to think about how these songs were arranged.

Bailando con Grupo Manantial (short version)

Bailando con Grupo Manantial (longer version — on a different day)

I very highly recommend the book, Cuba and its Music, by Ned Sublette (Chicago Review Press, 2004). You can read numerous reviews of this book at the Amazon site (link below).

Cuba and its Music is a great book. It shows how the music of Africa came to be the basis of popular music worldwide: brought west by the slave trade; preserved, mixed and transformed (by absorbing Western influences, and evolving over time) despite oppression; and how it radiated from Cuba throughout the hemisphere. This book is filled with insights and connections, here are two:

The sarabande dance form that appears as movements in suites by composers like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel was an influence in Europe of what was originally an African rhythmic form associated with the god/deity/archetype Zarabanda.

Handel – Sarabande (1703-1706)

Miguelito Valdés – Zarabanda (1967)

The seeds of New Orleans music came from Havana (in the mid-late 18th century). The American rhythm and blues (R&B) song “Louis Louis,” by Chuck Berry, is basically a cha-cha-cha.

The True Lyrics to Louie Louie (by The Kingsmen)

/ cha-cha-cha – cha-cha / cha-cha-cha – cha-cha / cha-cha-cha – cha-cha /

Ned Sublette is quite an amazing person. “Ned Sublette (born 1951 in Lubbock, Texas) is an American composer, musician, record producer, musicologist, and author. Sublette studied Spanish Classical Guitar with Hector Garcia at the University of New Mexico and with Emilio Pujol in Spain. He studied composition with Kenneth Gaburo at the University of California, San Diego. He grew up in Portales, New Mexico, moved to New York City in 1976, and has worked with John Cage, LaMonte Young, Glenn Branca, and Peter Gordon.” (

The following is a performance by Ned Sublette of a song he wrote, and which has been covered by Willie Nelson, among others.

Ned Sublette – Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly

Next is Ned Sublette’s brilliant “Cowboy Rumba” merengue-conga version of a country-and-western classic.

Ned Sublette – Ghost Riders in the Sky

For comparison, here is the original version sung by Burl Ives (I still have Burl Ives 45’s from the 1950s — in yellow vinyl!).

Burl Ives – The original recording of Ghost Riders In The Sky (1949)

In this next number, Ned Sublette is backed by NG La Banda (“Cowboy Rumba” about booze). I understand this song. (Forget the video, just close your eyes and feel the music.)

Feelin’ No Pain ~ Ned Sublette

Next, some avant garde music by Ned Sublette with the Persuasions — “yes, those Persuasions (!)”:

Ned Sublette – There is no light at the end of the tunnel (silver and red)

Finally, just Ned and his guitar:

Between Piety and Desire – Ned Sublette

I could never have imagined that I would learn so much about the land of my father, and the times of my parents and grandparents, from a lanky Texan (who became a Cowboy Rumba Nuyorquino).

Our popular rhythm-based music of today is the continuation of the survival of that part of Africa which has experienced an over 500 year diaspora; Cuba is music (as nowhere else on Earth); and music is miraculous, a sweet cradle for the soul.

“En esta cuna nací, y en esta cuna me voy a morír.”

Música Cubana en Santiago de Cuba (Documental: Cuba es Música)