Our Third and Fourth Sea Interludes

My third Sea Interlude is about music.  There is live music wherever we go in Cuba.  There is Cuban music on the ship, at every restaurant where we ate, on the streets, in cafes and music to welcome us to las Terrazas (although not at the cooperative farm.)  Much of the music is new to me, some I know from listening to recordings of Chano Pozo playing with Dizzy Gillespie, or the Buena Vista Social Club and some I know from a childhood in the mambo period of American pop, songs by Cubans like Dezi Arnaz, Prez Prado and Xavier Cugat, who was born in Spain but raised in Cuba.  The three most common songs we hear are Guantanamera,  Cuando Sali de Cuba (When I left Cuba) written by an Argentine Luis Agulie, and Oye Como Va, written by American Tito Puente.

I wonder if Communist Cuba pays performance rights to the estates of Aguile and Puente.   There was a big copyright suit in Cuba over Guantanamera.  In 1993 The People’s Court awarded the rights to Jose Fernandez over Garcia Wilson.  Fernandez was a radio performer who claimed he wrote the song in 1929.  Guantanamera is the feminine of Guantanamo and refers to a girl from Guantanamo.   According to Fernandez his girlfriend, who was from Guantanamo, brought him a sandwich at the radio station.  He took it but continued flirting with another woman.  His girlfriend snatched the sandwich from him and left him and he wrote the song about a lost love.  It became the exit theme song for his long running radio show.

But its structure allows it to take on other words, and soon the words of the Cuban national hero Jose Marti were added to the tune and it became one of Cuba’s most popular patriotic songs.  The Weavers performed it at one of their Carnegie Hall Reunion concerts during the Cuban missile crisis and it became a worldwide hit.  It particularly resonated because of Cuba’s desire to get Guantanamo Navy Base back.

The Sandpipers made it a hit in 1966 but covered their bases.  Guantanamera was associated with pro-Castro sentiments.  So they also recorded Cuando Sali de Cuba, which is a lament on leaving Cuba and became an anthem for Cuban exiles in Miami.  We heard both versions of Guantanamera, the patriotic one and the one about lost love.


The fourth Sea Interlude is about the weather.  (Those of you who enjoy Benjamin Britten will understand the allusion to Four Sea Interludes.)  The hurricane has passed over the Eastern end of Cuba and is north of the island.  I have never seen a sea as calm as it was on the southern side of Cuba.  But as we turn around the western tip of Cuba and head from the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico we pick up some swell from the hurricane.


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