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Todo Mundo - News From Cuba

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News From Cuba

David was recently interviewed by Cuban journalist Michel Hernández for the newspaper, Granma. David would like to share the final interview with you. Here is the translation and you can read the original Spanish article here. Enjoy!

One thing’s for sure, this text is not to be read calmly. This journey is for those able to grasp how music can be transformed into a madness that shakes the foundations of what we know and opens new doors to the labyrinths of the human unconsciousness.

So there, you've been warned, the choice is yours. You can exit the train right  now and engage this Saturday in something other  than soaking up a trail of lyrics that  ironically speak of psychopath killers,  weird illnesses, tall buildings and the overflowing imagination of a tenacious or dogged guy who at 63 is sort of the guru of experimental music. But, if you’re still willing to take the risk, buckle your seat-belt,  because we're off to an intergalactic voyage that began in 1975, in the dark and sordid ambiance of New York's legendary CBGB club.

This favorite joint, for those accustomed to the underground scene, sheltered armies of resounding musical monsters who would change the face of music with overwhelming songs that spoke equally of human hell, dark poems about dead-end-street or go to all night parties intended to maximize the pleasure for the under 30 or the slightly older crowd. In 1975, there was a historic night at CBGB when three performers who looked unlike anyone of their time, climbed onto the stage. Their task was to open for Los Ramones, but they quickly began spewing strange, very strange songs which initially were incomprehensible to the audience. To this day there are some who would like nothing better than peek into the group leader’s brain, David Byrne, and figure out some of the unknown messages which persist to this day. A few months later Talking Heads became a revelation, an undecipherable band that practically landed from Mars to conquer Earth because they had nothing better to do, and they kicked ass.

Talking Heads became the avant-garde leader resembling no one. Their unique sound was a cross between pop, rock, funk, punk rhythms and drums. Andy Warhol portrayed them in several videos he taped for them. After almost two decades of stage presence, the band dissolved in 1991 but rejoined in 2002 when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   

After their historic reunion, loyal Talking Heads followers hoped the band would come together and perform once again, but David Byrne doesn't see it as likelihood. “Ah, I don't think Talking Heads is going to play together again. I am very proud of what we did, but creatively speaking, I've moved on” said Byrne from N. Y. in an email interview with Granma, a Cuban newspaper. Even though the band’s beginning is far away in space and time, its music sounds fiercely contemporary. That is why Byrne is among a selected few who has the ability to precisely evaluate current musical paths.   

“With the advent of the Internet, the musical scene has changed tremendously. On one hand, it’s easier to promote and create without interference, but it’s very difficult to be found or heard because there is so much out there. The Internet has made it very difficult to create quietly, in private until the work is ready for release to the public.”  

Byrne was born in Scotland and is an Oscar winner for the soundtrack of the Bernardo Bertolucci film The Last Emperor.His ties to Cuban music date to 1991, when he was the first U.S. musician to publish Silvio Rodriquez and Los Van Van under his own record label Luaka Bop.  “We didn't defy the embargo, we just found a loophole. A lawyer familiar with our interest in Latin music told us about a way to circumvent the blockade. At the time one, could find illegally imported vinyl records of Los Van Van and Silvio Rodriguez at a record store near the 42 Ave. subway station, which no longer exists. Cuban music, for many in the US, had disappeared. We realized that even with the embargo, the music never ceased, but evolved in an interesting manner. North Americans who danced rumba and cha-cha-cha all over the city didn't know that. For them, the faucet had been turned off - they had no idea if there was any water left in the well! We heard some of the Cuban music was arriving in N. Y. and loved it, and decided to find a way to spread that music. The fact that Silvio, who had never made a CD of his “greatest hits,” allowed us to do it for him was very touching, very flattering and a sign that he was hopeful, optimistic about how things might change. Of course the themes of Los Van Van and Celeste Mendoza were a total revelation for everyone here” recalls Byrne, adding, that “finally there’s a change in US-Cuban relations. I am aware of the cultural exchanges initiated in New Orleans and other cities that have always been in contact with Cuba.”  

 At 62, David Byrne emanates the energy of a 15 year old reflected not only in his musical creations but also in his physical appearance, which might be due to his passion for cycling. That’s something he’s undertaken in a multitude of cities around the world. No one should be surprised to find him biking along a Cuban street one of these days. ”I recall when a bunch of bikes were shipped to Cuba during a Special Period. I would love to bike there. It would be perfect” says David.

Obviously Cuba is not an unknown location to the author of Pyscho Killer. His first trip to the island over 20 years ago, was prior to the US launch of the Silvio and Los Van Van albums. David hopes to return to perform in a concert.

”I have nothing prepared at this time, but most certainly would love to perform in Cuba” assures the leader of Talking Heads. Considering who’s doing the talking, his wish has all the likelihood of becoming a reality.