El Bongosero (The Bongo Player)Cuba Series - Painting 16
36" x 48" - Acrylic on canvas
Perhaps more than sugar, rum and revolution (and doctors), Cuba's greatest export is music. A direct line can be drawn from todays modern Latin and Salsa music back to "Son,” Cuba's traditional music, which itself is a combination of Spanish popular song form and Afro-Cuban traits that revolve heavily around percussion instruments with origins in Africa. Although rap and hip-hop have taken over in the youth culture, and there are many talented emerging artists putting their unique spin on those genres, a trip to Cuba is incomplete without experiencing the amazing musicians that continue to mine the classic sounds of the past.
On my first full day in Havana I strolled the city rather aimlessly, just hoping to take in as much of the street life as I could. Eventually I found my way into Old Havana, which is the oldest part of the city, and the best preserved. I found a refurbished old bar that had a band playing. This was my first exposure to seeing a live Cuban band playing in the traditional Son style. The gentleman portrayed in this painting held down the beat with precision on a small set of bongos. His quick and skillful hits on the stretched skins provided a perfect counterpoint and backbone for the guitars and vocals.
I thought this painting series would be incomplete without portraying a musician, and this man, diligently performing in an Old Havana club seemed to me a perfect embodiment of the spirit and rhythm of the classic Cuban sound.