In the same week that President Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, the arts world crept its way in as well. This past Friday, the Rolling Stones became the first major band to play in Cuba; they performed to a crowd of over a hundred thousand people at a decrepit sports complex called the Ciudad Deportiva in Havana.
The band played FOR FREE, which is a big deal considering the average worker makes the equivalent of $20 a day. For these people, this concert and its accessibility to the public is a step towards destroying the isolation the country has felt from today’s global culture. Within the heyday of the Stones (and other bands such as the Beatles), the nature of Cuba’s government deemed such music irreverent and anti-authoritarian, forcing people to hide their Beatles and Stones albums in covers borrowed from albums of appropriately revolutionary Cuban groups. This concert allowed its audience a glimpse into the era of music the Stones represent.
In addition, the Rolling Stones have also spearheaded a charity initiative where musical instruments and gear are being donated by major suppliers to Cuban musicians. On the list of donors is the Gibson Foundation, Vic Firth, RS Berkeley, Pearl, Zildjian, Gretsch, Latin Percussion, Roland and BOSS, with additional assistance coming from the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation.