The Young Negro and the Pope

From the incomparable Paquito D’Rivera:

The Young Negro and the Pope

A few days ago, a young and brave black Cuban named Andres Carrión Alvarez, –the only member of the Union Patriotica de Cuba (UNPACU) who evaded detention from the Cuban political police–,screamed “Down with Communism!” just in front of the Pope Benedict XVI’s podium, during his mass in Santiago de Cuba.  Almost immediately, secret agents in plain clothes mixed with the crowd, violently arrested Carrion in front of the Pope and his entourage.  Several cameras followed him while a gang of policemen and even members of the Cuban Red Cross brutally beat the young man with his hands securely tied to his back.

In (almost) any other nation around the world, such a deplorable action would be absolutely unacceptable.  Up to this day, Carrión remains in custody and incommunicado, so we’re still waiting for some leaders of the African-American community to express some kind of commentary about such an arbitrary and repressive–yet common– behavior by the Cuban authorities.  I wonder what would be the reaction of said community in case this black youngster would be of some other nationality.  We’d also love to know where the Obamas, Glovers, Sharptons, Reverend Jacksons and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are when Afro-Cubans need them?

Paquito D’Rivera

Thanks to Paquito and  La Voz de Cuba Libre.

Latin Jazz Conversations: Paquito D’Rivera


Check out this interview with the great Paquito D’ RiveraPart 1 and Part 2 at  The Latin Jazz Corner.

Here’s a sample:

LJC: You guys put together Irakere with members of the Orquesta; how did the idea for Irakere come about?

PDR: It was Chucho, Emilio, Carlos, and Oscar Valdes, the singer/percussionist – they wanted to put a group together to travel. It was very simple! We didn’t know that we were going to have such an impact in jazz and Latin music around the world. We were just working to do something good. The first group was Jorge Varona on the trumpet and me playing the baritone and my curved soprano.

The first piece that we recorded was “Bacalao Con Pan,” and that was an instant success. We didn’t really expect it to be such a success. Oscar had never been a singer before; he had a very good voice, but he was never a singer. So Chucho encouraged him to sing, and it was a success.

LJC: I’ve heard that there was an effort to hide jazz in Cuban music through Irakere; was there that intention to make it a jazz group?

PDR: The idea was to hide the word jazz as much as possible, which is not an easy task, especially when all the players are jazz musicians. The idea was to hide it, like, don’t mention the word jazz here – don’t tell and don’t ask!   We discovered this before the American government – don’t tell, don’t ask!

LJC: Was there a lot of government intervention?

PDR: From some people. Some people in the government would say, “They are jazz players! They want to play the role like they’re not jazz players, but they are.” It was an accusation! For them, it was kind of like saying, “They are cocaine dealers!” Chucho denied it; he would say, “We are not playing jazz, we are playing contemporary Afro-Cuban music.”

H/T: Peter