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Going to Cuba!

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by aks_29, Feb 24, 2008.

  1. This Tuesday, I'll be going to Cuba with my school concert band. I will be bringing my acoustic bass and hope to absorb at least some of the music around me.

    Me and my friends were also hoping to be able to buy some percussion instrumments (shakers, woodblocks, etc...) and I was wondering if anyone who's been there knows how easy that will be?

    If anyone has any suggestions of anything to avoid doing or to do I'd be really happy to hear it.


    p.s. I hope I there's no revolution while I'm there, and I hope I don't get Typhoid
  2. Are you staying at a resort? If so, just take a tour into the closest city and you can check out the market. My parents just got back yesterday and they say there is lots to do and see. If you find a market, you should be able to find lots of little hand instruments. Made in China of course.

  3. We'll be staying in a hotel in a city (I'm not sure which, Havana maybe). We'll have like an hour in a market so that's when I plan on searching for stuff.
  4. You will find lots of cool stuff in the market. It is very interesting as well, stay out of the meat part, doesn't smell very good.

  5. I was kind of worried though because my mom's friend just got back from there and told her that when she went into the shops they had close to nothing on the shelves. Do you know if things are cheaper there?
  6. I am not actually that familiar with Cuba. I have spent lots of time in Mexico, so I am kind of relating my experiences to being there. You might be right about not very much being on the shelves, after all it is a communist country.

  7. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    If you do any girls from "St. Paul Highschool" let me know so I can blackmail them. :)
  8. Valerus


    Aug 4, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    Good luck over there. Don't mind the new dictator. He's cool.
  9. I'll tell him you said that. :D
  10. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    And don't forget that public criticism of the head of state isn't met with the same level of tolerance in Cuba as it is here in the U.S.. :D
  11. Valerus


    Aug 4, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    And thus, Valerus was never heard from again.

  12. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    WOW! That sounds like quite an experience. Have fun
  13. Yeah.. I can think of at least one thing not to forget: no political conversations while you are there. Just shurg your shoulders and say: "I'm just an entertainer!" and let it go at that.
  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Very, very different places. I've spent a month in Cuba and some time on and off in various parts of Mexico.

    Cuba is not a quaint shopping village. It is an impoverished and oppressed island where all they have is sugar products like rum and cake, diabetes, and the best education and literacy rates in the world. Yes, you can find touristy crap in Havana; there's one musical instrument shop on one of the main tourist streets downtown, but the instruments are strictly tourist-grade. All of the good-quality local hardwood and metal is designated for export. Locals cannot afford to buy new instruments, so no new instruments are made with the intention of selling to actual musicians. Whatever you find to buy, it was made specifically for the tourist trade. For example, I went there intending to buy a set of bongos (Cuba's national instrument). The "best" set I could find for sale had unplayable sheepskin heads and the tuning hardware barely fits the drum shells.

    Bring guitar and bass strings with you, lots of sets. Make friends with local guitar/bassists and give them the strings as gifts. They have a very hard time getting new strings otherwise.

    You will probably have people come up to you and offer you the opportunity to buy cigars or to meet their sister... don't go with them. If someone hassles you, walk immediately to a place with more people, as there will probably be police (all over the place in Havana, not so much elsewhere) and "jineteros" (hustlers) are dealt with very severely by the local police.

    On that note, be aware that police may come up and question any locals they see talking to you. You may find situations where you're having a nice conversation with somebody and suddenly they lose interest and walk away- then a minute later you notice there were some police nearby. It's tricky. Again, that's mostly an issue in Havana.

    If you get a chance to visit the southern or eastern ends of the island, it's much nicer (on many levels) there. Though you still may have a hard time buying anything.

    I did buy a very nice set of hardwood claves in Matanzas, but the wood for them was acquired illegally, it was sort of a "black market" deal.

    Enjoy, but leave your expectations at the airport. ;)

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