The Rolling Stones Rock Cuba
Posted On Mar 26, 2016
After decades of isolation, Cuba ushered in a new era with a major moment in rock and roll. The Rolling Stones became the first major international rock band to perform in the Communist country, holding a historic free concert at the Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana on Friday.
A massive crowd of 450,000 Cubans filled up the enormous open-air sports complex in the capital city of Havana, while 250,000 enthusiastic revelers celebrated outside. The Rolling Stones kicked off the landmark gig with their 1968 hit “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” before launching into a two-hour succession of classic favorites including “Paint It Black”, “Gimme Shelter” and “Brown Sugar.”
Frontman Mick Jagger greeted the cheering crowd in fluent Spanish, saying, “Hello Havana! Good evening to my Cuban people. We know that years ago it was difficult to listen to our music here in Cuba, but here we are, playing for you in your beautiful land. I think that finally things have changed, haven’t they?”
It was not only difficult but actually illegal for Cubans to listen to music like that of The Rolling Stones for many years since rock-and-roll was banned on Cuban TV and radio following Fidel Castro’s rise to power. While the ban was lifted in 1966, politicians openly disapproved of the genre, leading many Cubans to indulge their music preferences in secret listening sessions and smuggled records. However, many restrictions became more relaxed after US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to resume relations between the two countries in 2014.
The Rolling Stones’ performance marked yet another milestone in a momentous week for Cuba. Just two days prior to the concert, President Obama became the first US president to visit the country in 88 years.
Shortly after landing in Cuba, Mick Jagger said, “It feels historic.” Hall of Fame inductee and legendary guitarist Keith Richards remarked, “Havana, Cuba and the Rolling Stones: it’s amazing.”
It is often said music is good for the soul and medical research proves music can be healing. We can only hope this is the case for the Cuban people, who face a long road to gaining freedoms which have long been denied to them.