Cuba Jazz Festival

Cuba Jazz Fest. 
Jan 16, 2018 10:00am Usually I have some story to tell you all about something crazy happening on the plane or at the airport. But so far, nothing. No crying baby, no smelly passenger, or talkative person. This trip, so far, has been smooth as ice. I’ve done the Jazz festivals maybe twice in my career. And there’s always a bunch of electric energy that flows through everyone involved. This particular project is special because we’re joining forces with a group of Cuban musicians. Some of which don’t speak English. We’ve rehearsed, and now we go out to Cuba and rehearse with them. The actual event takes place Thursday. So I’m sure it’ll be cool just vibing with Cuban cats tonight over some music, and things. So, guess what? I’ve decided that while I’m on my musical path, I will start a North Eastern chapter of The Little Bit Group/Project or something that mirrors the efforts of that particular group. I’m one of the busiest people I know. LOL!! However, through singer/songwriter Diviniti(founder of “The Little Bit Project”), I’ve learned how possible it is to help lots of families who really need it. I really enjoyed participating in her, now annual, Christmas drive this past December. So I’ve decided to bring her idea closer to home. And with respect to The Little Bit Project I will move forward under her umbrella. I’m about helping. And a lot of you are also. But I’ll let you all know when that time comes. In the meantime, CUBA!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!

We’ve gotten off to a questionable start. The plane that we’ve boarded hasn’t been properly checked and that means we must get off and board another plane. But Louie saw to it that I was upgraded. That was nice. Ever since America put Trump in office, I feel a slight tinge of embarrassment when I travel. I think we can all agree that Trump has said more than enough inappropriate things that should embarrass any American. This country has never been more divided than it currently is. Black people love Obama. And most of them will quickly tell you that. But Obama is not the president anymore. Trump supporters tend to point out Obama’s mistakes in an effort to lessen Trumps stupidity. Either way you slice it, the country is divided as much as it was in the 50’s. Anywhere in the world I visit, they know who America’s president is. Mainly because of his ignorance. And there’s nothing like an ignorant racist who’s in denial. Obama’s term in office has seemingly shined a light on how unqualified and ignorant the current president really is. Especially his lack of class. He’s not at all a gentleman. My point is to say that traveling as an American born person has it’s embarrassing side. “I just grab them by the pu__y.” Yep. The POTUS said that. I heard one Trump supporter say that she’d rather have Trump in office because she’s tired of the polished, TelePrompTer reading presidents we’ve had in the past. She wants a president that’s going to speak and make mistakes like normal humans. Mistakes and inappropriate language seems to be where the POTUS lives. Anyway, I’m inspired. With so many new artist coming out on Honeycomb, I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. Ritmo Y Tumbao’s album is insane! The album listening party is approaching. We’re all so psyched. It’s going to be a Listening Party for their album “Ay Dios Mio”. The gathering will be an invitations only event. I wanted this event to feel like the old school Listening parties. Not really a club thing. Dres and Cuba are definitely going to change the entire game with this project.

After eating the chicken meal on this plane, which by the way wasn’t that bad, I feel like I’d better go the restroom. I wanted to go before everyone else. The restroom line could grow fast on these planes. I go up to the restroom at the front of the plane. I get there and don’t see anything that remotely looks like a restroom. I ask the big and tall, bald, black dude who was our flight attendant, “Hey bro. Do you know where the restroom is?” To which he pointed at what I thought was just a wall or partition of some sort. It was, in fact, a door. I thought to myself “There’s no way a bathroom could be in there. It’s way too small. He must not have heard what I said”. The dude saw the look of confusion on my face. So he did what any brother from Brooklyn, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, or Brixton would have done. He opened the door and said “That’s how they make them.” His actions felt a little snippy. I go in and it was like a restroom for a baby. It was a broom closet with a sink and toilet inside. Imagine for a sec, the front of a plane, kind of narrow and short. Once I squeezed in and managed to shut the door behind me, I quickly realized that standing straight up was not an option. So I had to bend my knees ladies and gentleman. And even while bending my knees I had to slightly turn my head to the side because there wasn’t any headspace. Now for those of you reading this that don’t have a penis, you can skip to the next part of this blog. So I’m in the upright coffin of a restroom, trying to pee with my knees slightly bent and my head turned to the side. Now at this point, I’m realizing that the task of pulling my junk out, aiming it and shooting in the right direction was going to be a task. It’s bad enough I had to kinda lean against the wall a little. I had no doubt that old pee drops, and the like, from other male passengers have riddled the walls that my clothes are now touching. But I have to focus right now. This is a task. I then go for it. Everything I’ve drank within the last 24 hours was on its way out of me!!!!! It’s at this moment that I remember why I could never excel in Basketball. My shooting and aim is off!! At first I thought I shot in the bowl “all net” because I didn’t hear the pee hitting against the inside of the metal toilet. But it turns out, I was way left. So I panicked a little and jumped, splashing a very small stream of pee on the wall. In an effort to not soak the seat and floor with urine I tried to turn my head to look and see where I was aiming. That’s when it happened. “BAM!!” Slammed my skull right on the wall that I was trying to avoid by turning my head to the side. Slammed it good too. Somehow I felt humiliated and embarrassed! LOL!! So now that I’ve actually done everything I was trying not to do in this Rikers Island styled restroom I figured I may as well try to clean this mess a little. So as I shake to get that last droplet out(y’all know what I’m talking about! Stop being such a prude!), one disrespectful droplet went the wrong way and landed on the bottom of my shirt. How do these things happen to me? Lawd I messed around and got the cooties within a 5 minute time span. I’ve become the peeboy. Do you remember the little boy in school who used to smell like pee and the children called him the peeboy? That’s me right now. I’m thinking “Will this one drop on my shirt dry and smell when I get under the sun in Cuba? I’ll be honest with you all. I was really going to take a dump. But it was tight in there and I thought I’d just take a whiz instead. Geez.
It’s a little after two. We’re landing. That took almost 4 hours. I thought it would be sooner.

Martin Luther King day just passed. I’m not sure if anybody noticed. Growing up I saw all kinds of specials on TV about his life and all that he fought for. I don’t think I’ve seen any tributes this year. Hmmm. I’ll have to do something in honor of him next year. The other night we presented Poetry Night on our radio show on and if you weren’t there you missed a real treat. 2 hours of poetry. Some with music and some without. I’m getting older. And for me, lyrics are very important. I think we had a successful night on the show. Why am I blogging about it? I don’t know. Just felt like sharing.
I think I want a French Bull Dog. I’m going to name the dog Disco.

I’ve collected my luggage and now I’m sitting here waiting on everyone else. While I’m waiting I notice that the female TSA workers all look, and I say this respectfully, they look a little street walkerish. Fishnets, very tight mini skirts, lace stockings. What’s going on here???? Call me crazy, but somehow I don’t feel secure around these security guards. If something broke out around here, are these the people that are suppose to keep things under control? And they're all standing around not really doing anything. Nobody is working. They’re huddled in groups, laughing and talking.

We just finished rehearsing. Ray Chew put together a proper ensemble. An orchestra. And I was one of the vocalist and keyboard players!!!!! Don’t I sound like an excited child? Truth is, I’ve never played with a small orchestra. And this is a moment for me. Wow!!!! We worked through some kinks but it’s going to be good. I’ve met some amazing musicians in this orchestra. Everybody is trained. It’s really something to be a part of. I feel blessed.
Now that rehearsal is over, we’re all kinda hanging around the studio, waiting to go to dinner. The technology in Cuba is a little behind. WiFi, cable tv and things like that is very slow and unreliable. I’m sitting in the lounge right now with maybe 10 guys watching a baseball game and the TV screen is all snowy. And yet we’re watching it. And nobody had any issues with this. Just saying we are blessed.
At dinner. Sitting at the table with all of these artist. Everybody is feeling good. Most of us ordered the lobster. We’re drinking some amazing drinks. The food is well cooked. The restaurant is on the water. It’s kinda raining. So the water is splashing against the wall of the restaurant. I’m feeling what Essence(poetry artist) calls Zen. Our waiter is this tall and dark Cuban dude. Looks like he’s been in the gym. Bald head. Nice smile. Typical lady magnet. Dude was on point. I never had to think. Dude was bringing all of my thoughts to me before I could verbalize them. Once again, I feel happy. Parenthetically speaking, happiness, that is true happiness, is always present. However, times like this make it so much easier to find and enjoy.
 January 17th 9:38am
Today we’re off. Legendary Pianist Chucho Valdez is in town. We’re going to check out his performance tonight. I have the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door knob. I plan to do absolutely nothing.

I saw Kathy Grier today. She’s one of the 4 people responsible for putting this entire project together. Brilliant woman. She knows things. I like that.

We had dinner in this absolutely beautiful place. It looks like it was once someone’s home. The ceilings were at least 15-20 feet high. There was some stained glass. The tiling on the floor is something that looks antique-ish. All I know is that it’s not cheap. Everybody from the project is here. All of the artist and musicians are here. We’re talking music, drinking, and just overall vibing. This is awesome. Again, I’m happy. Vivian’s personal assistant is a sweetheart. Kinda like a niece but a boss when we’re working. Today is her birthday. And it’s dope to see a young person with their head on straight, doing things right. I see so many young people just out here doing whatever. No real plan. And that’s almost accepted because of their age. But the younger generations are forced to get it together even earlier because of the pace of the world. Anyway, this is awesome.

 January 18th 2:37pm
Today is the day. Showtime!! We’re headed to sound check. Off topic, I’ve never disliked a president as much as I dislike Donald Trump. This man is such a horrible person. If I had to choose between him and Bush.... that’s a great question. If you had to choose between George Bush(either one) and Donald Trump, who would you pick?

Random thought. I love when Candy Crush gives me 6 hours of free playing time and a bonus candy bomb. Shut up. Don’t judge me!

We’re doing a sound check. As with any sound check, things come up that we can’t avoid but I’ll admit, yet again, I’m happy. I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud but I love playing with a group of musicians that are amazing. Strings, Brass, Percussionist, and we’re all speaking the same language musically. For some of us, music is the only language we’ll share. And I really love being able to speak to them on the piano and they speak back on their various instruments.

So let me tell y’all what the heck I just went through. After having the sound check we had to do an interview with a journalist while walking down the street. The problem started when we saw a truck with a smoke spraying device on it. We learned that Cuba has a mosquito issue. Now, in my heart, I’m totally freaking out. My entire family knows that I don’t do bugs of any kind. Especially mosquitos. The guy in the truck starts his spraying device and it makes this super loud, lawn mowing sound. At this point I’m uncomfortable. And the sun is going down. Fast. Now this is the perfect time for blood sucking mosquitos. And Axel’s mom told me that the mosquitos here carry the Zyka virus. Not that I plan to get pregnant, but I’m just saying. As the interview comes to a close it’s dark. I’m thinking “Mosquitos are out here for sure!” So I feel myself getting itchy, but I say nothing about it. I didn’t want to get on anyone’s nerves. Most people feel that my fear is funny or a joke. So I keep it on the low. And that is when it happened. I feel a small plop on my shoulder. And I immediate freaked out! I’m thinking this must be the Mandingo, man eating mosquitos. As I slap my shoulder in an effort to kill this beast that landed on me, I feel a slight wetness. Something Hey felt like a small soft pebble or something. And it occurred to me, that couldn’t have been a mosquito. I tell the journalist that something must have pooped on my shoulder. And she says, all nonchalant and calmly, “I saw a bat fly right over your head.” Now my first thought is to run. But I don’t know where I’m going. And I’m truly freaked out at this point. I took my shirt off because I wanted to see the bat guano on my shirt. And there it was, smeared in because I thought I was killing a mosquito! And when I saw it I felt my blood pressure sky rocket to the heavens. At this moment I know that I’d better calm all the way down. The journalist asks if we can walk up the street to take a few more pictures. I look at Louie because I’m thinking maybe she’s a little high or tipsy or something. A bat just flew over my head and crapped on me. And she wants to take pictures?!??? At that moment, I felt the spirit of Ike Turner fall on me like a dove. It was a sweet anger, a beautiful and soft rage. I started to take my shirt off and rub the bat poop in her hair. But she was so sweet I decided against that. The hotel was close, so we walked back. I’m calming down. As we were walking I notice a guy painting in his little room which was right next to the street. I stop to look and he invited us all in. This man is a true artist. Amazing paintings in this little room. While we were talking and looking, a BLACKOUT happened. A BLACKOUT!! I thought I’ve been through enough for a night and now this. Fine. We bid farewell to the man and walked to the restaurant across the street from the hotel. While we’re ordering food in the dark using our phone flashlights to see the menu, there’s a motorcycle accident right outside!!! What the ham sandwich is going on? And if one of you says anything about anything being in retrograde, I’m slapping you when I see you.

I ordered the fried pork chunks(no disrespect to my non pork eating friends and family) with rice and black beans. The dish came out cooked to perfection, and they put yuca and onions underneath it. Lawd I had to contemplate on whether or not I’m coming back to the states. This food is so deep and mind bending. It’s as though they put mood changing qualities in it. I’m telling you all, this food has to be from Jesus. I’m so serious.

I’m watching the show on the side of the stage. We’re all an hour or two behind schedule because of the Blackout. But it’s ok. People don’t seem to mind. But there’s a problem. I had fried pork chunks for dinner. And that means that I’m ready for bed.

 January 19th 3:30am

The show last night was good. Some sound issues, but nothing crazy. Y’all should have seen Vivian. She looked like the Queen Bee. She looked awesome. And that alone made me feel very proud of Ray! Anyway, all of the singers sang their faces off. Xiomara Laugart, Jon. B(who by the way brought his lovely wife. Lovely couple), Telmary, Jean Rodriguez(Latin Grammy Award winner), and a bunch of other singers that I don’t know their names. But they were all so so very good. It got spiritual at one point. There was a woman singing African prayers accompanied by a dancer. The singer is a Yoruba Folk singer. I think that’s what she’s called. And the dancer’s dance went with the song/prayer that the woman sang. The singer is a dark Cuban woman. Very very tall and Queenly. I couldn’t remember her name. So I called her Reina(Spanish for Queen). I met another singer who sang jazz fusion mixed with a little modern day soul but in Spanish. She looked like an African priestess. Here she is. The theater was very old. Probably not renovated since the early 60’s. The seats were the old styled theater seats with hand painted numbers on the side. And for me, it speaks to the testimony of Cuba surviving dictatorship. Axel told me that he remembers when the government would shut ALL of the electricity off at around 8 or 9pm, and turn it back on in the morning. I’m about to go home so I’ll stop this blog here. If you’ve read all of this, then you must really love me. I can be ling winded. But Cuba is rich with culture, spirit, beauty, happenings, and especially love. It’s hard to capture it all in a blog.

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