Chapter 1. "These People Dance"
Like most nights in Havana, this one started late. First came a long cab ride across the city, not in one of those huge, chrome-dipped Chryslers from before the Triumph of the Revolution, but in a tiny red Kia that was still under warranty. The backseat was somebody's idea of a joke. I had to sit up front, beside the driver, and even then my knees dented the dashboard and my head brushed the roof. Every pothole was pain.
It was hot -- it's always hot in Cuba in the spring -- but there was a godsend breeze that cut the humidity, or at least moved it around, drawing a lacy scrim of cirrus over the moon...
Introduction: Drum Roll
In 1997, a Cuban musical phenomenon called Buena Vista Social Club was born. The album was the unlikeliest of hits -- a bunch of aging, forgotten crooners singing songs few had ever heard of in a language most Americans don't even understand. Despite all that, it was wildly successful. The music
was the thing. It was music that compelled you to move, compelled you to dance. Gently sexual and savory-sweet, the album's sounds and singers came from Cuba's musical golden age -- a time before revolution, before communism, before the missile crisis and the Mariel boat lift and the Helms-Burton Act. A time even...