Carlos Varela visited the United States back in 1998 and played in Miami. A reuters article titled: Carlos Varela: Cuba's Bob Dylan or Paul Simon? Outlined the life of this great musical talent, but the article also exposed the dark underbelly of the Cuban dictatorship's cultural genocide. Not only banning Cuban artists that refused to tow the regime line, but entire schools of music like jazz and rock. In the above mentioned article it described how Varela was able to encounter both Dylan's and Simon's music then banned in the official media:
As a teen-ager, Varela said, he listened avidly to U.S. pop and rock FM radio stations by fashioning a crude radio antenna from a wire more than 15 feet (five metres) long hung from a window in his home. That is how he heard Simon and Garfunkel songs including "Sounds of Silence'' and "Bridge Over Troubled Water'' that he says had an influence on his music.Imagine that, one of the great Cuban artists of his generation having to set up an apparatus to listen to forbidden music which would shape him as an artist and impact the world. Twelve years after this article he returns to tour in the United States and play in Miami.
The Miami Herald's Jordan Levin offers an excellent overview of the Carlos Varela concert at the Gusman Center in downtown Miami on Saturday night May 15, 2010 and in her review describes how the audience impacted the concert:
They might have taken some things beyond or other than Varela intended, but that’s the power of music. He looked slightly uncomfortable when, during Guillermo Tell, shouts of Cuba! Cuba! were followed by Libre! Libre!
For those interested a breakdown of the songs played over the course of the evening.
1. Colgando del Cielo
2. El Niño
3. Telon de Fondo
5. Como los Peces
7. Muros y Puertas
8. Mi Fe
10. Luna de Vino Tinto
11. Lucas y Lucia
12 El Leñador
13. Guillermo Tell
15. Foto de Familia
16. 25,000 Mentiras
17. Los Mapas Están Cambiando
19. Como un Ángel
20. La Política
Over the years I've spoken out in favor of freedom of expression no matter how unpopular and denounced attempts to intimidate or threaten expression while at the same time recognizing how a totalitarian regime like the one in Cuba can manipulate images to advance its own agenda.
Nevertheless I don't see how Varela's concert or statements in favor of the Ladies in White and demonstrating respect for Cuban hunger strikers can be used by the Castro regime. Add to that an audience at the concert that engaged in shout outs for Zapata, the Ladies in White, and for a free Cuba.
To the contrary other than a small group of the usual suspects destroying albums there were little or no images of use for the dictatorship.