Shooting a Music Video in Havana

Andi was showing me around Central Havana before we made it to his aunt’s house. Just a block and a half away from the Malecón, I went into a modernized looking apartment building. The building looked like a business or a bank. As I entered, I was surprised to find the first elevator that I’ve seen while in Cuba.

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Central Havana. Photo Courtesy of Tony Polanco.

Upon entering Andi’s aunt’s house, his family greeted me with hugs and hospitality. I felt like a celebrity by the amount of love that they showed me. I had some very cultural discussions with Andi’s aunt who was surprised by how much knowledge that I had learned about the Cuban culture. I felt like I found long-lost family members. I also met Andi’s cousins whom are young, courteous, and energetic.

One of his cousins is an independent Rumba artist. Rumba is a genre of music that originated in the urban areas of Havana and Mantanzas. It is based on African music and dance traditions known as Abakuá and Yuka. It was a form of protest music during the period of slavery in Cuba. It has evolved since then and has been embraced by the Cuban government and credited to the Afro-Latino working class. Rumba means party. The percussion and drums sounds in the music really makes you want to get up and dance. Jonathan and I discussed music for almost an hour. This young man’s talent compelled me to help him get the recognition he deserved. I could hear the passion in everyone of his songs. His Caribbean style vocals had me jamming to his music and it was a lot better than the commercial Reggaeton I hear on the radio (I am not comparing Rumba to Reggaeton). His Group Los Embele Bele consists of himself, El Bronx, and El Yowel. As a filmmaker and photographer, I stay ready to get content. El Johnny’s smile brightened the entire house when I offered to shoot his music video. His music is like nothing that I have heard before so this music video collaboration was perfect timing. We arrived at Havana Malecón and the waves from the harbors were inspiring. I have heard so many things about Cuba but to finally experience it was beyond exhilarating. We met with El Johnny’s fellow group members and began to work.

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Photo Courtesy of Madelin Vasquez Polanco.

I would have never thought that I would be shooting a music video for up-and-coming Rumba artists in Central Havana(Who would have known?). Time flew by and the sun started setting. I used to only film in the daytime and evening when it still sunlight out but I had to take this opportunity to do more so we filmed with the night lights glowing in the background.

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Photo Courtesy of Madein Vasquez Polanco.

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Cuban Rumba Group Los Embele Bele. Photo Courtesy of Madelin Vasquez

I knew it meant the world to Los Embele Bele to get some high quality exposure. We wrapped up the production after getting the perfect shot with the Cuban flag in the background. As the wind blew off the sweat on my head, I heard my stomach start to rumble. I was so engulfed into filming that I forgot about eating. We rushed and made our way to some Cuban Cuisine. As General Jose Marti’s statue overlooked us, I felt highly accomplished.

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Photo Courtesy of Madelin Vasquez Polanco.

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