Questlove announces the return of 'The Roots' to Cuba

Posted: 14-May-15 16:06

A documentary covering the recent visit of one of The Roots' band members to Cuba, illustrates the Hip Hop singer's fondness of the Cuban audience that so warmly welcomed his music in 2002 when the group gave their first free concert there. The documentary also shows his engagement with Cuban rappers and musicians whilst exposing his eagerness to reconnect with the island's music scene. At the end he reveals his plans to come back to Cuba and give another free concert with The Roots.

Questlove announces the return of 'The Roots' to Cuba

Over a decade has passed since The Roots first arrived in Cuba and wowed the crowds with a free show held in Havana. The warm reception by the locals who flocked to see them in large numbers and enthusiastically sung and danced along all their tunes made a deep impression on all band members, but more profoundly in their drummer, Questlove, who vowed to return one day. After his recent visit to the island in February this year, his promise sounds closer than ever to becoming a reality soon.

The documentary by Okayplayer Films opens with a shot of Havana’s Fabrica de Arte Cubano, showing people queuing outside the concert venue as they wait for the show. In the following shots you see Questlove taking to the stage and performing a DJ session for a very enthusiastic, all-singing, all-dancing crowd. Throughout these images there’s a voiceover as Questlove says:

"My mission is to explain to people that hip hop just isn’t playing rap music. It’s playing Cuban music, American music, Jazz music, playing Rock music, Soul music, electronic, reggaeton, reggae…It’s playing every genre of music and putting it together. That’s the real definition of what Hip Hop is."

This is how the documentary opens up and then it moves on to show Questlove walking through the streets of Havana, stopping in front of the Teatro America and reminiscing about when they last performed there;

"We’ve been to all corners of the world (…) and probably the place that meant the most to me to come to was Havana, Cuba. We played at this placed called the America."

He then explains how the night of the show the entire block was full of people wanting to get a bit of the concert;

"It was packed, wall-to-wall people and that meant the world to me. It’s more important than anything that cultural ideas get exchanged. To me that’s what keeps the culture alive."

Further immersing into the culture Questlove proceeds to meet up with his musical guide throughout his visit, Edgaro Gonzalez, from Cuban Hip Hop band Doble Filo. It was Doble Filo themselves who did the opening act for The Roots when they first performed in the island.

Edgaro takes Questlove to a record shop with an impressive collection of vinyl records and gives him a crash course on Cuban musical culture.

"I went to probably one of the most knowledgeable record collectors I’ve ever met (...) and he pretty much gave me the history of all the funk Jazz and soul Jazz that I ever wanted to know about."

At one point in the video he encounters one Cuban rapper on the street (Etian – a.k.a Brebaje Man) who improvises for him and sings a few rapping lines while Questlove provides the background beats with a spot of beatboxing.

He visits Egrem studios and learns about all the great musicians that recorded world-famous albums here, including the Buena Vista Social Club.

Then night closes in and Questlove looks back on the experience of this last brief visit. His closing thoughts at the end of the documentary were:

"My dream now is to really come back here and not do this one-show-a-decade kinda thing. I really wanna come and just give culture to the people. ‘Cus I’ve just never seen a place more appreciative, more respectful of musical culture, and not just respectful of America’s, but just all types of music.

Clearly people want something you know, and when I have the means, the monetary means to do it, I wanna give it to them,

I think it’s important, it’s extremely important. A lot of times artists are just motivated, you know, about the financial end of it. You know you’re not gonna make a profit coming down here but you’re gonna have something better, you’re gonna appease their soul."

Questlove said this as he looked pensive, sitting on the back of a classic 50s car that drove through the dimly streets of Havana at night.


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