3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
good intro to the music scene in Havana,
This review is from: Last Dance in Havana (Hardcover)
The book is an easy read and gives a good feel of Havana in the last few years, especially as regards the music scene. Robinson's ability in capturing the atmosphere, more than anything else, earns him points. The often-made claim that music and culture are intimately tied together in Cuba is given substantial anecdotal evidence based on observation and interviews. His knowledge of the Cuban music scene prior to the advent of rap in the late 90's seems sketchy though, and the book could certainly have been helped with more research here.
Robinson also scores by pondering the intriguing question of whether music might be the source for a nascent civil society in Cuba, though the idea is not entirely new.
His penchant for Afro-Cuban culture and the problematics of racism has its merits, though his presentation of these being the most urgent and potentially boat-rocking social issues lose a little of their thrust when considering that most of his narrative takes place in Havana, and to a lesser extent Santiago and Matanzas, all of them bastions of Afro-Cuban culture. His North American optic is overly obvious at times, and he actually devotes a chapter to US exiles in Cuba.
Unfortunately, Robinson is prone to exaggeration and over-simplified evaluations that he serves en passant as offhand remarks. In quite a few instances, what is passed off as factual is actually speculatory, and all in all his arguments seem based largely on personal experience and not on any serious research. His antipathy toward Europeans (portrayed grossly as pot-bellied sex-seekers) also does little for his credibility.
Definitely worth a read for those who want to know the temperature on Havana's streets and how to read it, and for such sharp and sweaping comments as this one: "In the land of chronic scarcity, about the only things in perpetual surplus are vanity, ingenuity, and time."