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Wednesday, 20 June 2012, 10:09 AM

The New York Mega Timba Concert - What Really Happened

Story by Bill Tilford, All Rights Reserved 

Photo by Bill Tilford, all rights reserved

Preludio: Para bien o para mal, este concierto en Nueva York vino después de unos anteriores intentos fallidos por parte de otros promotores en otras ciudades. Pero la diferencia en este caso es que el concierto realmente ocurrió. No fue exactamente el concierto que originalmente anunciaron, pero fue un concierto que tenía mas estrellas de la Timba, juntas, algo que no hemos visto en muchísimo tiempo en los Estados Unidos. Musicalmente encontré el espectáculo mejor de lo que yo esperaba, a pesar de todo lo que salió mal antes de empezar el concierto. Yo tuve la oportunidad de ver como todo se desarollaba todo, y hacía el final, en realidad estuve envuelto en formas que nunca anticipé. Esta es una historia que necesita ser contada, y es espero que todos podamos aprender algunas cosas de la experiencia. Espero que una de esas lecciones no sea “No contratar a grupos de Timba”, pero pienso que debemos aprender los errores de otros para evitar que eso suceda.

1º Verso: ¿Para empezar, fue realmente una buena idea?

Hace solo un año atrás, el aún-mas-extenso Fuego Cuban Music Festival se evaporó en el sur de la Florida, y en Echo Park (Los Angeles), un planificado festival (Mayo 2011) de la música cubana fue cancelado debido a problemas de financiamiento (El Cubafest de Los Angeles que sucedió mas tarde en Julio 2011 contó con bandas de los Estados Unidos, pero la asistencia y número de taquillas vendidas no cumplió con las expectativas). Mientras tanto, algunas otras giras de grupos individuales de la isla, como por ejemplo Los Van Van, encontraron varios problemas que cortaron o en pocos casos cancelaron parte de sus giras. El resultado de todos estos problemas anteriores fue un nuevo y comprensible nivel de escepticismo por parte de los compradores de taquillas y los proprietarios de los clubs. Para muchas de estas personas, el concierto en Nueva York parecía demasiado bueno para ser verdadero, y eso antes de que ningunos de los problemas reales empezaron.

Basado en lo que estaba escuchando de los fans de la Timba durante los meses antes del concierto en Nueva York, no estoy realmente seguro de que la venta de entradas haya cumplido las expectativas si la promoción hubiera sido mejor de lo que fue. Sin embargo, el anuncio se lanzó – Nueva York tendría un Mega Concierto de Timba en la Armoría en Mayo 2012 con una colección histórica de las bandas de Cuba. Sin duda yo y mis colegas os emocionamos al oír esto. Y así tres de nosotros nos preparamos para ir a cubrir el evento.

Para ese tiempo yo estaba un poco preocupado porque el sitio web de la venta de los boletos decía “From Havanna a Nueva York Non-top Timba Concert”, con Puppy y Los Que Son Son. En el momento le mencioné a algunos colegas que sería una buena idea que la versión en ingles de “Havana” fuera deletreada correctamente, y mejor sería si el nombre de Pupy (con uan “p”) estuviera correcto también. Esto no inspiro mucha confianza en las personas que administran el concierto. Sin embargo, teníamos la esperanza.

Coro: En mi opinión, los organizadores trataron de lograr demasiado con demasiadas bandas. Es bastante difícil realizar un evento exitoso con varias bandas que utilizan talento de los EE.UU. exclusivamente. Traerlos de otros países ni se diga. Esto no es sólo una cosa de Cubanos – incluso los músicos europeos tienen problemas de visados, y hay razones por las que varios grupos de Europa so hacen giras Estados Unidos juntos. Pienso que un concierto mucho más simple hubiera sido un verdadero éxito si se hubiera anunciado de manera apropiada.



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Rebecca, I appreciate your genuine and sincere enthusiasm as a fan, and if there were thousands more of people just like you in our major cities willing to provide your level of support for the music, then it might be practical to do more of these mega-concert types of things. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that in our major cities in the United States, there are NOT thousands of die-hard Timba fans willing to actually buy tickets. The music still has a limited fan base for a series of reasons that I will be writing more about in the months to come, and this means that the Lollapalooza business model just isn't practical here. Not to mention, the generation for which that model works is mostly into Reggaeton and Hip Hop rather than Timba.
Like you, I am glad that I was able to see this concert, but when you put it together with the partial and total failures in other cities that preceded it and consider the overall level of dissatisfaction surrounding everything other than the music, the big picture is that the US does not yet have the "infrastructure" - and I am including the fan base in that term here - to do something on this scale successfully, at least not yet. For Timba to grow and thrive in the United States, it needs to have events that succeed on ALL fronts - musically, financially, audience satisfaction - to make the best venues and promoters interested in getting involved and staying involved. Recent events have been making some of them run the other way, and that is NOT a desirable outcome for anyone. Anything that fails to meet all of those standards is actually bad for the music in the long run. Smaller, more tightly-focused events with a limited number of the best bands can be successful if done well. But it is now time for organizers and promoters everywhere to focus on what is actually practical going forward.
In the meantime, Rebecca, keep showing up when you can. And bring 10 new friends next time - the music needs it.

Posted by: Bill Tilford on Thursday, 21 June 2012, 05:52 AM

Phenomenal Performance by Timba Artists in New Yor

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The music from the June 16th NY Timba performance is STILL dancing in my head! It's taken me a week to play a CD because I want to savor that night's performances and keep a smile on my face, a reenergized body and the vision in my eyes of so many my favorite bands amazingly on my home turf in Manhattan.

Thank you, Cuba, for a landmark night for Timba that occurred on stage during that set that had the faces of the audience shining with glee. All praises to the musicos that while on stage had us forget what had happened before they performed. I guess that's the job of good music.

Yes, our glee was only during the performance and not in the lead up to it that had ticket buyers, and probably the artists themselves mired for months in confusion, disappointment and chaos. I won't agree with this writer that I only want to see one or two artists during a US performance -- I am aiming for more. I just wanted what was advertised because it was what I cannot see but for going to Cubafest: True free and open cultural exchange is the ultimate goal for Ciuba's powerful music in this unnecessary international embargo, isn't it?

It appeared that the DeLaHabana promoters did not understand the scope of what they were promising or how to make it happen properly. So here's some Monday Morning Quarterbacking to help them: The promoters may have measured what they were doing against many of the multi-band music festivals that occur in the US, particularly in New York during the summer. This is when there are performances of this number of bands over two days or more -- not in six hours as their ad promised. Yes, they worked it out by using Bamboleo's magnificent band as back up to the All Star performance -- thumbs for good end zone thinking! But that didn't they tell the audience was a sign of obliviousness or neglect.

Here is some advice for your lessons to be learned: Maybe next time, have a year's planning time. And consult with concert experts to get ideas on how this can work properly. There's plenty of help to be had. Get some good free advice from a marketing team on proper responsive to concerns of US ticket buyers. Communication with audiences is interactive nowadays, and not one-sided.

The most important advice for fans: Yes, give All Praises to the Cuban musicians, the singers, composers, players, the managing team and even the technicians, and yes, to the reporters that cover this fine music. They all made this a memorable night and something worthwhile to talk about until the next time. And there should be a next time. See you then!

Posted by: Rebecca Kelly on Thursday, 21 June 2012, 02:55 AM

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