I will be planning to travel to the Island nation of Cuba for an intense study of that country’s music, particularly the son. According to Wikipedia, “Son cubano is a style of music that originated in Cuba and gained worldwide popularity in the 1930s… The Cuban son is one of the most influential and widespread forms of Latin American music.” Instruments used include: tres guitar, guitar, acoustic bass, maracas, claves, trumpet, timbales, cow bell, among others. In my limited research, Cuban son music seems to be produced by people mainly living in urban areas, where the popular ballroom venue is easily accessible.
For an American citizen, traveling to Cuba is a laborious ordeal. Due to the Cuban Revolution overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, the American government placed a strict embargo on the island nation. It is legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, but unless given approval by the government, it is illegal to spend money on any Cuban products or services. In order to successfully research son music, it is necessary for an ethnomusicologist to have the ability to purchase supplies and accommodations in Cuba. There are several legal methods of accomplishing this, yet the only one that applies to my situation would be going on a “people-to-people” tour. Companies such as Abercrombie & Kent offer tours of Cuba to American citizens willing to forgive the $5,995 price tag. These tours typically last 10 days and are intended to fully immerse the foreign travelers in Cuban culture. A tour guide drags you and 23 other tourists around the island, visiting all the famous landmarks and locales. Although not a guarantee, it is safe to assume that at some point there will be an interaction with Cuban musicians playing son music, and it is at that point I would record the music for my ethnomusicological needs.
This is, however, an unacceptable option if I wanted to truly study son. Therefore, due to restrictions imposed by my government, it is essential that I operate outside the law.
The United States’ embargo does not prevent citizens of other countries from traveling to Cuba, and it may surprise some that the impoverished Socialist nation’s economy is based primarily on tourism. In fact, Cuba has a voracious appetite for tourists, and it has been well known among world travelers that Cuban immigration officials rarely, if ever, stamp American passports. Traveling to Cuba via a foreign nation will provide an unrestricted visit that is required for my research.
Air travel: The trip will begin in Toronto, Canada on June 1st, 2014. A round trip flight from Toronto to Havana, Cuba at that time will cost $464.00.
Accommodations: I will be staying at the Hotel Plaza in Havana, which costs $143.60 a night. I will be staying for a total of 7 nights, bringing the total to $1005.20
Food, Transportation: Both of these are fairly cheap, especially transportation since I will not be leaving the city of Havana. An educated guess as to the amount I should bring for food, transportation and other financial issues that arise is $500.00.
There are many clubs and venues in Havana where one can hear son. The Casa de la Musica, the Café Cantante, the Café del Hotel Florida, the Casa de la Amistad, the Sala Atril, among others. The plethora of options to chose from will provide me with a different location every night of the trip. Tickets are cheap for foreigners, costing on average $10.00, bringing the total to $70.00.
Because I am traveling alone, I will need to travel light. The Zoom h4n recorder, along with a Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic are lightweight and yield superb audio recordings. A Zoom h4n recorder will cost $259.90 and the microphone will cost $269.00, bringing the total for equipment to $529.90.
Due to financial constraints, I will publish my work utilizing the cheapest method available: as a post on my blog website.
The total for this ethnomusicology trip will be $2,569.10
Olmsted, Larry. “How To Travel To Cuba Legally And Expertly.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 July 2013. Web.
“Guide to Havana, Cuba – Cuban Music & Dance Clubs and Cabaret Shows.” Guide to Havana, Cuba – Cuban Music & Dance Clubs and Cabaret Shows.
“Cuba: People to People.” Luxury Travel. N.p., n.d. Web.
Cave, Damien. “Cuba: Doing It Your Way.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
“Hotel Plaza, Havana.” Hotel Plaza (Havana, Cuba). N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Miller, Terry E. World Music, A Global Journey. 3rd ed