What has Changed for Musicians Since Re-Establishing Ties With Cuba?
A few months ago, we wrote an article about how re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba would affect musicians. Now, as time has passed, we are seeing details of this legislation starting to form and the changes that come along with it.
Musicians have been traveling back and forth between the two countries for almost as long as the ban has been in place, but it has definitely not been an easy road. However, interest in the music unknown to the country's listeners has not decreased. In 1997, American guitarist Ry Cooder produced the album, Buena Vista Social Club, recorded at Havana’s Egrem studio. The album showcased musicians that were unknown to U.S. audiences and created an interest in Cuban music. The 1998 Carnegie Hall concert captured in Wim Wender’s Oscar-nominated documentary about that recording would have been impossible to produce by 2004, owing to harsh U.S. travel restrictions regarding Cuba. One of the groups members, Ibrahim Ferrer, was not able to accept his Grammy award in 2004, due to being denied a visa to attend the ceremony.
Now, new laws are being put in place to help the transition of visitors between the two countries. As of Jan. 16, United States citizens are allowed to travel to Cuba, as long as their visit fits into one of the dozen approved purposes, which includes public performance. This would allow musicians to fly in without a prior written license from the U.S. Treasury Department. Though not all restrictions have been lifted, travelers still cannot visit for tourism reasons, U.S. visitors are being allowed into the country and are able to use credit cards and bring back souvenirs.
Though the removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is still under review, once the country is cleared, musicians will be able to travel without State Department security checks and visa denials.
Many believe that this end to the embargo will help to repair and rekindle the energy that should be flowing between U.S. and Cuban artist. Though things are still shaky, hopefully each small step is one in the right direction.