“To me, the most important things in life are family, love, food and sex,” says one of Cuba’s rising stars, Cimafunk (known to his friends as simply Erick Alejandro Rodriguez). “It all depends on you, and what you want to do with your time”, he tells NBC news last year (Aug 2019). I would venture to say that Cimafunk’s simple pleasures speak for the rest of the island nation during this quarantine.
In an effort to bottle up this lightning, we launched a little series entitled “The Recap”. Due to Corona, our Production Services department is on pause, so we decided to create a weekly mash-up of all the Cuba creatives sitting at home making art. Meet the first batch in Episode 1. Here’s the breakdown:
(1) CIMAFUNK “LEAN ON ME”: FULL VIDEO HERE
Spearheading the first video of the first episode is Cimafunk, someone we consider a rocketship coming out of Cuba. Erick was on the path to becoming a Doctor studying medicine, but decided to follow his heart. Instead of the medical white robe, Erick preferred the cape of James Brown, King of Funk. While most bands in Cuba are delivering reggaeton and salsa, Cimafunk stands apart, and is dominating his own corner of the music sphere on the island. His rendition of “Lean of Me” was created in quarantine, honoring the recent passing of soul legend, Bill Withers. It’s a fitting homage for a country who is caring for eachother and leaning into eachother during this time.
(2) GABRIEL BIANCHINI “UNIVERSAL QUARANTINE” – FULL VIDEO HERE
Photographer Gabriel Bianchini is one of the younger generations most prolific voices. For as long as I can remember, I have spotted Gabriel at every relevant event that Cuba has to offer. You can call him the Bill Cunningham of Cuba, except instead of Fashion, Gabriel is documenting culture, culture, and some more culture. When he’s not snapping events in town, he turns inward to create Fine Art, all featured on his official website. Gabriel is constantly questioning his boundaries and pushing his comfort zones into new territory. This piece was created for an art blog names Tumaletin & Art Project Inside.
(3) JUAN CAMILO CRUZ FOR CUBA CORONA VOLUNTEERS – FULL VIDEO HERE
Juan Camilo Cruz Rodriguez has been single-handedly building an idea that sprang forth in his mind exactly when the lockdown began. What if we all joined forces and combined resources to take care of our elderly? What does this mean in Cuba? A grassroots effort to meet all the neighborhood clinics, and inquire which elders need support. This requires 2 tasks, one is to enlist volunteers and the other is to create a registry of older Cubans in every neighborhood of Havana. The plan is simple and safe. Each volunteer would be assigned one elder just a few blocks away from home. After all, the volunteers venture to the food stores to purchase their own food, so why not buy a little extra for their older neighbor? Observing social distancing at all times. The charity food would be left outside their door, with a friendly knock to pick it up. That’s it. You can visit his page for CVC to watch more videos and instructions of the program. His big dream? If other cities in cuba can follow the same model, creating a volunteer program across the whole island. P.S. Juan is an excellent photographer and art director in his professional career, as well as a big romantic, who loves to sing countless songs around the house — as evidenced on his personal Instagram (one of them, a duet with his mother).
(4) SARAH MARSH – EMPTY STREETS OF HAVANA – FULL VIDEO HERE
Sarah Marsh is an expat in Cuba, who has fitted in quite nicely. Born British, but Latina in soul, she is a fierce reporter for Reuters in Havana, and previously covered the territory of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she picked up some mean Tango skills. Cuba has offered her additional Salsa chops, and the lady can hold her own on the dance floor with the Cuban boys. In our RECAP videoclip, Sarah drives around Havana, capturing the empty streets in its poetic isolation using just an iPhone. Her social feed is incredibly informative, with beat-by-beat coverage from her journalist lifestyle. You can follow her here.
(5) DR FRANCISCO DURAN – DAILY PRESS BRIEFINGS
Meet the Dr Fauci of the Cuban world, Mr. Francisco Durán García, Director of Epidemiology of the Cuban Ministry of Health. The whole country has grown to feel comfort with his words, with his daily briefings on the state of COVID19 in Cuba, new developments, new statistics, and sage advice moving forward.
(5) ZAFRACA “POOL PARTY” – FULL VIDEO HERE
We have no idea what the word Zafraca means, but all we know is that she is a character — born in quarantine who wants to party. She seems to be looking for trouble, but it’s the fun kind. “Welcome to my pool party” she writes on her first post with the hashtag #420 on the exact date. Shaking her ass in wreckless abandon, we can’t stop watching as the story unfolds. “I’m still waiting” she writes of her isolation, “wanting to go back to my favorite club, dirty, dark and full of vampires”. Who is this baby Instagram born barely just 1 week ago? Zafraca is the brainchild of Lia Rodriguez, a fiery dancer known as “The Cuban Insider” who has already amassed a following on her YouTube page with her choreography narratives. We consider Lia “one to watch” in the rich tapestry of Cuban dancers.
(6) ROXANA – “LOUS’s BLUES” SAXOPHONE SOLO – FULL VIDEO HERE
Roxana is one of the 20-somethings bursting with boundless energy on her Instagram account. Let’s see, first there is her personal band, Our Fiction with a friend named Bosito. Then there is her social media collective, named DoubleAgency. Don’t forget the other band collective she is a part of Habana Roots Ensemble. And oh, there’s the alone time with her bedroom, practicing the saxophone. She even throws in some comedy, lipsyncing to a humor track that rants about somebody named Claudia. It’s all about raw experiments for Roxana, but we’re having fun watching her figure it all out.
(7) YASSER DOMINGUEZ OQUENDO – DANCIN AT HOME – FULL VIDEO HERE
Yasser is a contemporary dancer and rasta man, thus his Instagram moniker, @Rasta_Rasta_08. Quarantine has kept Yasser at home, where he therapeutically uses his body in rubber band ways to various music recordings.
(8) EMMA QUINONES – “SEEN ME THROUGH THE WINDOW” – FULL VIDEO HERE
“Find what you love and let it kill you” writes Emma, a dancer in the Danza Contemporanea in Cuba. Her feed is sprinkled with friends, dance, and her time in the dance company. This black and white time-lapse of her bored at home is accompanied by a little prose: “Hand in hand with the everyday, I tell him how I feel and he promises me not to say it, but it is too late, they have already seen me through the window”.
(9) DIEGO BARRERA HERNANDEZ – GUITAR WITH MAC MILLER – FULL VIDEO HERE
Diego, nicknamed “Bejuco”, is another extension of the Cimafunk crew, acting as the bands guitarist. Last year was a wild ride for the bands entrance into the world sphere, with Billboard magazine naming Cimafunks band one of the “Top 10 Latin Artists to Watch in 2019”. Here in quarantine, Bejuco strums along to Mac Miller’s ode to melancholia. “My regrets look just like text I shouldn’t send” sings MacMiller from the speakers ““I just need a way out of my head, I’ll do anything for a way out, of my head”. Together, the Cuban musician (on pause from world tours) and recently deceased singer weave a beautiful sound in a time of social distancing.
(10) ISLA OCHOA SINGS “I LOVE YOU” – FULL VIDEO HERE
Isla Ochoa was raised in the music business since birth, but is generally just starting her own voice. Her father is recording artist Kelvis Ochoa with a beloved following in his native country. Isla, which means “island”, is a byproduct of American influences. She once told me that although her first language is Spanish, that she prefers to sing in English because it comes more naturally. In this clip, she sits home alone on her piano, wistfully singing “I Love You”, the song of a 20 year old superstar in America named Billie Eilish. Isla is warming up to her own stage presence by toying around in the same local collective as Roxana, Habana Roots Ensemble, spearheaded by music producer, Andre Levin. Isla’s journey is just beginning.
CREDITS: Video Director & Writer: Jauretsi | Curators: Rosa de la Vega, Alejandro Chang | Graphic Art: Amaya Sara García Vera | Video Editor: Humberto Molina Gonzalez | Translation: Luis Marron | Exec Producer: Diana Gonzalez, Mario Baeza