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The Rolling Stones To Play First Concert In Havana


It's been quite a week for Cuba - a historic visit by President Obama, a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, and to top it all off...


THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy. 'Cause summer's here, and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy.

CORNISH: As we heard elsewhere in the program, the Rolling Stones will play a free concert tonight in Havana in front of an intimate crowd of hundreds of thousands.


It's the first time the legendary rock group is playing in Cuba.



SIEGEL: That's band in a Facebook video posted on Tuesday. Other Western acts have started playing in Cuba. The Grammy-winning DJ Diplo performed there earlier this month.

CORNISH: But, no offense to Diplo, he's not the Stones, says Ned Sublette, senior producer of Afropop Worldwide.

NED SUBLETTE: The Stones are the biggest touring act in the world. And this is - this is - I see this kind of as a - almost a culmination of the Stones' career in some ways.

CORNISH: A culmination? Sublette explains.

SUBLETTE: The Stones in the 1960s made these pilgrimages, right, to Chicago, to the South, right, to Mississippi, to this - where this blues that they grew up worshiping came from. Well, this is the other half of what their music was built out of.

SIEGEL: Ned Sublette had an example ready.

SUBLETTE: "Satisfaction" is a cha-cha-cha, right? (Singing) Hey, hey, hey, one, two, cha-cha-cha. One - that's what I say.

I can't sing today, but the Stones' "Satisfaction," "Get Off My Cloud," Let's Spend The Night Together," all of these are building on Cuban rhythm.


THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey. That's what I say.

SUBLETTE: In the 1950s, everybody heard the "I Love Lucy" theme every week, right? Everybody in the United States heard Cuban music all the time. It was omnipresent in the U.S. musical diet, in U.S. media. Then comes the break in relations, which, by '61, is pretty much total. And by the time the Stones come out, they're playing to a generation of kids who no longer directly remember Cuban music, but all these rhythms are still in the air.

SIEGEL: The Rolling Stones broke out during a time when Cuban-U.S. relations were at their coldest, and listening to groups like the Stones was considered subversive in Cuba.

CORNISH: Afropop Worldwide's Ned Sublette says he hopes the events of this week will soon mean a time when a big rock show in Cuba isn't news.

SUBLETTE: If the better-case scenario takes place, something like this Stones concert perhaps won't be so unusual anymore. If Cuba has access to modern Internet and telephone services, modern financial services and modern transportation links, we're going to see the music of the hemisphere and the world transform.

CORNISH: For now, a memorable end to a remarkable week in Cuba. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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