Mar 252016
Rolling Stones to rock Cuba in historic concert

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans were expected Friday at the Rolling Stones’ first gig on the communist island, with fans once banned from listening to rock ‘n roll heralding a dream come true. The four superstars led by Mick Jagger flew in late Thursday for the free-of-charge concert at Havana’s Ciudad Deportivo sports center. Cuban state media forecasted that about 500,000 people were to fill the playing fields, with music industry magazine Billboard reporting that as many people again could swarm into neighboring streets. With no tickets on sale, it was impossible to confirm the estimates, but a million fans would amount to one of every 11 Cubans. Salman Ahmad promises free Junoon concert at Wagah border if Pakistan beats India in T20 PHOTO: ROLLINGSTONE The concert — a surprise addition at the end of the Rolling Stones’ Latin America tour — was to be the first by such a big group in Cuba. Coming three days after a groundbreaking visit to Havana by US President Barack Obama, the event was widely seen as another step in Cuba’s emergence from years of cultural, ideological and economic isolation. The one party state, run by the Castro brothers for more than half a century, long looked down on British and US rock as subversive. Between the 1960s and 1990s, rock ‘n roll was discouraged to varying degrees, leading during the most repressive years to clandestine listening sessions and an underground trade in smuggled records and cassettes. Diplo set to headline concert in [Read More…]

Mar 232016

Cuban-American relations were long in need of an overhaul and, as the Obama presidency draws to a close and with an eye on his legacy, the US president is working hard to leave on a positive note. The presidential visit to Cuba is the first in 88 years and, historic as it is, it is overshadowed by the innumerable and serious differences that remain between two countries separated by 90 miles of open water and a century or two of ideology. The re-opening of the American embassy in Havana, the restoration of direct postal services and the setting up of a small tractor factory by an American entrepreneur are all positive moves — but to a degree cosmetic and small-scale symbolic. The nitty-gritty issues — Guantanamo Bay, men and women held as political prisoners in Cuba (denied by the Cuban government) and the freedom of the media to criticise the regime without fear of arrest or worse — were all on the table. America has been long critical of the Cuban human rights record as has Cuba of the American failure to close Guantanamo — a signature goal of the first Obama term, it will be recalled. Cuba has also berated America for its own decidedly patchy civil rights record. Differences aside, none of which are capable of early resolution, the visit marks a sea-change in both American foreign policy and in Cuban engagement with the wider world — a world where communism has become a relic, a political has-been, [Read More…]

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