Sunday, February 16, 2014

Karim Dridi: Cuba Feliz

Karim Dridi's Cuba Feliz (2000) gives us a zen musical tale set in Cuba with no overarching narration. We follow El Gallo (The Rooster), Miguel Del Morales, as he visits friends, acquaintances and peers. There is a lot of music and ambience, shot with a single camera and therefore often times carefully constructed. I felt transported after a while into a sort of astral plane of Salsa Blues.

Stuff happens besides singing and playing musical instruments. El Gallo walks, takes trains, gets lifts, sleeps, is awakened by musicians, observes people -- including an older gent doing yoga-like stretches -- and so on. A guitar is handcrafted for him, and he later plays it. Folks of all ages participate in the action -- like a one room schoolhouse for music and culture, with El Gallo moving along to different towns and cities. At one point, a beginning rapper is advised wisely: "First, you have to learn how to listen." 

There's also the beauty and decay of Cuban architecture, the classic cars and the nearby ocean, and even a brief early display of twerking (this in the late 1990s) with a more luxurious consideration of proto-salsa Changüí. 
And that's not all. Pictured here is a scene you might expect from a Werner Herzog film (documentary or otherwise). El Gallo appears to be receiving some sort of blessing in a little chapel-like space in what seems to be Santeríaa syncretic mix of Catholicism and Yorùbá religion. Yes, the woman giving the blessings is balancing holy water on her head.

Post script. Because of his moniker, El Gallo / The Rooster reminds me of another troubadour, Curtis "Rooster" Wheeler, last seen playing "Katrina Blues" in New Orleans. More on the latter here.

Today's Rune: Signals.   


Charles Gramlich said...

I would really like to visit Cuba at some point. I've heard and read so much about it.

jodi said...

Erik-as we have personally discussed-we both share a fascination for Cuba. Let's grab up Charles and visit it someday!