The Sound of Change: Can Music Save Cuba?

Poor and isolated, Cuba is crumbling. Can music save it?

David Burnett / Contact for TIME

A vintage taxi picks up passengers at the Hotel Nacional. The capital city's glut of old American Bel Airs, Corsairs and Corvairs has less to do with nostalgia than with the crippling economics of the U.S. embargo

If this were a music video, it would start in this living room in Havana, with a tight shot of the skinny kid in the white tank top at the keyboard. He counts it off from four, and with a sort of animal ease, his fingers fly, and a montuno rhythm swells through the dented amp, surging until the drummer can't help joining in with the five-beat clave that is the backbone of all music here. And then the camera swings to the timbalero with a pink star dyed into his fade, cracking into the rhythm, and here comes the bass...

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