By VANESSA ARRINGTON | ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Gerardo Piloto, Carlos Alfonzo and Amaury Perez, attend a press conference at the International Press Center in Havana, speaking about the recently released CD, “Bridge to Havana” on Wednesday June 30, 2004 in Havana, Cuba.
A group of musicians on Wednesday criticized new U.S. regulations that will further limit travel to Cuba, urging the United States to build bridges to the island instead of tearing them down.
The musicians, who produce jazz, Afro-Cuban music and a ballad style known as Cuban trova, tied their comments to Tuesday’s release of “Bridge to Havana.” The combination CD-DVD was produced by dozens of U.S. and Cuban artists during a songwriting workshop and cultural exchange program in Havana in 1999.
The product “proves the brotherhood that exists between American and Cuban musicians,” said a statement signed by “the unstoppable Cuban musicians,” about 10 of whom held a news conference to call for a second such meeting of artists in Cuba.
“The day that the U.S. government intensifies its attacks on our country, on Cuba, is the same day that our response is to send more songs, to send more music, to send more love, to send more solidarity,” said Pablo Menendez, founder of the Afro-Cuban fusion band Mezcla and a U.S. citizen who has lived in Cuba nearly 40 years.
Menendez worked with musician Bonnie Raitt, actor Woody Harrelson - who also plays the guitar - and Cuban classical guitarist Rey Guerra, during the workshop. They produced “La Brisa Azul,” or “Blue Breeze,” on the “Bridge to Havana” CD.
The new U.S. rules, which tighten a U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, went into effect Wednesday. They aim to squeeze the island’s economy and push out President Fidel Castro by sharply reducing Cuba-bound dollar flows from the United States and limiting visits by cultural and academic groups as well as Cuban-Americans to the island.
During the workshop, Menendez said the artists discovered “we not only have a common history, we have a lot of common objectives about our desire for a better world and for peace between our two peoples.”
The United States’ ongoing hard-line policies against Cuba have also made it difficult for Cuban musicians to obtain visas to perform on U.S. soil. Despite Washington’s policies, some artists here said they hoped for change.
“Everyone knows that these measures are unsustainable,” said Amaury Perez, a Cuban trova singer.