Havana

Un son para la Bienal de La Habana (Porque el Amor no existe). 

(A Song to the Havana Biennial (Because Love Does Not Exist).

Humberto Velez worked and produced a song together with the Havana-based all-female band Krystal. The concert opened the VIII Havana Biennial in 2003 at the Centro Lam and it was repeated later at the second venue, at the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, where it camouflaged as an unofficial or clandestine event.

Based on a poem Velez found in an old diary discovered in the former Panama Canal Zone Company headquarters, Una cancion para la bienal (Por que el amor no existe) A Song for the Biennial (Because Love Does Not Exist) combined elements of traditional Cuban music and Panamanian reggae with broader cultural references. The lyrics tell the story of a Latin American student living in Havana that found himself abandoned by his Cuban girlfriend for a more mature and wealthy American tourist.

While Krystal recalls “girl bands” popular in Cuba in the first half of the century, Velez found costumes for the performers of Cuban couture from the late ’60s and early ’70s that merged bold tropical colours and patterns with designs inspired by Courreges. Layering cultural and artistic heritage both Cuban and Panamanian, Velez’s concerts retained the character of casual street performance; they did not attempt to function as artworks first and concerts second.

His work opened the biennial’s framework to otherwise missed utopian moments by referencing a time in Cuban history when revolutionary optimism coincided with a highly developed culture that was both distinctly local in its vernacular and thoroughly international in its scope and ambition. The performance on this video was at the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña.