Friday, May 15, 2009

More tours by Cuban musicians?

Billboard has an interesting piece today:

Encouraged by President Barack Obama’s remarks in April that he’s seeking a “new day” in relations with Cuba, U.S. promoters have quietly begun planning stateside concerts by Cuban artists for as early as June, pending their ability to secure permission from the U.S. Department of State to perform in this country. Washington, D.C., hasn’t authorized such visits since 2003...

Cuban music enjoyed a boom in popularity in the United States after Washington exempted Cuban recordings and other “informational material” from the trade embargo in 1988 and later allowed Cuban artists to perform stateside. ... By 2000, hundreds of musicians from the island had performed in the States, most prominently the Buena Vista Social Club, whose 1997 Ry Cooder-produced album on Nonesuch went on to sell more than 1.8 million U.S. copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“It became the opportunity to share a rich culture that was previously forbidden,” says Scott Southard, director of International Music Network, who adds that his company may try to bring back some of the surviving members of Buena Vista Social Club for U.S. performances later this year. The George W. Bush administration subsequently reduced the number of Cuban artists allowed to perform stateside and stopped issuing such visas altogether after 2003.

Musicians from Cuba were not the only ones who had visa troubles during the Bush administration, of course.

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