The old-time Cuban Buena Vista Social Club may have won riches and international fame with its surprise hit recording and documentary film, but life under Fidel Castro remains a struggle for most of the group's compatriots. This is the story of bands that play in Cuba, hoping to score audiences of foreign tourists or the few Cubans who can cough up a $10 cover charge. This account places life on the island against the backdrop of music, dance and racial politics, and shows how culture is political in Cuba-and for the U.S. officials who control entry visas. Robinson, an assistant managing editor at the Washington Post, commits two sins common to journalists: an overabundance of taxi drivers' opinions and of accounts of himself taking notes. He also has an annoying tic of referring to the "Carnegie Hall of Cuba," to the "Li'l Bow Wow of Cuba," the "Juilliard of the Caribbean," the "Justin Timberlake of...": you get the picture. But Robinson makes up for that by conveying the energy of, and his passion for, the island, its music and the players. He does an excellent job of recounting how Cuba's hip-hop scene has challenged the regime, getting away with what nobody had until one band finally crossed the line. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. (July 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Age will soon accomplish what the anti-Castro movements have failed to do in Castro's nearly 45 years in power-effect a regime change. The future of Cuba is the backdrop for this fascinating and unusual look inside Cuban life and culture by Robinson (Washington Post). As he roams Havana and interviews musicians, politicians, and ordinary people, Robinson finds lingering appreciation for Castro's triumphs, disgust at the failures of the revolution, and great concern about what will happen after Castro is gone. He also finds some hope beneath the surface, in what he calls the cultural defiance of hip-hop music in the small clubs of Havana. The richest writing here comes from reporting on the importance of music and dance in Cuban life. Robinson even finds some admirable traits in Castro, despite years of fear and repression: "Fidel's brilliance is that...he leads and seduces not just with skill but with emotion as well." A useful complement to such recent books as Volker Skierka's Fidel Castro: A Biography, this book is recommended for all libraries.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.