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Rolling Stones set to rock Cuba in historic concert

© AFP archive

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-25

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans were expected Friday at the Rolling Stones' first gig on the Communist island, with fans once banned from listening to rock 'n roll heralding a dream come true.

The four superstars led by Mick Jagger flew in late Thursday for the free-of-charge concert at Havana's Ciudad Deportivo sports centre.

Cuban state media forecasted that about 500,000 people were to fill the playing fields, with music industry magazine Billboard reporting that as many people again could swarm into neighboring streets.

With no tickets on sale, it was impossible to confirm the estimates, but a million fans would amount to one of every 11 Cubans.

The concert -- a surprise addition at the end of the Rolling Stones' Latin America tour -- was to be the first by such a big group in Cuba.

Coming three days after a groundbreaking visit to Havana by US President Barack Obama, the event was widely seen as another step in Cuba's emergence from years of cultural, ideological and economic isolation.

The one party state, run by the Castro brothers for more than half a century, long looked down on British and US rock as subversive.

Between the 1960s and 1990s, rock 'n roll was discouraged to varying degrees, leading during the most repressive years to clandestine listening sessions and an underground trade in smuggled records and cassettes.

"A Rolling Stones concert in Havana? It's a dream," said Eddie Escobar, 45, who founded one of Havana's few clubs for live rock music, the Yellow Submarine.

He remembers secretly searching for US commercial radio frequencies so that he could hear the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and the like.

"Rock music, I hope, will open everything else -- politics, the economy, the Internet. We're 20 years behind absolutely everything," Escobar said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

Date created : 2016-03-25

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