Harold Lopez Nussa ‘Sobre el Atelier’ review + Cuba, Havana-Cultura.com

Harold Lopez Nussa

Man the boy can play. ‘Sobre el Atelier’ is an instrumental CD of hot piano music from young Cuban virtuoso Harold Lopez Nussa. The CD contains original compositions as well as American and Cuban standards …

Harold Lopez Nussa

Man the boy can play. ‘Sobre el Atelier’ is an instrumental CD of hot piano music from young Cuban virtuoso Harold Lopez Nussa. The CD contains original compositions as well as American and Cuban standards (most well-known of which is Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”), and one track, “Bruma en Otono” by a certain Ernan Lopez Nussa, who one can only assume is our Harold’s dad. Bless.

Lopez Nussa has a rock steady left hand, a right hand of fluency and grace, and not a little of the famous Cuban passion and flair. Although he is not (yet) up there with the greats, that is only because a certain youthful exuberance and flashiness gets in the way of true expressiveness – though, lets be fair, if you can’t be flashy when you are young and good-looking, when can you be flashy?

Let him have his heart broken by some beautiful woman, let him fall out of critical favour for a spell, let him give in to the dark whispering voices of doubt, and then he’ll really play some stuff that will take us all to piano heaven. One to watch, no doubt about it.

Forgive me if I get the music out of the way so quickly (it is good, really good, go out and buy it, you won’t be disappointed), but there is some political stuff to discuss here, and if you think politics has nothing to do with music, bear with me, I agree with you, to a certain extent at least.

I am quite happy to big up Harold Lopez Nussa’s music, with minor reservations (see above), and more than happy to big up Cuban music in general, with no reservations, I mean, they produce some righteous sounds in Cuba, and no-one I mean no-one ought to carp about such a rich musical heritage. But get this. The generously provided review copy of this CD comes accompanied by a booklet entitled ‘La Guia Esencial de la Habana’ (‘Havana’s Essential City Guide’), complete with moody-looking Cuban babes on the cover and a handy fold-out map of the capital on the inside of the back cover, and a general invitation to participate in a ‘viral’ marketing campaign promoting the attractions of Cuba. The idea is that I will like the CD, browse the book and say to you all, ‘wow, isn’t Cuba great, and lots of restaurants and clubs. Looks pretty funky. You should go’.

Now, big changes are shortly to be underway in Cuba when ol’ Fidel finally pops his clogs, whether that amounts to a change in leadership or a change of political system, and no doubt tourist dollars will come in handy for the economy, but please let’s not rush out to sample the delights of Havana’s clubs and restaurants without deciding what we think about the political system. You may think Cuba is a socialist paradise or a communist hell, but either way you should recognise that all this marketing of the culture has political consequences and act accordingly. Don’t let the marketers blind you with glossy brochures and virally induced recommendations.

The politics are not simple, and I’m not going to tell you that a decision to visit Cuba (still less a decision to buy ‘Sobre el Atelier’) is directly either supporting or helping to bring about the end of the socialist regime. But the Cuban revolution was born out of the decadent Batista regime, when the rich of America flew to Havana to gamble, drink and f**k on the cheap, to the immense benefit of a small Cuban elite. So know what it is you are buying into. Cuba has, despite the long and until recently firmly enforced American economic embargo (supported by Republican and Democratic presidents since the ’50s), one of the best health-care systems in the world, and exports its medical workers to poor countries across the globe. It has also imprisoned hundreds, if not thousands, of political prisoners, some for decades. All those quaint ’50s cars on Cuba’s roads are still running, not because they are all fans of Happy Days, but because there have been no automotive imports for nearly sixty years.

Do you think socialism has been good for the people of Cuba? You decide (but inform yourself before you do – for two very different accounts of the Cuban experience from diametrically opposed perspectives, see Havana Journal by Andrew Salkey and View of Dawn in the Tropics by G Carbrera Infante). Cuba is not just another tourist destination, no matter how much the viral marketers and money men would like to persuade you that it is. Cuba is at a crossroads. Like it or not, by bigging up Cuban culture at this point in time, we in the West are inevitably influencing the future direction of this great island culture, one way or the other. If you want to do that, go ahead, but do it according to your own agenda, not somebody else’s.

By: Jim Driscoll


Havana Club, a window to contemporary Cuban culture, invites you to discover its Havana-Cultura.com website, showcasing the great creativity of Cuban artists:

Havana-Cultura.com Official Website
Harold Lopez Nussa profile on Havana-Cultura.com

Harold Lopez Nussa on Wikipedia

1 thought on “Harold Lopez Nussa ‘Sobre el Atelier’ review + Cuba, Havana-Cultura.com”

  1. Great review!

    Btw, Harold is the nephew of the famous pianist Ernan Lopez Nussa and the son of the drummer Ruy Lopez Nussa. Yes, a family of musicians :)

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