from by ScottMFR

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Ascensor (Elevator)

After returning from Vinales to Havana for the third and final leg of our trip, we stayed in a Casa Particulaire in an apartment in Vedado. Getting in proved to be more difficult than expected, but by now we were accustomed to things being more complicated than anticipated. There was no buzzer on the apartment building so the taxi driver leaned on his horn. A man in a neighboring building asked us what we wanted and a fair bit of confusion brewed from our cryptic notes on the casa. We were staying at Casa Zoila, but it had been booked by a separate man whose name and number was written on the same paper as the address of the casa. The taxi driver mistook the booking agent for the owner of the casa and told the neighbor we were looking for him which confused the man who told him he wasn’t there. Eventually we realized what was going on and Tania told him we were looking for Casa Zoila. “Ah si! Casa Zoila!” He then called her and she let us into the building and explained the elevator situation. In typical Cuban fashion, the elevator doesn’t stop on our floor. It doesn’t even stop on the floor below us. The old elevator had a neat rhythm to it so I recorded it and used it as the foundation for this song. While I was recording the elevator opened and a man got on and we had a rather awkward confusing conversation. You can hear bits of it in the song, but I mangled and hid it because I sounded like an idiot.

They were still in the midst of cleaning when we arrived as the previous tenants had only left an hour ago, so we sorted out the paperwork and went for a walk. We went straight to the Malecon, thinking we’d walk alongside the water to the Hotel Nacional, but we quickly learned that wouldn’t be possible. The Malecon is coated in large patches with treacherously slippery algae left by the waves of sea water spraying over its ridge. Tania bailed. She went down so quickly I just heard a yelp and felt her finger scratch my ankle. We decided it would be a better idea to walk on the opposite side.

We walked past the Riviera Hotel, past mansions and large apartment blocks, a baseball diamond, empty pools, abandoned playgrounds, and monuments. At one point a guard whistled and motioned that we had to cross the street and couldn’t walk in front of a building. We thought it was some kind of jail, but it turned out to be the US Special Interests Building. Apparently this building exists in lieu of an embassy to represent American interests in Cuba. The US would display Anti-Communists rhetoric on a ticker tape board so Castro had a forest of black flags erected to hide the US propaganda. When we walked by I couldn’t see the ticker-tape display and the flag-poles were there (some had been taken down) but there were no black flags. Next to this strange section is a large open-air concert square called the Anti-Imperialist Stadium.

By now we were getting close to where our map told us a bank was supposed to be. All the neighboring landmarks lined up, but we couldn’t find the bank. After asking at the gas station we found out that it had closed, probably a while ago. This proved our map wasn’t completely reliable. We used the Cadeca at the Nacional to get some CUCs from our Visa. We found out that our pre-payed Visa cards were pretty much useless here because nowhere in Cuba can take a credit card without a name on it. The Nacional was opulent and luxurious, and very well maintained. The grounds outside were tranquil and refined, and the inside was palatial. We had lunch at their outdoor lounge under a palm leaf roof. The food didn’t quite live up to the surroundings, but by now our expectations for food were low anyway. My stomach was also feeling rather queasy by this point and I didn’t have much of an appetite.

We rode our first CocoTaxi to get back. These funny looking, three wheeled jalopies are all over Havana. Our driver was quick to tell us that he loves Canada and showed us the Canadian sticker on the back of his helmet. He even took our picture in the taxi with me in the driver’s seat. When we arrived at our destination he told me it would be “100 Pesos”. I probably could have bought a CocoTaxi for that much. We had wanted to go out to hear some jazz that night, but my queasy stomach sapped my energy. I kept feeling like I had to throw up, but never did (until the next morning after I brushed my teeth). We ended up staying in and watching some Cuban Variety show on TV called “La Descarga”.


from Sonidos de Cuba, released April 26, 2013
Features an Electron Octatrack Sampler, an Elektron Machinedrum, an Elektron Monomachine, and a Dave Smith Tempest Synthesizer



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ScottMFR Vancouver, British Columbia

Scott Michael Francis Riesterer is a Sound Designer from Vancouver, Canada. He has contributed his audio skills to documentaries, short films, video games, and the Chevrolet Volt. Musically he dabbles in electronic genres like Downtempo, House, Techno, and Breaks. His latest project, Sonidos De Cuba is an ambitious album built upon field recordings from his travels in Cuba. ... more

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