Cincuenta y cinco años


I had to think for a moment. 55 years. He had just put his old saxophone on my lap and explained fast in Spanish. I was holding it and could feel it was still warm after the last song. The surface was dirty and full of scratches. I looked at the face of the old man. His thin skin was drawn over the bone structure, his arms were rotating in rapid gestures and his eyes were glowing with the passion for music. Drops of sweat were running down his face and a small ring in his ear was blinking in the sunshine coming in from the street. I guess he was a little older than his saxophone. He was speaking Cuban-Spanish and loud to get through the noise from the TV in the end of the bar. He can see that I don’t understand everything and mixed in some English words.

I am in a bar in Old Havana with my son. We are the only guests but they still want to tell their stories and play for us. The old guy is telling us that his son fled from Cuba to Dominican Republic and he has not seen him in 15 years. It is impossible to travel and he can’t come back. They speak on the phone when they can afford the phone bills.


The young guitarist explains that his old colleague is one of the best sax players in all of Cuba. They have just finished a song and for all I know, he is probably right. I am sitting on a cracked barstool with a warm sax in my lap and an ice-cold mojito in my hand. I can see my music-loving son have tears in his eyes being caught off guard like this. Then they start playing again.

A warm breeze blows through the small room. The sax player picks up papers from the floor with one hand and continue playing with the other. A young mother carrying her child enters through the door and stop to dance. The singer fills the room with crystal clear voice. He smiles to the baby. “Besame, besame mucho..:”

My mind wanders. Would this happen in a free Cuba, 90 miles from Miami? Would these two wonderful musicians stay here, in this bar, playing for two people? Deep inside I know the answer, but I stop thinking and enjoy the moment.


I manage to record the song in my SLR photo camera and put together this small video. It is not a professional recording, but it gives you a feeling of what it was like.

Watch the video from Havana


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