|Jorge, who made my instrument, and his compatriots|
In the months before we left I did some research on musical instruments in Cuba because it's always my goal to learn more about the local instruments whenever I go to another country and, if I'm lucky, even buy one. But in the process of researching I quickly learned the most important things about instruments in Cuba. First, Cubans are incredible musicians and everyone, it seems, plays, and plays extraorinarily well. But more importantly, Cubans don't have access to the most basic necessities for musicians, like strings and picks, much less the material and equipment needed to make fine instruments. As a result, I met top line professional musicians whose instruments wouldn't pass muster in an elementary school music class here.
|Jorge demonstrating his coal fired bending iron|
By the time I got to Cuba I had already made contact with a luthier who had worked with Luthiers Without Borders before. He had helped guide materials to people who needed them and helped coordinate deliveries of equipment and supplies. And, with the help of a very helpful guy named Denny from the Luthiers group, I was able to establish that I was interested in buying an instrument. That was an interesting process in and of itself. I won't go into the details because, again, it's so interesting I could go on and on. But the point is that Cuba is a communist country. Retail sales is not something they're big on, so it's not as though you just drop in "Jose's Guitar World" and pick up a handmade tres.
But I digress. I first met Jorge, the luthier in question, when we met at another person's house to look at the instrument. I was excited, and it sounded great but, honestly, I thought the workmanship was a little sub par. That is until he took me to his workshop. Holy Toledo.
I'm hoping to go back soon with some experienced luthiers and more supplies. You could make a lot of musicians very happy with a couple of weeks and some basic materials.
So I'll skip talking about my guitar this week. I have every piece of equipment and the best supplies available. Makes me feel I should work a little bit harder.