It was ladies night and the feeling was right in Cuba on Sunday, as Kool & the Gang became one of the few U.S. musical acts to perform in the communist country amid Washington’s travel restrictions and the island’s ambivalence toward American music.
Robert “Kool” Bell,” his brother Khalis Bayyan, saxophonist Dennis Thomas and drummer George “Funky” Brown took the stage at open-air Anti-imperialist Plaza, which sits in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
Thousands of spectators stretched down the city’s storied Malcon coastal boulevard, while other fans – many of them middle-aged with children in tow – danced and jumped up and down to the music while tenants in nearby apartment buildings watched from balconies.
“We are all about the music. We travel the world and our message is love, understanding and unity,” Bell, a singer and bass player, said before taking the stage for a performance authorized by the U.S. government. “We don’t come as politicians, we come as musicians.”
The most recent show by a U.S. group was the heavy-metal band Audioslave’s thundering concert before thousands at the same amphitheater in 2005.