Tembea: Little Havana

Bujumbura, for a certain reason, always appeals to me as a social- cultural capital of good old Africa meshed with the African Diaspora from slavery, best displayed by say Rumba in Latin and Caribbean America, or jazz in the American south – perhaps such a huge overstatement.

Bujumbura, for a certain reason, always appeals to me as a social- cultural capital of good old Africa meshed with the African Diaspora from slavery, best displayed by say Rumba in Latin and Caribbean America, or jazz in the American south – perhaps such a huge overstatement.

It is difficult to find, in a country just out of civil war for decades, a lingering social-cultural identity personified by the love of live band music spanning from coastal Swahili taarab influences, Congolese rumba of the days, Kenya’s zilizopendwa and well, American blues.

Perhaps it has something to do with the artificial Lake Tanganyika beach, which sweeps all the culture form other countries and dumps in there, producing a metric of complex artistic identity.

In no place is this more clear that in Havana club, right in the middle of the city, a plaything for visiting expatriates and local elites looking for an out of this world experience – dim lights, cozy leather settees, swigging bears and wines, with a music band of not so professional singers but music lovers who pride in their vocal sensibilities, and rich taste of alternative music genres.

And yes, a complete replica of Havana on the walls, appealing black and white pictures of the real Havana to complete the deception of the Caribbean island.

From scenes on Cuban beach with vintage cars under palm trees to a Che Guevara-like character pulling from his cigar, the signature of Cuba or the man, in full colonial attire, with the face of a well-bred exotic dog.

The real Havana is centre of art and a destination of the holidays in the sun, but Bujumbura is surely a sunny comparative with a beach culture as well although most of the artistic value has been destroyed by the war, but like Bujumbura, Havana has thrived in difficult circumstances of trade embargoes from the west and yet has remained a cultural jewel.

The little Havana is a minuscule example of life in the middle of another life. Burundians are not the wealthiest, but a class of culture has remained untainted over the years, untainted by war.

To complete the classy ambience, a real roomy dance club under a go-down like structure which immaculate white rotating bar stools chairs lie under s shiny scaffolding of metal along which disco lights adorn to simulate the artificial allure of exquisite night life.

Ends

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