Sunday afternoon, Kool and the Gang gave a free, open air concert to a crowd of 250,000 people, jamming Havana’s iconic seawall drive, El Malecón. Mary Murray (NBC News) reports that although “no record store here has ever sold their music, and before Sunday, no one in the country had ever seen the band live,” for decades Cubans have loved Kool and the Gang, “seemingly unconditionally.” Even though there was a brief period in the 1960s when the communist government outright banned American music and frowned on it during the subsequent decade when it was rarely heard on government airwaves, Cuba filmmaker Gloria Rolando remembers Kool and the Gang’s music “playing everywhere.”
They were the first US musicians to receive permission to perform in Cuba since President Barack Obama came to power. Band leader Robert “Kool” Bell dedicated the concert to the “fraternity and unity” of the people of Cuba and the United States, emphasizing that the band did not come as politicians but as musicians. The inspiration for this visit, he said, was his father, who visited Cuba in the 1950s as a boxer and admired the island’s music. Minister of Culture Abel Prieto had an informal meeting with members of the group at the Cuban Institute of music after the concert. Here, they were awarded the Premio de Honor Cubadisco 2009, an honorary prize given to musicians whose work contributes to the betterment of humanity.
This group, known for their rhythm and blues, soul, funk, and disco was founded in 1964 in Jersey City and gained success with their 1980 album Celebrate. They regained popularity in 1994 when Quentin Tarantino included one of their songs on the soundtrack of his film Pulp Fiction.
For full articles, see http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/12/21/2158116.aspx (includes a video of the band playing in Cuba) and http://www.casamerica.es/otras-miradas/curiosidades/ministro-cubano-cultura-entrega-premio-a-banda-estadounidense-kool-the-gang