2016 Chronicle Award-Fall and Get Up

Por Jorge Domingo Cuadriello

Platanito’s ensemble was not the best musical grouping in the town, not even the most popular, but it was undoubtedly the one that performed the most performances. You could always count on it, the same to liven up an end-of-zaphra party as a wedding or triumph in emulating a cooperative. There went Platanito’s group to perform peasant songs, guarachas and sones. With that set the dance was guaranteed.

We all called him Platanito and I never got to know his name; was of low stature and solid as a rivet. The grit moustache made his face even bigger red and he liked to repeat with his schnappsy voice: “Mexican music! That’s the best music in the world!” He admired Jorge Negrete and Miguel Aceves Mejía, but never committed the awkwardness of trying to imitate them and preferred to be faithful to the traditional repertoire of Cuban camps.

Like almost every weekend, on a Saturday at dusk, the group members climbed into a van with the instruments, speakers, cables and microphone. Some husned in the cabin and others sat in the back, over some drawers. On that occasion they would go to offer their performance at the popular festival of La Cabuya, a humble and secluded batey located several kilometers away. There they arrived after touring some embankments and were greeted by the guajiros with cries of joy as if the orchestra Los Van Van had arrived. In two large thermos beer was already sold and about a dozen kiosks offered bread with pigstick, tamales and chicharrones. The night was fresh and there was a general joy. Platanito and his boys were unloading the instruments when a blackout occurred and the baty was almost dark.

The dismay was unanimous and there was no shortage of curses. Suddenly the long-awaited collective party was spoiled. The villagers knew that power outage could last until dawn. But suddenly someone pointed to the nearby hospital and shouted, “There’s a plant there and you can plug in the horns. Overall, now only three bellies are admitted waiting for childbirth and they’re even going to cheer up with the music.”
Everyone agreed with this proposal and marched to the hospital. Bejuco, the utilityman, pulled out the wires and checked that the speakers and microphone were working. Platanito glanced around and in the middle of the gloom distinguished a cement plate on a slightly higher plane. “Let’s get there, ” he commanded, and they all obeyed him. Minutes later, on that impromptu stage, they broke to play and the jubilation became present.
About an hour had elapsed and the party was on its cusp, the couples danced incessantly and the compadres hugged and made toasts. Under the light of the full moon no one remembered the blackout anymore. At the time, Platanito’s group began to interpret one of their favorite numbers, which he had as a repetitive and sticky chorus: “Open dirt and bring me!” The dancers became even more excited and the musicians, infected with collective emotion, began to jump on the plate and chant, “Open up the ground and bring me! Open up and bring me! Open up the ground and bring me!”

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