Suicidal Tendencies brings hardcore punk to Cuba

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HAVANA, May 11, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The legendary Cuban night spot the Salon Rosado de la Tropical usually hosts rumba and mambo shows for those who like their music the way Fidel Castro did: traditional.

But on Friday night it will be full of tattooed teenagers thrashing to the noise of US hardcore punk band Suicidal Tendencies, playing their debut show in Havana.

The California thrash band has hundreds of fans on the communist island, and singer Mike Muir could barely hide his excitement at the thought of playing for them live.

“To get to this point and being here is very surreal, it’s an amazing experience,” he told AFP.

Fresh off a first show on Monday in Holguin, in southeast Cuba, Muir said the band was receiving an ecstatic welcome.

“People were saying, ‘This was the best day of my life.’ And to be part of that, bam, that hits you.”

As the communist state has gradually opened up over the years, it has hesitantly allowed the spread of rock music — once reviled by Castro, the late father of the Cuban Revolution, as a symbol of the capitalist West.

In 2016, more than a million fans turned out for a free concert by the Rolling Stones in Havana.

But Suicidal Tendencies remains edgy for a country only just emerging from nearly six decades of rule by Castro and his brother Raul.

The architect of this musical rapprochement was the band’s drummer, Dave Lombardo, a native Cuban whose family, like so many thousands, fled the island for the United States when he was young.

Considered by punk enthusiasts to be one of the best drummers of the genre, he credits his Cuban heritage with his unique style.

“Rock music comes easy to me because I understand Cuban music, which is complicated, full of congas and other drums. The rhythms are very complex. Learning that has helped me be the drummer I am today,” he told AFP in Spanish.

Playing in Cuba is “a dream come true,” he added.

Famous for the songs “Institutionalized” — which featured in the first “Iron Man” movie — and “Living for Life,” among many others, Suicidal Tendencies formed in the 1980s and has played punk, funk metal and thrash metal across its career.

The band’s other current members are guitarists Dean Pleasants and Jeff Pogan, and bassist Ra Diaz.

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