Late January 2012, Peter Shebib and Bill Dowding visited the Cienfuegos area of Cuba for a week break away from the Canadian winter. In addition to Bill’s son Troy, “a professional trumpeter”, and his friend Richard, “a professional drummer”, we joined up with a great group of childhood buddies from Hamilton, some coming from other parts of Canada for their yearly get together in Cuba.
They have met there a number of times before and we were glad to be asked along. They knew everything and everyone in the area, therefore made it easy for us to enjoy ourselves. In addition to the regular resort stuff, we had an original lobster meal at a Cuban home, took a 60ft. catamaran to a remote Cuban island with corrals and Iguanas and giant rats. All very friendly. Also a great meal under the palm trees. These guys could really sing, the Beach Boys for example, and we played all the way out to that island, for over 2 hours. We also visited the historic city of Cienfuegos. One evening, Troy and Richard went in town to an outdoor dance where there were one thousand people all dancing to a fifty-piece rumba band.
There was a great Cuban band at the resort and a few evenings after their set they joined us to play ukes. This was the first time they saw a ukulele and seemed fascinated. They spent a lot of time siphoning my brain for strums. I showed them the ukulele flip and they loved it. After I showed them of course, they could play them better than I could ever have dreamed of. It was interesting how well their Cuban rhythms lent themselves to the ukulele. They also played them in their sets. We also brought along two electronic tuners, which were something they never saw before.It was a privilege for us to be asked hang around such a nice group of decent gentlemen and also a few others who joined us for the week. Of course we left them our ukes and tuners and books, but hopefully we’ll be back next year to hear the band play them.~ Contributed by Peter Shebib, photos courtesy of Bill Dowding and Peter.