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The Beatles are back in vogue in Cuba

posted 27 Apr 2011, 13:03 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Apr 2011, 13:18 ]

Cuba opens a bar dedicated to the Beatles decades after their music was banned as counterrevolutionary.

HAVANA CUBA (APRIL 26, 2011) REUTERS - Beatlemania is back in Cuba in the shape of a government-owned bar dedicated to the Fab Four from Liverpool - a remarkable turnaround from the days when their music was banned on the island.

The club, called 'Yellow Submarine' is adorned with caricatures of the Beatles along with famous lyrics from

their songs while a television plays their music videos.

The bar is run by Cuba's Cultural Ministry, and Yellow Submarine Art Director, Juan Ernesto Castellanos, said the island had come a long way since the 1960s when the music of the Beatles was banned by the communist government, along with other popular music, because of fears it was a threat to the revolution.

The Beatles and other musicians were viewed by Fidel Castro's government as undesirable in a culture that sought to impose an ethic of work and sacrifice.

Cuban authorities also wanted to prevent the arrival of the drugs and hippie culture on the island.

The band's rehabilitation began in earnest in 2000 when a statue dedicated to John Lennon was unveiled near to the bar by then President Fidel Castro.

"When Fidel Castro himself inaugurated the statue [of John Lennon] in 2000, December 08, 2000, with Silvio Rodriguez, who was one of the musicians banned from the media just for muttering the word 'Beatles' on TV, that was a way to say, 'we're sorry, things are going to change'," Castellanos told Reuters.

"The Beatles were always important in Cuba, very important. And now, to have a government facility where the Beatles go from being prohibited to mandatory is something that makes the people want to come out," Castellanos added.

The bar has attracted a mixed crowd including young people born long after the Beatles' heyday.

Also among the first crowds to file through the doors into the blue interior of the bar were some foreigners including American student Collier Brown, who studies abroad at the University of Havana.

"It's awesome, it's really great, I'm super impressed, I love it," Brown said.

The main clientele looks set to be the band's original fans who used to listen to the Beatles' music in secret and behind closed doors.

"It is music that a lot of gray-haired people in Havana, that are 50 or 60-years-old were born with and grew up with. And it is fabulous to have a place to go and reconnect with this music. It is great for me as an older person and for young people. They can reconnect with something they didn't live through, but that was beautiful," 60-year-old state employee Lazaro Argilados said.

A cover band Los Takson blasts out hits from the Beatles catalogue.

"It is great. It's great that they are opening up. It is great that there aren't these taboos anymore, that they stop training people. That people get to know this type of music and that they don't see it how they used to. Not at all, it is peaceful music in a peaceful place to have a good time. To have a good time. I love it," said Ketty Jorge, a Cuban who was visiting from her home in Miami, Florida said.