Working Class Bar: Toki-Ona Neptuno Bar in Havana!!

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In bustle of Central Havana, lies one of the cities hidden gems. Toki-Ona Neptuno Bar is a open and inviting place to stumble upon. The building has breezy Spanish colonial design in which allows for crosswinds to cool off patrons sipping on their coffees or mojitos. The large bar and seating area can accommodate 70 or 80 of your closest friends.

Immediately upon entry, the bartender greeted us with a warm hello.  We made the kind of small talk that makes a traveller feel like you have been transported to your favorite neighborhood bar. In this case it just so happens to be in Havana. One of the bartenders was kind enough to share with us the recipe to an old Cuban cocktail named “El Negron Cubano”.  Which was delicious, by the way.

The crowd in the bar was a mixture of locals taking a break from work and a few tourist who were more on the adventurist side. Because of this dynamic, the bar is unpretentious. Even the music is content to hang out in the background as if it was listening to the nuances of your conversation. When the bar gets livelier, musicians brighten up the scene playing traditional Cuban son music.

If you happen to be in Central Havana and want to experience a slice of what life has to offer to locals, go the Neptuno Bar. It has great food, great drinks and a cool environment. A wonderful working class bar.

Happy May Day!!

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Prince: The Love Symbol

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On April 21st, Prince Rogers Nelson left us in body but not in spirit. That afternoon, millions across the globe mourned his lost and celebrated his life. As I went through my day bearing witness to the various displays of emotions by almost everyone I encountered, one emotion that caught me off guard was gratitude.

I have been a Prince fan since the age of 10. That is when my step-mother made me a Prince mixtape after hearing me rave on about TLC’s cover of “If I was your Girlfriend”. The mixtape was heavy on songs from the Dirty Mind album, Purple Rain and Lovesexy. I was immediately hooked. Secretly, I was inspired to create some sort of music that smitten others has Prince’s music had done to me. Not so secretly, I became a unapologetic Prince junkie, spreading the gospel of Prince to anyone who would listen. When Prince passed, I felt a void somewhere. It was hard to understand. That was until I acknowledge how blessed I was to be on the same planet as he was.  I come to understand to what extent that I wasn’t alone.

On Facebook,  friends of mine, whom I may not have spoken to in years recounted their earliest Prince memories. They typically began as” I wasn’t a Prince fan until my friend, Brandon convinced me of how awesome he was”. Each message ended with a token of gratitude for having Prince in their life and for me introducing him to them. I took to heart a valuable lesson from Prince in his passing. We are defined by what we love.

Prince’s love for music and people transcended his immediate circle and touched the world. We will always remember him because of it. Prince will always be synonymous with music, his passion. I will be forever grateful if I am remembered by what and who I loved. That would be the Princely way to live.

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A Music Industry Revolution or A One Percent Hustle?

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 Last week, Jay-Z announced with the a bevy of music superstars at his side that they were launching a new music streaming service named Tidal. Tidal was created from the acquisition of a Norwegian company for about $65 million big ones. The investors in this project include some of the largest artists in the world from Daft Punk, to Chris Martin of Coldplay, to Madonna. The talking point was that Tidal was the world’s first global artist owned music streaming service. The question remains: how will this impact small, independent artists?

Spotify, the largest music streaming service, pays the artists only fractions of a penny per stream.This payment model equals out to be only slightly better than not receiving shit for the artist. My first question for Tidal would be what is the compensation per stream? One would assume that if a company mission statement is to be more artist friendly, then the compensation would be one more equitable to the artist. But you know what they say about assuming…

My second question is how will Tidal seek investment? Their monthly rate of 20 dollars monthly is higher than any other streaming service but most likely won’t cover all the costs to run the company. Will they allow other artists to invest for a share in the company? Will it be run as a cooperative or just as an employee-owned corporation?  Will the company just be a vehicle for these established one percenter artist to cash in at the expense of the under-capitalized  majority? My guess, due to the pressures of capitalism, would be the later. A world where artists are exploiting other artists isn’t new, but doing so under the guise of altruism on this scale is a new phenomena. I hope I am ultimately wrong.

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