Farewell Night at the Casa del Queso

Xiomara Vidal, Kieran Gilchrist, Rudy Daquin


It has finally crept up on me: my last day in Santiago de Cuba. But it’s going to be a great day. I’ll be having a final jam with Rudy and Los Jubilados del Caribe, and Xiomara Vidal.

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”green”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Farewell Jam Sessions” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1466560162466{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”In the Street with Rudy & Los Jubilados” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592862724565{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

I meet the guys at their spot outside Bacardi Museum and become an honorary member of the band for a fun-filled hour.

We jam through a mixture of Buena Vista Social Club songs and Beatles numbers. The guys change the lyrics to lament the fact that I’m deserting Cuba to become a Guatemalan.

It’s a laugh every minute and I only wish that we had done this more often whilst I was here in Santiago.

Just before I leave, Rudy hands me a gift: a cap (presumably to help protect my baldy head from the sun). Each of the band members has signed the inside.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”2987″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_border” onclick=”link_image”][vc_single_image image=”2988″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_border” onclick=”link_image”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Casa del Queso with Xiomara” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592862733148{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

I scoot off to join Xiomara at the Casa del Queso.

She also has a jam session planned for me. She begins with a few traditional numbers with her backing singers, then I join in on a jam session with a couple of Spanish guitarists who have recently arrived in Cuba. It’s a great send off.

As I am about to leave to finish packing, Xiomara gives me two books about the history of modern Cuban music, with some very special messages inside.

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“This book has great musical value. You deserve it, Kieran. From your great friend, forever, 

Xiomara Vidal, trovadora”

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“I dedicate this great book to my dear friend, Kieran. From the Cuban trovadora of Santiago, Xiomara Vidal. Enjoy it, with best wishes, 



Xiomara tells me there’s a live band on later here at the Casa del Queso and invites me for a farewell knees-up. When I get back to Casa Carlos y Caridad, I decide to invite Rudy too. It wouldn’t be the same without him.

There was a little bit of friction between them back in the street that time and this looks like a good opportunity to settle the air. I don’t want to leave knowing that I might have come between them.

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”green”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”A Hilarious Night” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1466561902964{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”with Rudy & Xiomara” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592863016012{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

I meet Rudy and his wife at Parque Céspedes and we walk the short distance to Casa del Queso.

As we arrive, the band is already in full swing and I’m hoping that everything turns out alright. Then, no sooner than we’ve sat down, Rudy has given Xiomara his cap and they’re posing for a photo together. That’s that then.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”158″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_border” onclick=”link_image”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”‘Inside’ a Cuban Son Band” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1466481933995{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”Courtesy of RudyCam” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592863085946{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Rudy’s got his boogie boots on tonight. He’s air-guitaring every note, feeling every drop and lift. Xiomara keeps a watchful eye on him, making sure he behaves himself.

He whispers over to me, asking for my phone so that he can make a recording of the band for me. He then proceeds to stage a one-man pitch invasion, recording each member of the band with full zoom action.

Given that his eyesight is terrible, he does a rather fine job! Xiomara shakes her head but she can’t contain a telling hint of a wry smile. It’s as if Rudy and Xiomara are the forever-feuding, yin-and-yang couple that never were.

Strap on your musical seat-belts as we go ‘inside’ a Cuban son band via… RudyCam!

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/jzfB-NVXWik” align=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Rudy Gets A Piece of The Action” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1466481419074{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”‘Son de la Loma'” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592863095704{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Rudy’s now getting ideas about how the percussion should be played on the band’s next song, the Cuban classic, ‘Son de la Loma’.

First, he butters up the band’s güiro and maracas player, then he sneaks off, picks up the güiro and nominates himself as 5th member of the band.

Xiomara says something like: ‘sit down and behave’. This only encourages him. Like a cheeky schoolchild, he starts shaking his tush in time.

He then uses his musical diplomacy skills to negotiate himself a promotion, upgrading from güiro to maracas. And the show could never be complete without his trademark cowbell impression. What a cameo performance…

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/Ra245Egc_XM” align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”green”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”All Good Things Must Come To An End” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592864027231{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

The night draws to a close and it’s time to say our goodbyes.

I bid farewell to Xiomara and thank her for everything. She tells me to come back soon and be careful: ‘Guatemala isn’t Cuba!’. Rudy accompanies me to Parque Céspedes and as we say goodbye, we agree that we must be men about the situation and not cry like big babies. I just about manage.

Over these 2 life-changing months, I have become close to my Cuban musical mentors, thanks mainly to the power of music as a universal language. Thanks to them, I’ll be leaving with a fistful of genres and a bagful of memories.


As I leave Cuba, I am reminded of Ry Cooder’s words on the sleeve of the Buena Vista Social Club album:

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”‘In Cuba, the music flows like a river.

It takes care of you and rebuilds you from the inside out.'” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Lobster%3Aregular|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1592863300554{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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