Xiomara beckons me to the back room. She points to a wall with a wooden chair stuck to it. There are two framed notes below, one of which contains a very familiar face. It’s my fellow Liverpudlian, Paul McCartney. Well, speak of the devil.
In 2000, Paul visited the Casa de la Trova. Xiomara was one of the Cuban musicians who accompanied him whilst he watched live performances of traditional Cuban son, bolero and guaracha.
The chair he sat in has been immortalised on the wall. Encased below it are two framed displays. One contains his thank-you note to the people at the Casa for their hospitality. The other preserves an homage written by Cuban singer, Norges Rodriguez, commemorating his visit.
According to a Havana Times article, he had requested authorisation from the airport in Havana to land his private jet, rather interestingly, in Santiago de Cuba – not Havana. Perhaps he had been advised (as I was by my sister Siobhan) to head for Santiago for a more authentic piece of the action.
Maybe he was also fulfilling some kind of musical pilgrimage long overdue? Was he going back to the source of an important influence in his songwriting? Certainly, Latin rhythms have influenced Beatles songs such as: And I Love Her, ‘Til There Was You and No Reply. And, the Beatles covered the Latin classic, Besame Mucho, with a ‘cha-cha-boom‘.
This feels right. It’s as if something other than pure chance is at work here. I book in my first Cuban guitar lesson with Xiomara tomorrow. We’ll meet at the Casa del Queso, just a bit further down Calle Heredia.