I was video hunting for something to watch that could keep me awake after a hard day at work on Friday night. After a few bad choices that didn’t do the trick, half-asleep, I stumbled upon this music documentary from 2016. Wow! This was better than 3 cups of Cuban coffee!
From the first scenes where the camera takes you over a favela in Brazil, then inside one of their poor homes, until the last scenes where you can feel the expectation in the air of thousands of Cubans who we’ll see The Stones in action for their first time in their lives, period, this documentary delivers a shot of adrenaline and emotion hard to fall sleep to.
Seeing is believing. You have to see the adoring crowds of young and not so young people jumping up and down, dancing, to the energetic and vibrant music of these old lucky bastards from the U.K., to realize the uniqueness of Mick Jagger (73 yrs. old at the time), Keith Richards (same age), Ronnie Wood (69) and Charlie Watts (75!!) While others look ridiculous doing this, they look natural.
This documentary highlights their 10-city tour in Latin America where most people might not understand fully what they’re singing about, but where they are welcomed to sing in English, nevertheless. Jagger is aware of this and between songs, he communicates in Spanish or Portuguese, telling jokes and common phrases that the multitudes relate to.
The tour begins in Chile, then continues to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico and concludes in Cuba, where the concert makes history. The Marxist dictatorship, along with its right-wing counterparts in the continent, banned music like the Beatles’ or the Stones’ for decades. The “nefarious” influence of the Rolling Stones’ music is now felt all over the place, and is followed by the new generations who have heard about their legend thanks to the few old survivors who stayed behind and never forgot their youth’s forbidden fruit, or by their relatives abroad.
The documentary by director Paul Dungdale is an appetizer to the Rolling Stones’ main course of five decades of hits. You won’t hear many of their songs completely, rather some fragments of these to hook you into watching one of their complete concerts or listen to any of their albums. That’s one of the reasons you keep watching, to see what’s next. You’ll see Ronnie Wood talk about his hobby, Mick Jagger talking to Argentinian rock musicians, you will learn about the Brazilian influence in the song “Sympathy For The Devil”. If you like these guys’ music, you just can’t stop watching.
For some of us who live in rich, spoiled, democratic countries, is a very eye-opening and humbling experience to watch people living under harsh economic and political conditions and still welcoming these musicians and appreciating their art in such a moving way.
Contrasting to our ethnocentric mentality of “we don’t need or want anything from non-English speaking countries” (except bananas!), in Latin America, the mentality is: “We want it, even if we don’t speak the language”. It’s a pity that so many great musicians in Latin America or Spain haven’t achieved the same success in the U.S, which is a music loving country, as in their own. Only a few come to mind: Buena Vista Social Club and Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. Some say that “music transcends all barriers”. Does it? In most cases, maybe only if packaged and labeled with “English Only”.
This engaging documentary ends with an excerpt from the Cuba concert and leaves us wondering, among other things, about how different things would be if we’d sing more and fight less.
See also: Rolling Stones-Havana Moon (2015)/ Rolling Stones: The Biggest Bang (2009)