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Audioslave first U.S. band to rock Cuba

Band comprised of members of Rage Against the Machine
/ Source: Reuters

Audioslave will become the first U.S. rock band to give an open-air concert in Communist Cuba when it performs Friday on a stage used for rallies against the U.S. government, concert organizers said.

Although the United States and Cuba have had no diplomatic relations for over four decades, cultural exchanges and certain other visits are permitted. The U.S. Treasury Department granted the rock band permission to perform on the island and the Instituto Cubano de la Musica approved the concert.

“Music can transcend politics and this trip is proof of that,” said the band’s singer, Chris Cornell, at a news conference in Havana Thursday. “It is all about music, period.”

The band, founded by former members of grunge band Rage Against the Machine, promised Cubans the loudest concert they had ever heard when they perform on Havana’s waterfront.

The group will play on the Anti-Imperialist Stage, which is used by the Cuban government for protests against the U.S. government.

The United States has enforced sanctions on Cuba since shortly after Cuban President Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and hostility has intensified during the Bush administration.

In the last two years, Washington has cut back visits to Cuba for cultural purposes and denied entry to the United States to Cuban musicians nominated for Grammy awards, including 77-year-old singer Ibrahim Ferrer of the popular Buena Vista Social Club.

“Both governments wish to speak out to the youth and it is a wonderful coincidence of agendas,” said the band’s lawyer, Bill Martinez.

“Hopefully this will broaden the musical borders between our two countries,” said Cornell, former frontman for Soundgarden.

During the Cold War, Western rock music and long hair were frowned upon in Cuba. Beatles and Rolling Stones records were underground possessions. That changed in the 1980s and foreign bands regularly perform on the island now.

Former Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman gave concerts in Havana two weeks ago, the biggest British rock star to perform in Cuba.