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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 May, 2005, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Cuba rocks to concert by US band
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana

Cuban youth gets a taste of US rock
Cuban youth gets a taste of US rock
Thousands of people have attended the first open-air concert by an American rock band in Communist Cuba.

The concert on Friday night by the band Audioslave was given the rare approval of both the Cuban and United States governments.

The two countries have been ideological foes for more than four decades.

The group played at Havana's Anti Imperialist Plaza, which was purpose-built five years ago for mass protests against the US government.

It echoed to the sound of one of America's most successful exports - rock'n'roll.

Vast speakers were set up along the Havana seafront in preparation for what Audioslave said would be the loudest and longest concert ever heard in Cuba.

When lead singer, Chris Cornell, was asked if there was a political message behind the visit, he said: "It's all about the music".

"It's exciting to play music in a place that American bands haven't been to play," he said, "and it's exciting to be the first American band to come and play some loud rock music and it's all about that. The music is what it's all about, period."

Reaching Cuba's youth

Rock music was once viewed with a great deal of suspicion in Cuba.

Many of those who were planning to attend the concert remember the days in the 1960s and 1970s when having long hair or possessing a Beatles album was considered almost counter-revolutionary.

But times have changed.

Havana now boasts a statue to John Lennon.

When the British group, the Manic Street Preachers, played here four years ago Fidel Castro was sitting in the front row.

Perhaps the biggest surprise surrounding the concert is that it is been licensed by the US authorities.

Under President Bush, cultural exchanges with Cuba have been dramatically scaled back.

But the organisers behind this concert believe they got the go-ahead because both the Cuban and the US governments thought that this was their opportunity to reach out to Cuba's youth.

Watch scenes from the Audioslave concert in Cuba

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