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The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Havana
"The Manic Street Preachers are the biggest foreign rock band to visit Cuba"
 real 56k

Friday, 16 February, 2001, 09:29 GMT
Manics make history in Cuba
James Dean Bradfield
James Dean Bradfield will lead the Manics in Cuba
The Manic Street Preachers are in Cuba making final preparations for their historic concert in Havana.

On Saturday the band from Blackwood in the south Wales valleys will become one of the first Western rock band to play the Communist state.

Havana, Cuba
The Manics perform in Cuba's capital, Havana

They will be showcasing tracks from their sixth album, Know Your Enemy, with a virtually free concert at the Karl Marx Theatre in the capital.

The event will be limited to 5,000 fans, who will be charged just 25 cents, the equivalent of 17 pence.

The band has been rehearsing the concert in Cardiff Bay ahead of flying out to the Caribbean Island.

"We've just got a lot of respect for the Cuban people and the Cuban culture, and we wanted to do something really different this time," guitarist Nicky Wire said as he flew into Havana.

We've just got a lot of respect for the Cuban people and the Cuban culture, and we wanted to do something really different this time

Nicky Wire

Various references to Cuba and its 40-year conflict with the United States will feature in Saturday's ground-breaking concert.

One song, called "Baby Elian", will delight Cubans for highlighting last year's international custody dispute over six-year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.

"Kidnapped to the promised land ... America, the devil's playground," says the chorus to the song, in words echoing Cuba's view that the boy was unfairly detained in the US by Miami relatives after his mother died at sea.

He has since returned to his father in Cuba.

Nicky Wire
Nicky Wire: Do something different
Western rock music was frowned upon as a "decadent influence" in the early days after President Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

But that attitude has relaxed of late, with singer Billy Joel performing there. Castro even honoured murdered Beatle John Lennon.

The Manics' manager Martin Hall, of Hall Or Nothing management, travelled to Cuba to lay the groundwork for the band's first concert of 2001.

Bass player Nicky Wire said: "It could be a disaster. There might be no PA or whatever, but it's the idea that it's a bit of an adventure.

"So many bands these days just come back in the usual way and that's one thing that we're not going to do this time," he told music paper NME.

"It'll be like Wham! in China."

Cuban boy Elian Gonzales, 6, with his father
One song features the battle over the custody of Elian Gonzales
The Manic Street Preachers last live appearance was a Millennium Eve gig at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

The event - watched by 60,000 fans in Cardiff's showpiece stadium - was a far cry from the band's latest venture.

The band's most recent single, Masses Against The Classes - which stormed to the top of the charts despite an absence of promotion - had a Cuban flag on its sleeve.

"It's not like a student Che Guevara sort of thing, said Wire.

"It's just that Cuba for me is the last symbol that really fights against the Americanisation of the world."

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Manics create Havana history
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