And let me tell ya, maybe the mafia can hurt you but there’s nothing more powerful than music.

After writing about it professionally since college, I “retired” from it when I took a year’s trip by van across Europe and North Africa, 7/11/11 to 6/12/12. I felt I’d said it all, and wanted to write about the rest of life. So I started sending back missives about that journey to the Daily Press and they appeared as “Three Innocents Abroad,” a near-copy of the title of the European travel journal of my favorite writer, Mark Twain. That evolved into “Curious City” when I returned. (My thanks for making all that possible to former SMDP editor Kevin Herrera.)

But of course I can’t help but throw some music commentary into “Curious City” sometimes, and it seems whenever I do I always get people who write me or come up in person and say, I love it when you write about music! More, please! (Are they actually hinting I should stop with the other stuff?)

From my college days at UNM I was motivated to write about it because I was always having discussions, sometimes heated, about music, and I figured if I’m in print I can get my ideas across to thousands, not just the person in front of me. I was always driven by wanting to share with others what I thought was really good, even transcendent, music that they might not have otherwise discovered.


And more. I got the job at the Lobo newspaper at UNM as “Review Editor” but immediately changed the title to “Arts & Media Editor,” because I wanted to dip my curiosity and pen into everything related. After my first two naive choices and agonizing attempts at movie reviews (“Performance” and Fellini’s “Satyricon” — that’s another story) I wanted to turn in my resignation. But I’m not a quitter. (I can hear the chorus, across the desert and across the decades: Quit! Quit already!)

Likewise, this new column will be mostly about music, eventually incorporating concert and album reviews, picks for don’t-miss upcoming performances, stories from my storied past, and interviews, like my upcoming one with Eric Burdon, bluesman, social activist and erstwhile lead vocalist of The Animals, who will be performing tonight on the Pier. (I hope he includes his newest release, a timely cover of the 1966 Buffalo Springfield protest anthem, “For What It’s Worth” [“there’s something happening here…”].)

But I don’t like to be tied down (I lack discipline?) so other topics may creep in, from other arts areas. For example, there’s a new comedy, “The Rainbow Bridge,” opening this week at the Ruskin Group Theater at the airport, and I’ve found their productions to be consistently excellent so I’ll probably go and likely write something about it. But we are fortunate to have two crackerjack critics of the spoken word writing for us, Sarah A. Spitz and Cynthia Citron, and you should always pay more attention to them than me.


Yesterday’s “Curious City” column teased that I had left something out, about what got me to that fabulous Folk Art Market in Santa Fe in the first place, so here you go. And there is a music tie-in.

I went to Cuba for a week in March, with my wife and daughter, tagging along with a great arts/culture/politics tour there run by the Center for Cuban Studies out of New York and led by an amazing woman I met in Santa Monica, Sandra Levinson. She brought a most creative and sumptuous art show to the airport galleries here, by artists still living in Cuba (therefore forced to improvise because their access to arts materials is still very limited because of the continuing blockade by the US), and that got me hooked. When she cajoled, come on my tour, I couldn’t resist, especially when Alaska Air started RT direct flights to Havana from LAX in January, and for only $327.

Levinson has been steeped in Cuban culture and history from her teen years, when she organized American students to go help pick the sugarcane crop, and wound up hanging out with Fidel and Che. She knows everyone, it seems, in Cuba and her tours take you inside people’s homes (former U.N. ambassador) and galleries (iconic photos of Fidel and Che by a teen photographer from New York), and the stories they have to tell.


On that tour one of the artists we visited was Sandra Dooley (Irish name, Cuban woman), and we fell in love with her art, and her. She is a sweet, demure-looking but funny and outspoken woman who didn’t start making art until she was 36, and is now a bit of a star. When our small tour of eight visited her gallery, the (well-heeled) collectors walked away with several thousand dollars worth of treasure. Even we snagged a plate, now hanging in our kitchen with honor.

While we were there at her gallery a stone’s throw from the ocean, we noticed a sign on a rack of paintings that said, “For Santa Fe, July” and we asked what that meant. She said she was excited to be invited for the first time to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, NM, and those were her stash of 40 she needed, but que lastima she keeps selling them and has to create new ones to catch up. Certainly a good dilemma for an artist. She has a Facebook page, and you can see her art at centerforcubanstudies.org.

Since her home is in a suburb on the edge of Havana named Santa Fe — well, how many more hints do you need from the universe? We decided we would visit her there, since I had always heard good things about that festival market. And so we did. When we left her there she was all smiles for the amount of sales.

The music connection? Not everyone knows how much great art is coming out of Cuba but everyone knows about their love of baseball and music, and in honor of their Cuban contingent of artists the market had a superb quintet playing, TradiSon de Cuba. Like goin’ home. Viva Cuba.

LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “Love is touching souls.” ― Joni Mitchell

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else  in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com