Exile Blues

As a lead singer for Los Van Van, Israel Kantor was a star in his native country. But Miami isn't Cuba.

The next day the manager of Maxim's tells Kantor that his performance scheduled for that night has been canceled: They're booking a merengue group instead. He has since landed a Saturday-night gig at Crossway, a club at the Howard Johnson hotel near the airport where he's booked for the next month.

"Eventually, when Cuban musicians start coming to the States more frequently, people will start getting used to the Cuban bands, and Israel's will be one of them," Emilio Vandenedes predicts. "I think that when this whole culture clash collapses, he will be on the top of the charts."

In the meantime, Israel Kantor sometimes dreams of a new life.
"What I'd really like is to play in Cuba, create a new orchestra in Cuba. I'd like to put together a band and tour the provinces -- Pinar del Rio, Las Villas, CamagYey, Oriente. And Havana," he muses. "That is what I long for. Every day I wake up and want to go back to Cuba. The first day I was in exile, I wanted to go back to Cuba. And that's the way it's been for almost fourteen years.

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