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Ariana Hernández-Reguant, a cultural anthropologist who has followed Cuban music for the past decade, says it's difficult for mature artists to duplicate their success outside their homeland. "That's one of the dynamics of migration — not everybody is cut out for it," she says. "If you arrive young, you can build a career here, an audience. For everybody else, it's going to be extremely difficult."
During the past two months, Gorki spoke with New Times over several days of dropped calls and inaudible connections. He joked that his phone shares a party line with the ministry of defense.
"Living here has a price," he said. "You're living under this tyranny, in really undignified circumstances, but you gotta have some sort of hope in your head that someday all this bullshit is gonna change."
He has found it easy to revert back to old routines. He rides his rusty Chinese bike through Havana's tree-shaded neighborhoods, humming melodies to the three or four songs running through his head. Then he rushes home to jot down the lyrics. "It's so chaotic, my writing process," he said. "I just grab whatever I have on hand — a napkin, a Granma — and set the words to the guitar."
The bike ride resembles the ones he used to take 11 months ago, before he left for Mexico, except now everything looks more haggard. There are more cops on the street. Around him, people look more worndown than the pockmarked alleyways of his neighborhood.
He already has two songs written, two more than when he lived in Mexico. "Here's where I find the things that I'm passionate about. Here's where I feel most needed."
But he hasn't been able to share the songs with his bandmates. In his absence, their homemade studio has fallen into disrepair, and they're now working on rebuilding it. "I'm desperate to rehearse again, but I've got to resist the temptation. I don't want to give them an excuse to jail us again."