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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The first track on the yet-to-be-released album “Cuba: The Conversation Continues” is called “The Triumphant Journey.” And the man behind the music will make a special journey of his own Friday to Cuba.
“It’s an amazing moment that I quite frankly didn’t think I would see in my lifetime,” said Arturo O’Farrill.
Grammy-winning jazz composer and pianist O’Farrill will be in Cuba on Friday, just in time to watch the American flag go up over the U.S. Ambassador’s home – not long after a similar ceremony at the newly re-opened embassy in Havana.
“It’s still an honor and a privilege,” said the founder of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. “I was at the Cuban flag raising at the embassy, the Cuban embassy, so I’m completely jazzed about the whole moment.”
O’Farrill, whose musician father Chico was born in Cuba, says the time for change is long overdue.
“The separation has been tragic. It’s time this happened. And it’s time the embargo is lifted because as you know we’re just punishing people that are already poor,” O’Farrill said.
But, of course, not everyone agrees.
Republican Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been a vocal opponent of the plan to restore diplomatic relations since President Obama first announced the move in December.
“The American flag is a symbol of freedom and democracy around the world,” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana. “To see it go up in Cuba… it’s disheartening.”
Coral Gables Mayor and one-time Principal Officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana Jim Cason says the U.S. gave more than it got in terms of the talks with Cuba.
“I think there’s a lot more smoke than fire. Diplomatic relations per se is not the endgame. We really need to have normal relations. I think that’s going to be a long, tedious frustrating process,” he said.
O’Farrill said the change should be about people, not politics.
“My job as a human being is to help people see the commonalities not the differences,” he said. “That’s what musicians should do.”
O’Farrill’s album “Cuba: The Conversation Continues” was recorded in Havana featuring compositions by 5 American composers and 4 Cuban composers.
While he’s not scheduled to perform during his trip, he says he’d be honored to play something to mark the historic occasion if asked.