Tuning with the Enemy
programme introduction on Ovation
Termites are a big problem for Cuba's piano population – but American piano tuner Ben Treuhaft's "Send a Piano to Havana" campaign seems to be helping. Although risking prosecution under the Trading with the Enemy Act, Treuhaft, to date, has helped 35 pianos and $3,500 worth of piano parts find their way from the U.S. to Cuba. This documentary follows Treuhaft and a collection of piano tuners to the island Americans are, for the most part, forbidden to visit. click for more
************************* Piano for Havana provides instruments to Cuban musicians
By Justin Trapp for The Grand Traverse Herald
His organization, formed in 1995, is a licensed non profit institution designed to send pianos and other instruments to Cuba by circumventing the trade embargo. Though "Send a Piana to Havana" is licensed by the Office of Nuclear and Missile Technology, it is still under scrutiny from the state department, which has threatened Truehaft on many occasions with the consequences of "tuning with the enemy."
"No matter how you feel about the Cuban government...Cuban musicians should not be feeling the effect of the embargo...why should these people suffer because of politics?" said Jimmy Johnson, sole member of the Traverse City chapter of "Send a Piana to Havana." click for more
************************* Send a Piana to Havana
Before they were banned, PfH was licensed by the Dept. of Commerce:
What began as a plan to confound the embargo by sending pianos to Cuba in spite of the blockade, became a tax-deductible project when the Department of Commerce unexpectedly licensed the shipments in 1995. The Office of Missile and Nuclear Technology gave final approval, under the sole condition that the pianos not be used for "torture or human rights abuse."click for more
I saw the TV programme about "Send a Piana to Havana" and it was a hoot, except for the fact that the underlying problem of the shortage of pianos, primarily due to the embargo, is heart-breaking. One scene showed a young teenage pianist with his teacher and a Cuban-American piano expert. She had already concluded that the instrument was the most termite infested she had ever seen and was way beyond the condition usually necessary for playing. The young man then played a speedy piece with much skill and artistry and afterwards, the Cuban-American was overcome and had to ask the interviewer to give her a few minutes to recover. She then told us that every note played was out of tune, because of the condition of the piano and yet the student managed to overcome these problems and the brilliance of his performance shone through. The problem is that using this piano will effect his musical ear.
Benjamin Treuhaft enjoys his maverick status and sends a Republican Senator a postcard from Havana Airport every time he is there. An official from the State Department said that the reason for the ban was that they didn't want American citizens to benefit from the lack of worker protection in Cuba. Oh right! But child labour in India, slave labour in China and appalling conditions in Columbia are just fine and dandy, no doubt!
This is worth a read - Ben goes to court for defacing provocative street signs in New York: http://www.sendapiana.com/sphbltstsign.htm
<small>[ 03 April 2005, 10:58 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>