A new social distancing music video recently came to my attention that’s somewhat different from some of the others that I have seen. This one features the combined talents of Dagoberto Pradja in Havana, Cuba and Geno McManus in Buffalo, who worked ‘closely’ together despite being over 1000 miles away, and seemingly worlds apart.
Where did you first meet Pradja?
I met Dagoberto last year when we were in Havana celebrating my youngest son’s college graduation.
How did that come about?
We went to check out this Beatles themed bar in Havana called Submarino Amarillo, and Dagoberto was playing there with his band.
A Beatles themed bar in Havana?
Yes, they did a whole mix of classic rock which is rare in Cuba. It might also be the only rock club on the island.
How did the introduction go down?
We met prior to the show and they asked me to get up and play ‘Keep on Rocking’ in the free world with them (funny in Cuba). Anyway we hit it off and stayed in touch.
Who contacted who when COVID-19 came about?
When the virus hit and everyone was in total lockdown, he messaged me and asked if I would do ‘Hide Your Love Away’ with him, and do a video.
What happened from there?
He sent me video and his guitar parts, and I put them into my studio rig, added my parts and video and compiled the clips and such and then sent the pieces over to Jay Hall at Sportsmens Tavern to put it together.
Is Pradja well-known in Havana?
Dagoberto Pradja is a rock guitarist with a long history, and was pretty hot in the Miami scene before Trump made visas harder, so now he, like most musicians in Cuba, is stuck there.
Pradja not only played guitar and sang, he also imparted some other inspirational elements on the video?
It was Dagoberto, who chose the song, I suppose for the title. So I asked him to do a video introduction, and from there we talked about what they do in Havana every night at 9pm – clapping in solidarity and praise for the healthcare workers. I thought it would be cool to show that (shown at the end of the music video).
What did the clapping mean to you?
The video also shows that the situation here is happening there and everywhere, but seeing it, I think makes it feel a little better.
What’s up next for you? Are you planning another social distancing music video?
The next thing I’m going to be doing in the next couple days is releasing a version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity that I did with Buffalo musician Joe Rozler.The video will feature more animated stuff courtesy of Apple Clips.
You’ve done these before?
I’ve done a couple already, and the reception has been great!
Is it a natural process for you to orchestrate these?
The learning curve has been a challenge to do something a little different with video, but I have the time to learn! Haha!
Will you continue to produce these videos?
I’ve also been discussing more video collaborations of covers, or co-written songs with other Buffalo based musicians like Zak Ward, and Grace Stumberg, Grace Lougen to name a few. We’re all home, and we all have to motivate each other in some way. Almost everyone I talked to have been saying how hard it is to get motivated to do anything.
I’m sure that’s the case with most creative fields. Is it challenging for you as well?
It’s really hard to work during this time. Doing live streaming seems easy, but to sound good doing it is hard. No audience to see is also weird. I talked to a few of the musicians in town like Trevor Stribling from PA Line who lost tons of tour dates. He said it best – “Doing a live stream here and there is cool, but it also feels a bit like begging, and advertising it feels a bit like your badgering people.”
Do you agree?
That’s why I’m choosing to do videos and more collaborative things… and quietly adding virtual tip jar stuff. I also want to do something a bit more interesting to look at. At home people are focused on watching. Live, there are so many things going on, so I’m not sure how long people stay engaged watching someone playing solo online.
How has the response been?
People have been kind, but ya feel kind of bad getting tipped because you don’t know what they are going through financially either. It’s just so weird. Most of us have yet to be approved for the Pandemic UI, or the SBA grant/loan program, and most of us are losing a lot of money a week, and so many summer things have been cancelled already too.
So how do you keep inspired? What’s inspiring you right now?
One of the most inspirational musical stories I have witnessed and it for sure has been inspirational to me is has been Brian May from Queen. He’s on Instagram everyday teaching queen songs, playing old rock tunes, and now he has a thing called “Jam With Bri”. He plays his rhythm parts to Queen songs and you can literally jam along and send your part and it gets put together and showcased. Amateur or pro. It’s been wonderful to watch that!
What will the music landscape look like in Buffalo when this is all over?
Jeremy Hoyle and I were discussing what the musical landscape might be when we’re allowed out of our houses again. The first thing might be no music in bars that traditionally had live music. They’ve also taken such a beating that it might not be in the budget. The other thing might be more solo and duo type acts to make “social distancing” easier. Since there will more than likely be reduced capacity for the time being. But really no one knows right?
What goes through your head as you face these uncertainties?
One thing is that it’s going to be a challenge for those of us whose sole income is derived from performing. It’s not like we can just go get a job somewhere – this is my craft… it’s what I do.
If you had your choice to play any song, with any musician in the world, for a new social distancing video, who would it be and what would the song be?
If I had my choice of any musician to do an encore song with? The answer would probably change everyday, but today I would pick Jack White and do a version of George Harrison’s ‘Give Me Love’… or ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ by Crowded House.