The main mission of A Tuba to Cuba, the documentary that follows Preservation Hall Jazz Band on a creative and spiritual pilgrimage to Cuba in 2015, was to celebrate the legacy and musical traditions shared between the island and their native New Orleans. In "Keep Your Head Up," the new music video for their collaboration with Eme Alfonso off the film's soundtrack, this takes the form of one giant dance party that fills the streets of Havana and the French Quarter.
Alfonso takes the mic while the jazz greats handle the groove in the clip, premiering on Billboard today (July 15), and as the crowd starts twisting and clapping along with the rhythm on the weathered floorboards of Preservation Hall, scenes from A Tuba to Cuba pop up to showcase some of the people the band met during their travels. The vibrant moves are the perfect foil for the bilingual jam, and "Keep Your Head Up" gives the heart of A Tuba to Cuba, and Preservation Hall's strong connection to Cuba and its people, a special spotlight.
"'Keep Your Head Up' is simple message with a big meaning," says Ben Jaffe, the creative director of Preservation Hall and its band's leader, of the track. (Jaffe is the man who, specifically, lugged that tuba to Cuba.) "Walk with your head high, walk with pride, and live your life with grace and honor and an appreciation for all humanity. Don’t let things break you down and don’t allow anyone or anything to diminish your spirit.”
Alfonso was one of the people they encountered on their travels who went from stranger to friend nearly immediately. “We met the wonderful Eme Alfonso at a performance at an amazing old factory that’s been converted into a multi-disciplinary art space called Fabrica Del Arte," he recalls. "That same evening we met, she came up and improvised lyrics in Spanish on the spot. Eme later told me the words she sang have a deep meaning in Cuba, the translation is something like 'walk with your head out front, don’t be so down, walk with joy.'"
"In New Orleans…jazz and art flow from the streets of this city and it’s clear that it has a direct connection to Cuba, Havana, and all of those who came before us," adds Alfonso of the track. "Our grandparents are connected through these rhythms, dances, melodies, and customs and this shared history of our ancestors unites us all. New Orleans and Cuba are deeply connected. This collaboration is a conduit, a lesson to show our people, and others in the world that we are all family and that art and music has the power to unites us."
Preservation Hall Jazz Band kick off their summer tour at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival on July 28.