by David Creedon Published 01/10/2009
Tucked away in the back streets of old Havana in a run-down, dusty old warehouse, and a world apart from the tourist trade, is the National Workshop of Instrument Repair. When I arrived my taxi driver pointed to the building and I looked at him as if to say, 'Are you sure?' A man came out of the workshop and looked at me, then disappeared only to return 30 seconds later waving an Irish flag.
When the Russians became Cuba's close ally in the 1960s and 1970s they used the workshop as a training centre for what is now the current generation of Cuban piano tuners and technicians. Two classes of blind and partially sighted tuners graduated from here - the first in 1970, and another class two years later. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union, this training programme ceased, and the workshop fell steadily into disrepair.
Due to the US trade embargo, piano technicians on the island cannot buy the tools and materials they need, and as the older generation of Cuban tuners retires, the skills that go with the tools are also disappearing
Pianists in Cuba face challenges that most people in other countries can't imagine. The island's tropical climate is particularly hard on things made from wood. Now an Irish group is helping to restore thousands of pianos that have fallen into disrepair
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