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Diplo and Major Lazer bring "revolutionary sound" to Havana

On Havana's main concourse outside the newly-established U.S. embassy, three DJs made history and put on a show. It seemed like every young person in Havana was there to witness it, reports "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose, who was there.

This wasn't the music of their parents -- it was theirs.

"The music speaks for itself," Diplo said. "They don't know who we are. It's just the sound, the music."

They are Major Lazer, a trio DJ's known by their stage names Walshy Fire, Jillionaire and Diplo, the group's founding member. In a free kick off concert for a Musicabana festival, Major Lazer became the first major American group to perform in Cuba since the U.S. eased relations with the Caribbean's largest island.

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U.S. electronic music group Major Lazer performs at the Anti-Imperialist park in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 6, 2016.
Ramon Espinosa/AP

"You have said though this is the most important show you have ever done," Rose said to Diplo.

"I think the pressure is on us to do something, you know, it's kind of an amazing opportunity," Diplo said.

"I also think it's very important to create something new, that's why I first started to make music you know," he added. "We first started to rent old VFW halls in Philly or whatever, we rented kegs and did parties and played our own music. We had to find a way to do it because nobody else was helping us, and I think now it's important to keep those dialogues happening, those parties happening. That's what we are doing here in Havana."

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Diplo
CBS News

Diplo became a sought after producer by creating beats for artists like M.I.A. and new sounds for pop stars like Justin Bieber. This past year he and Major Lazer created the hit "Lean On," which Spotify says was the most streamed song of all time.

"I think that that particular song, it speaks volumes because it's very worldwide. Even in America, we're not a huge act by any means, Major Lazer," Diplo said. "But everywhere else in the world from Turkey to China to India, that song hit people in the right way. ... South Korea, Jamaica, Trinidad, Mexico, Brazil, every where we go, it was a huge hit. It just has a sound it incorporates everything for reggae to pop music...so the whole song is a bit of everything."

Diplo said to get people's attention these days on the radio, you have to have a "revolutionary sound."

"People are culturally aware. They've heard a lot of music. The fans are out there and they are ready for something brand new, they're ready for something chaotic and exciting," Diplo said.

On a drive down the very street that became his stage, we found out why Diplo may be dance music's busiest man.

"About a week ago, we came from India to Pakistan," he said.

He plays more than 300 shows a year across the globe, striving to constantly push electronic dance music forward.

"I think it's important to play in places like this where the music is still brand new. These are the guys who are going to change it," Diplo said. "The kids in Havana, the kids in Pakistan, the kids in India -- they're the ones who are going to bring it to a new level."

"Are they playlists? Or is it spontaneous?" Rose asked about the spin sessions.

"Sometimes. Depends. Our show when we have the lighting cues, we have to keep it formatted to a set list, but lots of times we just go off on a tangent," Diplo explained. "If the crowd wants this, I'll go that way, if they want this, I'll go that way. I'll try and push it as far as I can."

"And you can feel them," Rose said.

"That's the whole job of a DJ. You have to feel that rhythm," Diplo said.

"To feel the crowd," Rose said.

"Exactly," Diplo responded.

"And does it differ when you go from country to country?" Rose asked.

"A hundred percent," Diplo said.

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Diplo with "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose riding around Cuba
CBS News

There was certainly rhythm on hand in Havana, with little talk of politics. It was, after all, a government-approved concert.

But in place of diplomacy, there was melody.

Everyone says they want to see Cuba before it changes, but if this weekend was any indication -- the change is underway.

"There is a sense that somehow this is an important time for these young Cubans for them to feel connected to the world, not isolated," Rose said.

"It's the first time they are getting connected," Diplo said. "I was surprised by how much they knew. How culturally aware the kids are considering there is kind of a blockade of culture reaching Cuba ... and I think it's going to change a lot, because when information starts to come you can't stop that flow."