The Week’s Music Scene in Havana – a dance of opposites
Judging by the title alone of this week’s cultural calendar it looks like I couldn’t have picked more polar opposites if I went down myself to the ends of the earth to fetch them. Whilst I don’t listen to classical music every day and reggaeton would not be my normal choice of music to listen to, at least not one I’d regularly play on my mp3 unless I was in the mood for it, at a club or in a party, I do enjoy it occasionally and have preferences.
Cuba’s brand of reggaeton even has a name: Cubaton and I for one like Gente de Zona, they have some great tunes, and I’m not talking about their more recent collaborations with Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony, I liked them when they were only famous in Cuba, way before they got their three Latin Grammys.
Getting acquainted (or re-acquainted) with reggaeton (or Cubaton)
Nowadays, if you go to Havana it will be as hard for you to avoid reggaeton as it would be to avoid salsa. So, whether you’ve never heard of reggaeton music before or you are already familiar with it (Daddy Yankee put it on the international radar with “Gasolina” and that song was played by every London DJ in every club I stepped into at the time) going to Cuba will allow you to make your mind up about it, whether you love it or hate it, as most people have the Marmite approach towards it, either you’re hooked on it or you despise it.
So, I might be one of the few exceptions to the rule as someone who doesn’t mind reggaeton, as long as I don’ listen to it everyday and I actually like the songs or the bands performing it. I wouldn’t consume mass amounts of reggaeton just for the sake of it and outside my favourites I would only willingly go to a reggaeton concert if I was with girlfriends in the mood to dance. So, for example if I was this week in Havana and I gathered my friends I would head to the Salon Rosado Benny More in La Tropical to hear Baby Lores and El Micha perform live at 4 p.m. this coming Sunday.
But I wouldn’t go there alone just to listen to it, reggaeton is music to dance to and if it doesn’t get you in the dancefloor then it’s probably not very good quality reggeaton. It’s the kind of music that does get repetitive so you might have enough after two songs. Still, it’s an experience and if you want a taste of it, be at La Tropical this Sunday 18th October. If you miss this one you have another chance to catch them live on Monday 19th October at 11 p.m. in Tercera y 8.
Mozart-Havana Festival 2015
On the othe end of the spectrum we have the brand new and shiny Festival Mozart-Habana 2015 taking over the old part of the city this week with a series of concerts scheduled to take place every day for eight days. A very special project that’s now come to fruition after three years of joint efforts between the European Union and the Mozarteum Foundation, who jointly financed the event, this spectacle will fill up Old Havana’s theatres, concert halls and auditoriums with prestigious invited guests like Florent Heau, Renaud Capuçon, Gerard Caussé, Clemens Hagen, Siegfried Mauser, Ronald Zollman and Claire Elizabeth Craig.
The event is co-sponsored by the Salzburg’s Mozarteum University, Cuba’s Higher Institute for the Arts and the Office of the Historian of the City in Havana. It all kick-starts tomorrow 16th October with the last performances taking place on 24th October. See full program here.
But there’s a lot more going on in Havana beyond reggaeton and classical music this week. Keep reading to find out.
Tonight – 16th October
Put your dancing shoes on and head to Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m. to see Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda perform some salsa-tastic tunes that will have you gasping for breath between twirl and twirl.
Alternatively, if you’d like to unwind with a stellar performance by one of Cuba’s most international troubadours, head to the Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecht at 10 p.m. to hear the distinctive percussive vocal style of William Vivanco.
Saturday – 17th October
This Saturday you’ll have quite a choice to make between salsa, contemporary fusion Cuban music and Cuba’s flourishing LGBT scene.
To kick things off we have Elvis Ochoa giving one of his intoxicatingly good and lively performances at the stylish and atmospheric Corner Café in Vedado. His music will put you in the right mood to down a few tasty cocktails and absorb more of the Cuban flair. If you’re up for busting some serious salsa moves next, head to the Casa de la Musica Miramar to dance to the salsa beats of Lazaro Valdes y Bamboleo.
Or, for an all-colourful end to your night make your way to Cafe Cantante Mi Habana at 11 p.m. to enjoy a proudly gay spectacle of colours, lights and sparkly costumes with Proyecto Divino.
Sunday – 18th October
If you want to start things early this coming Sunday then head to the Salon Rosado Benny More at La Tropical to enjoy a reggaeton (or should I say Cubaton performance) by Baby Lores and El Micha, two of Cuba’s most popular singers in this genre.
Alternatively for some more traditionally Cuban rhythms that still give way to plenty of dancing and bopping to the music head to Dos Gardenias to enjoy a concert by upcoming Cuban artist, Lartiza Bacallao – her tropical fusion won’t disappoint.
Monday – 19th October
If you had been looking for jazz in this week’s calendar this is where you’ll find it. Head to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano tonight at 11 p.m. where you’ll get to enjoy Real Proyect’s quality jamming session.
But if conga beats are what move you than Casa de la Musica de Miramar is where you should be so you can shake things up to the intoxicating tunes of popular group from Santiago de Cuba, Sur Caribe.
Tuesday – 20th October
Treat yourself to an early afternoon serenade of quality Cuban fusion with Raul Paz, the “Frech Cuban” performing at Café Cantante Mi Habana from 5 p.m.
But if at the same time of day you’re up for more energetic dancing then you can head to Casa de la Muscica de Miramar and move your body to the salsatastic stylings of Elito Reve y Su Charangon.
Later on in the evening you’ll have equality attractive options to choose from with two salsa star performers, one at Casa de la Musica de Miramar (Pedrito Calvo y La Justicia) and the other at Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana (Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda). They both kick off at 11 p.m. so flip a coin and see where it takes you!
The Music Scene in Varadero – It’s on tonight with Isaac Delgado!
If you happen to find yourself in the most desired and popular of Cuba’s beach resorts and you fancy one or two nights out (a refreshing break from the nightly entertainment arranged by your all-inclusive resort) than I’ve got a few options for you.
While Varadero’s nightlife is not as varied as Havana’s (and understandably so) there are a few popular nightclubs and some good performances regularly staged at the Casa de la Musica Varadero - the performances to follow below are staged there.
The highlight performance of this week in Varadero no doubt is Isaac Delgado’s one of Cuba’s most nationally and internationally loved salseros - after all Katy Perry hired him for a private concert during her recent visit to Cuba. He will give a concert tonight at 10. 30 p.m.
The next best thing happens on Saturday as Wil Campa will be there at the same spot and at the same time to treat dancers to a good salsa dancing session.
Alternatively if you want to enjoy the sweet, nostalgic and melodic tunes of traditional Cuban music five different groups will be playing at Varadero’s Casa de la Musica every night, every day of the week.
The Music Scene in Trinidad – between Son and Jazz
While Trinidad, in-keeping with its old age colonial feel, is mostly known for its array of trios and quartets soulfully striking the most nostalgic melodies from their guitars and singing old boleros and sones, beyond Cuban traditional music there’s also some Jazz to be enjoyed in Trinidad once weekly, typically every Thursday. Whilst the most recent performance by jazz band Las Cuevas took place yesterday, tune in next week to confirm when the next one will take place.
Otherwise whatever day of the week you visit Trinidad’s Casa de La Musica you are guaranteed at least one traditional Cuban music performance.
Bayamo celebrates a Cuban Feast with Fiesta de la Cubania
Elsewhere in the country and beyond the music scene there is one city in Cuba hosting a very special and very big celebration, so if you happen to find yourself there or plan to visit now you’ll have a few more reasons to enjoy your time there.
Taking place from 17 – 20 October, Bayamo’s Fiesta de la Cubania celebrates all things Cuban in an art and culture festival that invites locals and visitors alike to get back to the roots of the nation. This 2015 edition will be dedicated to Improvised Verse and Rumba, both of which have been declared elements of National Cultural Heritage.
Highlights of this Cuban feast include the performance of Akokán Ache, Rumbavila and Around Cuba; all from Guantanamo, Parranda de Florencia from Ciego de Avila, Gagá de Barrancas and Pilón del Cauto, from Santiago de Cuba; Los Richard y Guasimal, from Granma, and Raíces Soneras, from Las Tunas.
Special activities and events also include a crafts fair, an art exhibition, danzon and rumba afternoons, among others. The theoretical section of the event, The Melting Pot of Cuban Nationality will address with the topic of Heritage Values of the Rumba and Improvised Oral Poetry. The launching of the book Cuba Libre, by historian Ernesto Limia will also take place during this 3-day festivity.
For Artsy Souls
Factoria Habana opened a new exhibition this week titled: Signs: Art and Industry and Viceversa. Bringing together a collection of objects, artefacts, texts, photographs, ceramics, graphics, audiovisual and printed materials, all emphasising on devising creative experiences with a fusion between art, industry and design with elements of the urban and architectural environment.
On the other hand Fototeca de Cuba continues exhibiting Candela, a collection of photographed Cuban cane fields landscapes by British artist Justine Ford. It will continue to be on show until the end of this month.
For families with children
Parents of little rascals on holiday in Havana this week have two events to choose from if they want an immersive experience into how young little Cubans enjoy their free time.
Head to Carpa Trompoloco on Sunday at 11 a.m. to enjoy a circus show with clowns or even better, attend the puppet theatre at Teatro El Arca in Old Havana. Never mind that they don’t speak Spanish, the stories played out are all traditional children tales they’re sure to have heard of and is as much about the show as showing your kids how little people their age enjoy themselves in Cuba. The puppet show is on this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 3p.m.
Coming soon – Havana Theatre Festival 2015
Officially kicking off next Tuesday 20th October and taking over the capital for 11 days, the Festival de Teatro de La Habana will bring a host of theatre production companies from all over the world to perform a series of different plays over the course of next week and the one to follow. Tune back here next week to find out more.
And if you couldn’t make it to Cuba this week...Cuba is coming to you!
Sadly there isn’t time now to get your hands on some last minutes tickets to attend Havana d’Primera’s performance in London tonight! Tickets are sold out now, but if you fancy trying your luck at buying one at the door from someone re-selling their tickets they’ll be performing at The O2 in London at 10 p.m.
After that the award-winning salsa band will move to Glasgow to give yet another concert tomorrow, this time at the Classic Grand. Tickets’ are priced at £26 for advance purchases or £30 at the door so hurry to get your hands on one now before they run out. The concert is followed by a Cuban party and DJ session so this is a real treat!