As we head deep into the heart of autumn, Cuba’s reliably sunny autumn season (so far this week) with a few scattered thundery showers here and there can actually make you feel all summery, more so when you bring the lively music element into the mix.
As Cubans prepare for winter (yes, it’s winter for them when temperatures go below 25 degrees Celsius) things on the showbiz scene tend to slow down and scale back a bit with the cultural calendar not as packed or exciting as during more recent weeks as the country waves goodbye to summer and gets ready to mellow down and slow down the pace.
But Cubans don’t ever really hibernate and hide insider their caves, so there’s still plenty of good nights out to be had if you find yourself in the island this week, especially in Havana – the hub of all major cultural activity going in Cuba. This week I’m exploring and highlighting Cuban independent pop with the Sweet Lizzy Proyect performing Friday afternoon at Diablo Tun Tun and giving you plenty of choice when it comes to enjoying the Cuban classic in all its forms: glorious salsa!
The music scene in Havana
No major surprises in Havana’s nightlife scene this week as no big acts are taking place over the next few days, but you still can rely on good quality salsa, jazz and reggaeton regulars that never fail to attract the crowds in big numbers.
For a low-down on where to go depending on the kind of music you’re in the mood for read on through my day-by-day picks.
What’s on tonight
If you want to kick off your afternoon with an early dancing session, head to Casa de la Musica in Centro Habana at 5 p.m. to catch a live performance from salsa band, Pupy y Los Que Son Son.
Later on in the evening you have a choice between seeing award-winning Jose Luis Cortes (El Tosco) perform alongside his group NG La Banda at 11 p.m. in Diablo Tun Tun or mellow down to the melodic voice of Ivette Cepeda and her soulful boleros at the Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecht, with her performance starting at 10 p.m.
But for a totally different experience altogether head to Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) this evening for two special acts. The first starts at 9.30 p.m. and is a very special impromptu performance by Teatro Espontaneo, a small company made up of actors and psychologists whose performances are 100% improvised to capture the mood of the audience by interacting with them. It’s an interesting one to enjoy and will be staged at the Sala Santiago Feliu (Nave 1).
Following this and held on the same stage to put a golden finish to the night there will be a jamming rock n’ roll session at 12 a.m. with Jam Abierta.
Your best bet this Friday for a bit of folklore and authentic, top quality Cuban fusion music is to head to the Corner Café at 10 p.m. and listen to the stylings of accomplished musician Roberto Carcasses and the Interactivo band.
Thereafter for a bit of salsa to party the night away you can head to El Turquino nightclub (located on the hotel Habana Libre’s top floor) at 11 p.m. where Monika Mesa will be putting together one of her infectious performances for an evening of non-stop dancing.
For another salsa alternative you also have another chance of catching Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda performing at Casa de la Musica de Miramar also at 11 p.m.
And, for an early start to your evening you cold precede all the dancing with a 5p.m. stopover at El Diablo Tun Tun in Casa de la Musica de Miramar, where the Sweet Lizzy Proyect will be performing on of their pop-rock hits with songs sung 100% in English. Highly recommended!
There’s quite a selection to pick from this coming Saturday night, with something for all tastes.
To start things off early head to Café Cantante Mi Habana at 5 p.m. to listen to the relaxing music of Waldo Mendoza, loved by the local public for his melodic voice and romantic ballads. The perfect background music for a romantic night out in a cosy, low-key atmosphere.
Later on the legendary Kelvis Ochoa will be performing at the Corner Café at 10 p.m. Aim to catch his performance to get to the roots and soul of traditional Cuban sounds mixed with melodic lyrics and a variety of modern influences accompanied by a honey-like voice. I wouldn’t miss it.
Alternatively, if you want to liven things up and party reggaeton style (I should really say Cubaton style though), head to Don Cangrejo and dance to the infectious rhythm of Jacob Forever. It’s not pure reggaeton as you probably know it, it’s more like urban fusion music in a style that’s highly danceable. If you’ve heard Gente de Zona and liked them, you’ll like Jacob Forever too, as he was once part of the band but now sings independently and to great success.
For a totally different atmosphere and to check out Cuba’s LGBT scene stay at the Café Cantante Mi Habana (if you were there for Waldo Mendoza’s performance in the afternoon) to enjoy the weekly Proyecto Divino show – a flurry of colour, feathers, glitter and gay glamour.
Lastly, if you’re in the mood for salsa head to Casa de la Musica in Miramar to dance to the beats of Lazaro Valdes and Bamboleo. You won’t be able to help but get up and dance!
Things slow down considerably on Sunday as everyone knows Monday follows and this holy day is the only chance we have to rest up before the weekly daily grind begins. Even so…there are ways to keep yourself amused in Havana and have a fantastic time.
For starters, rock fans will feel right at home at Submarino Amarillo this Sunday with the nine o’clock performance of Cuban cover rock band Los Kents. It’s the perfect place to unwind and let your hair down as you swing your head to some quality rock classics excellently performed.
If salsa is what moves you then let it do so to the sound of legendary, all-girl Cuban salsa band, Anacaona, who will be performing at the Casa de la Musica de Miramar. Their show kicks off at 11 p.m. at the Casa de la Musica de Miramar.
If you want the salsa session to start earlier then be there at 5 p.m. for the afternoon performance of Lazaro Valdes y Bamboleo.
Things start to pick up the pace a little bit next Monday and things start to hot up as early as 5 p.m. with the stellar performance of Qva Libre, presenting their catchy Cuban fusion music at the Café Cantante Mi Habana.
On at the same time will be the timba beats of Wil Campa, this time at the Casa del Musica de Miramar, so here you will have to draw straws to pick which one to attend.
As the night unfolds there is once again more choice. You can either head to the Casa de la Musica in Miramar at 11 p.m. to enjoy the intoxicating rumba and conga beats of Sur Caribe or stay put at the Café Cantante Mi Habana (if that’s where you started off) to enjoy the Jazz fusion of an emerging new Cuban brand from Sancti Spiritus – Manana Club. It’s your call…if I were you next Monday in Cuba I’d be torn too!
Luckily for you if you had to make the tough decision of going to see Wil Campa over attending Qva Libre the day before (and that proved a testing choice for you) this Tuesday you will have a second chance at seeing Qva Libre perform life, once again at 5 p.m. and once again at the Café Cantante Mi Habana.
To keep the night going on a salsa theme, El Diablo Tun Tun would be the place to hit next in order to catch another performance from Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda “la que manda” (“the boss”).
Elsewhere in Cuba’s music scene – Trinidad Varadero and Santiago
If you’re in Trinidad this week and look forward to enjoying something other than traditional Cuban music, boleros and son, then tonight (Thursday 29th October) is the night to enjoy jazz band Las Cuevas performing at the Casa de la Musica at 8 p.m. They will perform at the same place on Saturday 30th October starting 4 p.m. Beyond that you can reliably count on local groups taking to the stage every afternoon and evening at the Casa de la Musica Trinidad to perform traditional Cuban tunes that never get old.
In Varadero, Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son will be performing at the Casa de la Musica de Varadero tonight and tomorrow (Thursday 29th and Friday 30th October) from 10.30 p.m. – a quality salsa show not to miss.
In Santiago de Cuba there are quite a few performances to enjoy, but all of them are traditional Cuban music mostly. Aside from the nightly live performances by traditional music groups performing at Patio de los Abuelos from 9.30 p.m and more traditional music performed every night at Casa de la Trova with shows starting at 10 p.m. there are also regular concerts by more traditional groups at Bar Claqueta starting at 10 p.m. most nights.
The only exception to this is the presentation of various Cuban musicians at the Iris Jazz Club, taking place each night at 10 p.m. with different performers on each occasion. Try and catch one if you’re there!
Again, not much new is there to be seen in Cuba this week when it comes to art exhibitions and artistic events.
Having said that the Festival Teatro de La Habana which we went into more detail last week is still on with multiple daily performances until its closure on Saturday 31st October. Check out our previous post for more details on what’s being staged each day.
Likewise, the Masson-Lam art exhibition that we introduced you to last week is still very much on and allows visitors to immerse fully in the work of two exceptional surrealists – French artist Andre Masson and Cuban-born Wilfredo Lam. It’s on at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and consists of 37 pieces by Wilfredo Lam and 44 by Andre Masson - all from the period spanning 1950 and 1974.
On the other hand and more importantly, the highlight of this week in Cuba’s arts scene is the presentation of the works of Steve McCurry at the Fotototeca de Cuba who will be presenting an exquisite collection of photographs from 31st October to 30th November 2015. Curry’s photography work is renowned around the world (that evoking picture of a green-eyed Afghan girl sound familiar?) so make sure you don’t miss it!
Families with children
As part of the ongoing Festival Teatro de La Habana children have a special place in this week’s calendar with a few performances dedicated to the youngest members of the family.
As revealed last week, Cuba’s child acting company per excellence, La Colmenita will be presenting their latest production “Cenicienta segun los Beatles” (Cinderella according to The Beatles) which despite the fact that is in Spanish, your children will still enjoy as most of the songs will be by legendary British band The Beatles and there’ll be little talking involved. Take them to see it at the Teatro Karl Marx on Saturday 31st October at 5 p.m. and then again on Sunday 1st November at 11 a.m.
For another totally unrelated children's act, the "A ritmo de Tropatrapo" performance will be staged for the very last time at Casa del ALBA Cultural this Saturday 31st October at 11.00 a.m.