On the surface Havana’s calendar of events this week might look a little lacking if you compare it with the previous week, but to be fair no country (or city) has a multitude of big events going on each and every week, and, in between it’s not like Cuba is resting on its laurels either, it’s just taking it a little slower as it gears up for the next big events and festivals to come.
This week might be a tad less packed and exciting than previous ones but that’s not to say there aren’t a few great places to be and a good deal of venues to head to.
Namely, the biggest thing this week is undoubtedly the three performances being staged this weekend in Havana by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, who will be presenting four different pieces as part of this programme.
On Saturday 28th November they will stage two performances, one starting at 5 p.m. and another later on at 8.30 p.m., both at the Sala Avellaneda of the Teatro Nacional de Cuba in Havana. Both of these functions will be in celebration of the 35th anniversary of Cuba’s book publishing house; Casa Editorial Abril.
On Sunday, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba will give its very last performance of the year, this time to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Sociedad Cultural Jose Marti (Jose Marti Cultural Society) and the four different productions they’ll be presenting include:
- En las sombras de un vals (Shadows of a Waltz) – Coreography by: Alicia Alonso. Music by: Josef Strauss. Designs by : Ricardo Reymena
- Cuba dentro de un piano (Cuba inside a piano) - Coreography by: Eduardo Blanco. Music by: Manuel Saumell, Ignacio Cervantes, Ernesto Lecuona and Harold Gramatges. Costumes by: Frank Álvarez. Luces: Ruddy Artiles
- Lucia Jerez - Coreography by: Alicia Alonso. Music by: Enrique González Mantici. Designs: Frank Álvarez. Original script: Fina García Marruz
- Don Quijote [suite] - Coreography by: Alicia Alonso [artistic-coreographic direction], Marta García y María Elena Llorente, based on the original by Marius Petipa and the version by Alexander Gorski. Music by: Ludwig Minkus. Script, scenography and costumes by: Salvador Fernández
Continuing with entertainment on the fine arts front, this weekend also brings a very special baroque classical music performance to take place at Iglesia de Paula (Paula's Church) in Old Havana. Talented musician Maria Tieles will be giving a special baroque viola performance there at 7 p.m. this Saturday 28th November, playing pieces that include Johann Sebastian Bach’s six original suites. A unique chance to travel back in time with music in the most atmospheric of classical settings.
On a totally different note, the last few days of this week will also see the end of the Baila en Cuba festival that has been taking place across the country in the last week (we announced it on our previous blog) with the very last opportunities to participate in some of its workshops, salsa-dancing master classes and live concerts.
Similarly the Benny More Festival that we announced last week will be hosted in Cienfuegos’ municipality of San Jose de las Lajas until 29th November, bringing plenty of mambo action to its streets. The festival (whose long name is Festival de la Musica Popular Cubana Benny More) pays tribute to the mambo king and Cuban legend it’s named after, but also focuses on different aspects of Cuban music in each edition.
This year stage direction is the main theme and the festival is paying a special homage to British theatre, film and opera director, Peter Brook, to mark his 90th birthday. It’s also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Teatro Buendia Company.
Lastly, but certainly not least, as a very special act preceding the celebration of the 20th Festival de la Trova Longina (to come in January 2016) will be held in Villa Clara, in its capital city of Santa Clara. The popular Cuban trova group Trovuntivitis will be treating fans to a special one-off concert at the Sala Che Guevara from the onset of 7 o’clock in the evening. All troubadours present are from Villa Clara, a region in Cuba famous for producing great trova talent.
This is the kind of Cuban music that’s more about the lyrics than it is about the rhythm or melody, so to fully appreciate it, understanding Spanish is not a must but would certainly add to the experience. Otherwise, you might fight this kind of folksy tunes a bit repetitive and tiring, or you might be moved and inspired in ways you never had before…you won’t know until you try it!
Hot in Havana’s Music Scene: Day-by-day musical calendar
Nothing stands out too much in Havana’s nightly calendar of events this week in the way of concerts at least, there’s nothing especially outstanding or out of the ordinary, but still plenty of music to see you through your nights, whether you’re in for live salsa, live jazz or rock. As usual here is the full low-down on the week’s nightly action, day by day.
On tonight – Thursday 26th November
If rock is what your mood asks for tonight then heading to Havana’s house of rock and roll at El Submarino Amarillo is your best bet. Get there at 9 p.m. to catch the performance of local rock band Gens, covering a variety of world-famous rock classics as well as performing their very own tunes and fusing other genres with rock sounds. They have turned classic Cuban tunes into some of their signature rock twists so they’re definitely a fun crowd to watch and listen to.
If after their performance you’re in the mood for some salsa beats then heading to Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m. will be your best option for a salsa dancing night to remember. Whether you dance or you’re just happy to listen and sway along, you’ll have the chance to enjoy the musical stylings of Alexander Abreu y Havana d’Primera, who have just returned from their European tour to wow their home audience and get everyone in the capital moving to their beat once again.
Friday – 27th November
Another rather slow day in Havana’s music scene despite it being Friday night. Yet there’s always first-class salsa quality assured when you catch a performance by Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda at the Casa de la Musica de Miramar, putting on their weekly show starting at 11 p.m.
Alternatively, you can opt to enjoy the live performance of a charismatic Cuban musician if you head to the Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana instead. Performing at the same time as NG La Banda tonight, Wil Campa will be putting on his infectious shows where most of the audience won’t be able to keep still on their feet or on their seats.
If you couldn’t catch Havana d’ Primera’s concert the previous day, they will be performing again tonight at the Salon Rosado Benny More in La Tropical.
Saturday – 28th November
The opportunity to catch the week’s first quality jazz performance comes in the way of a concert by Yasek Manzano at the Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba (Cuba’s National Library). Quite an unusual place to be staging a concert, we know, and quite an early one too as it starts at 4 p.m….yet, you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it as this talented Cuban trumpetist and composer may be young but has already enjoyed a very successful career, performing with major figures like Celia Cruz, Bobby Carcasses, Irakere and British band, Simply Red.
If you’re in the mood for rock, then another chance to enjoy the rock covers by Cuban local band GENS comes at 10 p.m. This time they’ll be performing at El Diablo Tun Tun.
For salsa you have quite a few options this Saturday; you can either head to Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecht at 10 p.m. to dance along David Blanco and his group, head to the Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m. to sway your hips to Lazaro Valdes y Bamboleo’s beats or make it to the Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana at the same time to enjoy the stylings of Elito Reve y Su Charangon.
Sunday – 29th December
Emerging Cuban pop singer Alejandro Boue will be performing at King Bar tonight from 10 p.m. If in the mood for some catchy Latin tunes and a bit of Latin fusion then go see him, he’s one of the newest most popular faces in Cuba’s music scene.
Aside from that it’s pretty quiet in Havana this Sunday evening, you can catch an early afternoon salsa performance though if you head to Casa de la Musica de Miramar, where you can enjoy another live concert by Lazaro Valdes y Bamboleo.
Monday – 30th November
Funny that Monday, being the first day of the weekly work grind, would be more action-packed than Sunday but that’s exactly the scenario next Monday 30th November in Havana.
If you want infectious Cuban conga music then this is the day to grab your chance and see Sur Caribe perform at Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m.
If you want salsa you have a pick between Wil Campa performing again this week at 5 p.m. but in Casa de la Musica de Miramar this time or Pedrito Calvo y La Justicia, performing at the Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m.
Tuesday – 1st December
If you like to start things off early tonight then the perfect chance comes in the way of an outstanding performance by Raul Paz at 5 p.m. He’ll be treating an eager audience to his mix of Cuban fusion tunes from the onset of 11 p.m.
If you want to carry on in a fusion music note the Sarao’s Bar is the best place to head later on in the evening where Kelvis Ochoa will be performing at 10 p.m. Famous for having once been part of one of Cuba’s most popular contemporary bands, Habana Abierta, his solo career has been as equally successful so you shouldn’t miss a chance to see him live.
If in the mood to salsa the night away then Casa de la Musica de Miramar is the place to be at 11 p.m. where you can get moving to the intoxicating rhythm of Pedrito Calvo y La Justicia.
Wednesday – 2nd December
Start your evening entertainment early by heading to Café Cantante Mi Habana at 5 p.m. this Wednesday to enjoy a performance by contemporary Cuban music band, Qva Libre and get carried away with their infectious musical antics and colourful show.
Later on you can rock and roll this Wednesday away with a stellar performance by local cover band, Los Tackson, who will be putting on a show at Havana’s most popular rock venue, El Submarino Amarillo, at 9 p.m.
And tonight brings another chance to enjoy the melodic, sultry voice of Kelvis Ochoa, who will once again be performing at Sarao’s Bar from 10 p.m.
In the performing arts we’ve already established that Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s performance on Saturday and Sunday 28-29th November is the hottest ticket in town. Now when it comes to the plastic arts there’s quite a few options in the capital and beyond.
There are plenty of art exhibitions to check out throughout Havana this week but the best pick of the loom without a doubt is the collection of works by North American photographer Peter Turnley being presented at the Museo de Bellas Artes. With pieces that aim to explore humanity, this exhibition compiles over forty years of work in the form of photographs capturing instants, celebrities and experiences that convey very different aspects of the human condition.
On a totally different note, the popular and centric San Francisco de Asis Square in Old Havana will be the open-air stage to a special sculpture exhibition entitled: Travesias de XICO por America Latina (XICO’s Journey through Latin America).
Made up by 16 different sculptures that measure up to 180cm each, this collection rescues Latin America’s roots to show the world its history and traditions from a tropical location. It’s part of a project that aims to unite Latin American countries through art and culture. Definitely not one to miss, so be with your cameras at the ready when strolling around this centric part of town!
Outside Havana – Villa Clara, Viñales and Sancti Spiritus
With cities outside Havana being significantly quieter than the buzzing capital, this week sees a few exceptions taking centre-stage. Taking the spotlight this week is Villa Clara, with an art exhibition by popular local Susana Trueba. Her collection titled “Entre ciudades” (Between Cities) will be on show at el Mejunje Gallery until 30th November.
Capturing a real city and building upon it with the recreation of what she imagines to be an ideal city, or what she would have like to have saved from the passage of time, this personal collection is inspired on the cities of Remedios and Santa Clara.
In Viñales, if you so happen to be lucky enough to be spending part of your Cuba holiday there, there is a special one-off exhibit at the Museo Municipal de Viñales Adela Azcuy Labrador. The pick of the month is dedicated to artist and landscapist, Domingo Ramos Enriquez, locally revered as the “Painter of the Valley”.
Celebrating what would have been his 121st birthday the museum will be exhibiting some of his works until 4th December, so you still have one more week to enjoy it before his famous paintings of the stunning Viñales Valley and its local surroundings are taken down.
In Sancti Spiritus, a personal exhibition by artist Raul Cue Echemendia entitled “A Sangre Fria” (Cold-bloodedly) will be showcased at the Casa de la Guayabera until 20th December.
For families with children
This space dedicated to families visiting in Cuba with a young crowd of curious little minds is never our bulkiest, but nevertheless we always ensure we scour the city deep, far and wide to find something special for them to do that can become a treasured memory of their Cuban trip.
This week we have a puppet theatre performance of the popular children’s fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel” being staged at the Teatro Nacional de Guiñol this weekend, starting Friday 27th with a 3 p.m. performance and continuing with two Saturday performances the next day, one at 11 a.m. and another at 5 p.m. Never mind that you or your offspring can speak a word of Spanish, you don’t need language to enjoy a quirky animated performance like this one!