Many of the things that were big in last week’s cultural calendar continue to take place throughout this week, like the Havana Film Festival, the FIART arts fair in PABEXPO and the public art exhibition of human-sized dog sculptures in Old Havana’s centric San Francisco de Asis square. While all (except FIART which will run until 20th December) will be waving goodbye this week, a few new events will replace them over the course of this week and the next, so fear not, there’s plenty to check out and enjoy in Cuba before the year ends!
As announced during last week’s edition of the Hot in Cuba blog, the 37th Havana Film Festival continues being celebrated in the capital with dozens of cinema screenings planned for the next few days before it draws to a close with the final award-giving gala ceremony taking place on Sunday 13th December – we’ll have to wait until then to learn who scooped up the big prizes across the different categories.
Highlights of the week
Exclusive to this week there are quite a few things taking place, from Olga Tañon last performance before she leaves Cuba to world-class circus performances and a unique dancing festival celebrating the 20th anniversary of Danza del Alma.
Havaneando – Circuba launches winter season shows
Directed by the talented German Muñoz, the National Circus of Cuba (Circuba) will be presenting a series of dazzling new shows as part of their autumn and winter season, entitled “Havaneando”. With performances being staged at Havana’s Carpa Trompoloco (you’ll find it on Miramar’s 5th Avenue) every weekend throughout the months of December and January you’ll have plenty of chances to catch at least one performance. There will be two afternoon Havaneando shows on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
You can even book your tickets in advance online through Circuba’s official webpage. The entry cost is quoted both in Cuban National Pesos (MN) and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). For tourists and non-Cuban residents tickets are priced at 10 CUC for adults and 5 CUC for kids under 12 while children under two go free. Whether you are in Havana alone, with a group of friends, a partner or the whole family, don’t miss a chance to enjoy the talent of the Cuban circus!
Olga Tañon in Havana for final concert
We already announced last week how she would be giving a one-of-a-kind free concert in Santiago de Cuba’s Revolution Square, joined on stage by Cuban fellow artists of the moment Descemer Bueno and Qva Libre as well numerous other Cuban talents including director of the show, Joaquin Betancourt. A declared success attended by over 300,000 santiagueros, Olga Tañon will be expecting to encounter another welcoming audience in Havana when she performs there this coming Saturday 12th December at 3 p.m. The stage this time will be the Tribuna Antimperialista Jose Marti facing the scenic Malecon sea wall and she will once again be joined on stage by a variety of Cuban singers, musicians and dancers. It might get too packed for your (or anyone’s) liking but you might be able to enjoy the music in the distance as you walk along this part of the city.
Danza del Alma in Santa Clara
As part of the 11th edition of the popular dance festival “Para bailar en casa del trompo” which is celebrated every year in the capital of the Villa Clara province and which has been taking place since last Tuesday; a special exhibition to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the local dancing company, Danza del Alma is taking the limelight this time.
With various public performances staged on a street platform facing Santa Clara’s centric Parque Vidal, this annual festival sees a good number of beautifully choreographed routines performed over its 10-day duration. From prestigious dancing groups like Espiral, Codanza, Medula and Colectivo Persona, this festival brings an excellent excuse to make an obligatory stop in Santa Clara and linger there a little longer.
The special exhibition to mark Danza del Alma’s 20th birthday includes a collection of photographs, costumes, posters and promotional memorabilia from previous editions of the festival.
Havana’s Music Scene – female talent is the star of the week
Well, beyond the star-studded free public concert of Olga Tañon in Havana, there’s not a lot of exciting new musical acts on this week’s calendar. Still, if you want to be moved by music you’ll have plenty of venues to hit and decisions to make with regards as whether you’d prefer to listen to salsa, rock, jazz or afro-Cuban beats. Read on for the day-to-day breakdown.
On tonight – a one-night-only by Vocalite
If you enjoy vocal music tonight is your chance to enjoy a performance by the Cuban group, Vocalite, who will be putting on a very special show at the Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecth at 10 p.m. You can look forward to traditional music songs being performed completely acapella with no other instruments beyond their hands and vocal chords, which they seamlessly turn into trumpets, maracas and bass sounds. Truly unmissable talent (check them out on YouTube performing Lagrimas Negras).
If you want to be moved by rock then head to El Subamarino Amarillo to enjoy the quality original tunes and cover songs by local rock Cuban band, GENS. Their performance starts at 9 p.m.
And, of course, there’s always good salsa in Cuba and the very finest to be enjoyed tonight is at Casa de la Musica de Miramar and Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana, where Havana D’ Primera and NG La Banda will be putting on one of their weekly shows at 11 p.m.
Friday 11th December – a pickle between two special Cuban ladies
If you want to get in touch with afro-Cuban roots and enjoy a good rumba performance then kick-start things early this Friday afternoon with a stop at El Jelengue del Areito at 5 p.m. where you can catch a performance by Rumberos de Cuba.
But there are two much bigger one-off performances to be enjoyed in Havana this Friday night. One is the concert by folk-soul-pop music singer and composer Diana Fuentes, an artist that started her career very early on and who, pushed and groomed by the talented Descemer Bueno brought out her first album, Planeta Planetario, a couple of years ago. Her sweet voice and melodic sounds won’t leave you indifferent and her concert is on at 8.30 p.m. at the Teatro Nacional’s Sala Avellaneda.
The other a concert by yet another talented Cuban singer, Eme Alfonso (from the famous Alfonso family whose members have a strong legacy in Cuban music) famous for writing, composing and performing her own tunes, which range from soulful, jazzy sounds to Macy Gray-style trova poetry, her sweet yet sultry voice is sure to cast its spell on you. Her concert is on at Fabrica de Arte Cubano and starts at 11 p.m. which means that if you plan it well you could attend both performances and explore first-hand real and raw Cuban solo female talent. Whichever one you attend or, especially if you make it to both, you certainly won’t be disappointed!
Saturday 12th December – more female talent leads the way
Beyond Olga Tañon’s free public concert this Saturday afternoon, not much else special is going on this Saturday night in Havana. Perhaps precisely because of this your options are more limited, as more people will be heading down the Malecon to enjoy this much-publicised one-off live performance.
Still, if you want to escape the buzz and street crowds that this massive concert will draw, there are plenty of other places in the city to enjoy either upbeat salsa tunes to dance to or more soulful blues and jazz sounds to relax and unwind. And, to be perfectly honest I would strongly favour either of the two options mentioned below.
Another talented female performer will be giving a concert tonight, the Cuban daughter of Grammy award-winning Pablo Milanes – a true Cuban legend that has almost literally given birth to yet another promising musician. A star in her own right, Haydee Milanes and her jazzy, airy sounds will be wowing audiences at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes at 7 p.m. It’s another one-off show so if you particularly enjoy this style of music and want to get a glimpse of one of Cuba’s most rapidly rising female vocal talents, be there or regret it forever!
And if you thought that was it for tonight, then you couldn’t be more wrong! Winner of the International Master Jam Jazz Festival and the Havana JoJazz Festival, the very talented female drummer, Yissy Garcia, along with her jazz band will be performing live tonight at Fabrica de Arte Cubano. Get there in time at 11 p.m. for the perfect energetic finishing touch your night.
Sunday 13th December – salsa or pop rock?
This Sunday the music scene in Havana definitely slows down but it doesn’t come to a halt either.
If you want salsa then head to the Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 5 p.m. to dance along the salsa tunes performed by Lazaro Valdes and his group, Bamboleo. If that is too early for you to start dancing the evening away then you can always head to King Bar at 10 p.m. and catch Alejandro Boue’s frequent weekly performance there – prepare for contemporary fusion music blending pop with upbeat Latin sounds.
If in the mood for rock head to El Submarino Amarillo to enjoy the Pop-Rock cover music by Eddie Escobar y Su Grupo. Their show starts at 9 p.m.
Monday 14th December – conga or salsa
Following on from the previous day, this Monday doesn’t hold too much musical variety in Havana but if you’re ready to go out there are two places are recommend.
For salsa you’ll have to start things early at the Casa de la Musica de Miramar, where Will Campa will be performing at 5 p.m.
For the most intoxication conga music straight from Santiago, don’t miss the weekly performance of Sur Caribe at the same place but later on in the evening at 11 p.m….and that’s a wrap folks!
Tuesday 15th December - a dash of Cuban fusion music
As we get closer to the festive season, things on Havana’s music scene continue to be rather limited this Tuesday. There are only two worthy live performances to attend, but these two are amazingly quality each, so whichever you’re going to (and you can attend both) there’s no compromise on quality – I promise”
First up, Raul Paz, famous for revolutionising the Cuban fusion music scene, will be performing at the Café Cantante Mi Habana at 5 p.m.
To kick things up a notch and salsa dance the night away, the Casa de la Musica de Miramar is the place to head next, where Pedrito Calvo y La Justicia will be entrancing dancers with their catchy sounds from the onset of 11 p.m.
Wednesday 16th December – Sintesis in concert!
Saving the best 'till last this week, the world-famous Cuban music group, Sintesis, will be celebrating their 39th anniversary this Wednesday 16th December so audiences are in for a really special celebratory gig.
Featuring afro-Cuban sounds predominantly and putting together a compilation of all the music they’ve produced in the last few years, famous and much-loved tracks from their Ancestros trilogy will be performed with the visual representation of a very special guest; Yanexy Cruz, soloist ballerina from the Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. It will be a truly multi-dimensional spectacle to enjoy with all the senses – my whole-heartedly felt recommendation: don’t miss it!
When it comes to the performing arts there are three outstanding events to attend in Cuba this week, two in the capital and another in the north-eastern province of Villa Clara, more specifically in Santa Clara.
The first two I’ve already covered in the above section Highlights of the Week, but the last one also deserves special mentioning below.
Spanish Ballet Company waves goodbye to 2015 with special performance
To officially wave goodbye to the year, which is about to come to an end soon in the next couple of weeks, the Ballet Español de Cuba (the Cuban company of Spanish Ballet) will be putting on a special show entitled “Adios al 2015 con tacones y castañuelas”, a title that roughly translates as “Goodbye to 2015 with heels and castanets”.
Three special one-off performances will be offered at Havana’s Teatro Mella on Friday 11th, Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th December at 8.30 p.m. Make it to one performance if you can to get an authentic taste of Spanish artistic influence with a distinctive Cuban seal.
Now for the plastic arts. Over the last few weeks we’ve announced special seasonal exhibitions by worldwide artists being showcased across various Cuban galleries throughout the country such as the “Momentos de la condicion humana” collection by internationally renowned American photographer, Peter Turnley, whose striking photographs have been featured in Newsweek 43 times and in other famous publications around the globe, such as National Graphic. The collection remains on show at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana throughout the end of the year and up until 15th February and it contains a series of works that bear witness to the world’s geo-political issues of the last 40 years.
On a newer note, the recently launched exhibition by Beatriz Gerenstein titled “Lo Viejo y Lo Nuevo” (The Old and The New) has been taking centre stage at the Museon Nacional de Artes Decorativas. Eleven exquisite pieces make up the collection on show which creates a coincidence of time and space between the old and the new. The exhibition will remain open until 8th January 2016.
Historic neoclassical paintings will be on show at the Edificio Arte Cubano of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes as part of a collection titled “El eco del ultimo disparo” (The echo of the last shot). It’s a transitional exhibition on show until 14th February 2015.
An even shorter exhibition in terms of duration is being shown at the Taberna Bohemia del Deivi by local artist Ramiro Zardoya Sanchez. The BE HUMAN collection comprises a series of drawings and animations that are quite interesting to look at if that type of art interests you at all.
There are two things this week that may particularly be of interest to families with children.
One of them is the Aladino musical being staged every Sunday at the Anfiteatro Historico de La Habana. The time of the performance is 9 p.m., which some might consider a little late for the youngest members in the family, but if they’re on holiday you might as well let them off since they don’t have school the next day.
The one other special thing for them is the dedicated circus performance for kids taking place every Sunday at 11 p.m. at the Carpa Trompoloco with the Karisea Duo. So take them day for a special mid-morning treat with authentic Cuban flavour.
Coming soon next week – ZZ Top and Kenny G
That might be it for this week, but next opens up with a lot of promise and the much-awaited performances of American rock band ZZ Top and saxophone jazz legend, Kenny G, taking place sometime between 17th to 20th December – don’t miss it!