There might not be a whole lot of things going on in Cuba this June, but some of the events that are taking place are truly special, and I mean, really exceptional, worth dropping everything to attend. Starting off with Orishas´much-awaited return to the island to a festival of piano music, enchanting flamenco nights with “tablao”, ballet performances, a dollop of jazz and a dash of circus magic; there’s plenty to keep you entertained while you absorb the island’s unique flair. And, as the month goes one, we’re bound to keep adding more things to this list, as Cuba is not known for giving itself away far in advance. It makes you wait…and that’s part of the magic.
Without further ado, I proceed to list my top picks of events in Cuba this June 2017:
Orishas Concert in Havana (2nd June)
The opening act to this month’s events is without a doubt, Orishas’ upcoming concert in Havana this 2nd June, bringing all the band members together for the first performance in their homeland since 2009, when they were part of a line-up of Juanes’ “Paz sin Fronteras” (Peace without Borders) concert in Havana.
After launching their latest album and recently unveiling the new music video for their single “Pegadito Al Piso”, the threesome is eager to return to their Cuban audience. One of the band members, Yotuel, said during a recent interview after a performance in Spain:
“It’ll be a proper show. We want to sing 15 songs, make it a full show with all band members, using light and sound effects. Just think of it, to perform at home the songs we wrote in the distance. To sing them in the country that inspired them.“
The show will be on at the Juan Abrantes stadium at the University of Havana. If I were you I wouldn´t miss this one-of-a-kind, very intimate concert by this Grammy-winning hip-hop fusion band. In fact, I know I won´t as I will be there in Havana myself!
If you don´t know who Orishas are I highly encourage you to Google them and look at a few of their music videos on YouTube. Hardly any other group is able to capture raw Cuban sentiment and Cuban reality´s many facets through music. Not like this one.
Classical Music concert “Les Chemins de l’amour” (3rd June)
Sensitive souls with a weakness for olden melodies from the 19th and 20th century are in for a real treat this coming Wednesday in Havana. Lesby Bautista, winner of last year’s World’s Festival of Countertenors will be treating the audience to a variety of French classics by Gabriel Faure, Claude Debussy, Reynaldo Hahn, Francis Poulenc, Erick Satie, Camile Saint’Saens, Charles Gounod, Andre Caple and Hector Berlioz. With piano accompaniment by Yanner Rascon and with special invited guests under the direction of Daniel Noriega, this is a delectable show that no classical music lover in Havana should miss. It’s on at the Oratorio San Felipe Neri in Old Havana.
Cesar Lopez and Habana Ensemble (3rd June)
One of the most renowned saxophone players in Latin Jazz, Cuban Cesar Lopez usually gives out concerts in the Cuban capital’s popular Jazz Cafe, where he performs with his band, Habana Ensemble. But on this occasion he comes to the Teatro America for a very special, one-off performance at 8 p.m.
Having started his blossoming career with award-winning Cuban musician, Bobby Carcasses, the man responsible for introducing Cesar to Latin Jazz in the 80s, this talented saxophonist was handpicked by Grammy-winning Chucho Valdes to play in his famous band, Irakere. If you’re a jazz fan, this one comes highly recommended.
Piano concerts (31st May to 7th June)
The celebration of the 5th Encuentro de Jovenes Pianistas (Gathering of Young Pianists) in Cuba will be celebrated in Havana this year, welcoming a wide array of young international pianists who come to perform alongside the island’s youngest rising starts. For the occasion, Russian piano virtuoso and pedagogue Alexandre Moutouzkine will give the opening concert on Wednesday evening. The ample concert programme spanning a week, will include a variety of performances and music pieces, including Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Concert for Piano No. 1” Op.1 and “Concert for Piano No. 2”, Op. 18. The hosting stage will be Havana’s Teatro Marti and the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis.For a schedule of daily performances and times you’re better off heading there and enquiring at the ticket office.
2nd Festival of European Cinema in Cuba (1st – 11th June)
Celebrating contemporary Cuban cinema for the second year running, the Festival of European Cinema in Cuba is gaining momentum and drawing an even bigger audience this time. With the participation of 16 member states of the European Union, the city will see a total of 14 films and five documentaries screened at a variety of cinemas, with productions from Germany, Italy, Ireland, the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, Ciprus, Hungary, Czech Republic, Sweden, Portugal and Spain.
It all kicks off on 1st June at the cinema 23 y 12, with the screening of the award-winning German production by Doris Dorrie, “Fukushima, my love”. For more information on where and when to catch a screening, check out the Cuban capital’s cinemas where you’ll find a detailed listing of screenings and times.
Ballet de Camaguey in Havana, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos (8th to 18th June)
This month, the Ballet de Camaguey is heading west to give a series of stellar performances at three different Cuban cities: Havana, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos. The 50-year-old dancing company will perform at the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso” on 8th and 9th June, at Santa Clara’s La Claridad Theatre on 14th and 15th June and at the Terry Theatre in Cienfuegos on day 17th and 18th.
For the first time ever, they will perform “Carmen” outside the Camagueyan capital and for a non-Camagueyan audience, in a laureate version by Peter Brauer from Austria’s Salzburg Ballet. As the ballet performances will be given on two evenings in each city only, tickets can run out incredibly fast (especially in Havana), so don’t leave it too late to get your hands on yours.
30th International Festival “Boleros de Oro” (21st to 25th June)
If you want to know what Cuban “filin” (the Cubanised version of the word “feeling” in English) is all about, then there couldn’t be a more idyllic chance to discover it than by attending this year’s International Festival “Boleros de Oro”, an exceptional event spanning over a number of gala nights full of soulful performances that pull at the heartstrings.
Uniting Latin American singers of the genre, Cuba’s boleros festival is one of the most famous in the continent and one of the most highly acclaimed and attended. Perhaps you don’t know what a “bolero” is yet (and, no, we’re not talking about an item of clothing resembling a cropped jacket) and there couldn’t be a better place or space in which to get to know this slow-tempo Latin music, that comes with a slow-paced, romantic dance to match. Lyrics are often sad and with compelling vocals.
Festival Danzon Habana (21st – to 25th June)
Celebrating one of Cuba’s oldest dances and rhythms, the beloved “danzon” will take hold of various of the capital’s theatre venues as the next edition of the International Festival Danzon Habana gets under way. With dancing competitions, workshops and dancing sessions open to the public, this edition of the festival promises to be as fun and memorable as ever. If you want to catch some of the danzon dancing action, learn the simple steps and cadence or listen to its sweet melody, these are the places to check out: Teatro Mella, Teatro America, Sociedad Caribena de Cuba and La Tropical nightclub.
Cuba’s National Ballet presents “Tiempo de Danzon” (24th – 25th June)
Cuba’s National Ballet returns to the Gran Teatro, with not one but two special one-off shows this June. Aptly dedicated to a beloved Cuban music and dancing genre: the danzon, Cuba’s ballet company wants to extend the celebration of the International Danzon Habana Festival with two days of very special performances paying homage to this popular Cuban dance.
For the occasion, one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies has put together the new productions: “Tiempo de Danzon”, “A la luz de tus canciones” and “Paquita” (Grand Pas). The first performance will take place on Saturday 24th June at 8:30 p.m. and the second on the following day, Sunday 25th June at 5 p.m. To get your hands on tickets, head to the Gran Teatro de La Habana’s ticket office, but hurry, they’ll sell out fast.
Annual Circuba Tour 2017 (25th June – 2nd July)
Cuba’s oldest circus company and the world’s third oldest (36 years in the making) starts their annual tour of the island this coming 25th June and it does so with a series of spectacular performances, full of amazing tricks, mind-bending acrobatics and humorous antics.
Reliving a tradition that goes back to over two centuries of existence, Circuba’s shows pack theatres to the brim and keep them coming back year after year. It’s a great event to attend if you’re in Cuba with your family, and even if you haven’t got any little ones on tow, it’s a timeless show for all ages.
Catch them at Havana’s Carpa Trompoloco, Ciego de Avila’s Teatro Principal, Guantanamo’s Teatro Guaso, Matanzas’ Teatro Municipal de Cardenas, Las Tunas’ Sala Polivalente Leonardo Mackenzie Grant, Santiago de Cuba’s Teatro Heredia and Pinar del Rio’s Teatro Milanes and Sala Polivalente “19 de Noviembre”. As you can see they’ll be doing a show per day at each city as they move along the country from tip to tip, so do take a look at the selected theatres to see which performances fall on which days, then you can plan your visiting depending on where in Cuba you’ll be based at the time.
Flamenco Nights with Reynier Marino (every Wednesday at 10 p.m.)
An exceptional guitarist with a God-given talent for strumming the most heartfelt Spanish notes, Reynier Marino´s mastery of the instrument leaves no one indifferent. Gruaduated from Cuba’s academic conservatories of art education, Mr Marino has performed alongside some of today’s contemporary greats, from Manolo Sanlucar to Tomatito and Gerando Nunes, earning himself wide international recognition in the process.
Now, he’s taking over the "Tablao" at Gran Teatro de La Habana to give a performance every Wednesday of the month. If interested in catching one of his performance head to the theatre’s ticket office as soon as you can, because tickets are bound to fly off the shelves really fast.
A Cubanised version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS! (every Saturday and Sunday in June)
The undying classic of Andrew Lloyd Webber returns to Havana with an adaptation by Alfonso Menendez that will enchant audiences at the "Anfiteatro Habana Vieja" in Old Havana (in Avenida del Puerto between Cuba Street and Pena Pobre Street).
The show returns to the Cuban capital after enjoying much success on its initial launch in 2011, which ended on a high note and received a warm welcome. This time around the musical will go on for longer, taking the stage every Saturday and Sunday in June at 9 p.m., thus giving audiences more opportunities to catch the performance. Expect the shows to pack the open-air theatre as the city rushes to enjoy a beloved famous international production of this calibre in the island.