August is upon us and while the UK may not be experiencing the cloud-free sunshine and warmth we would all like, in Cuba relentless heat is to be expected all throughout this month (the hottest in the Cuban calendar), even when the odd thunderstorm often breaks loose to freshen things up. Regardless of rain or shine, Cuba will be warm and whatever the state of the weather, locals never stop hanging out in its street, taking part in outdoor events or concerts or checking out cooler indoor festivals and art fairs. Read on to see my top picks of what´s hot in Cuba this August.
Top picks nationwide
From Havana to Holguin, this is my list of top events this August 2017 in Cuba.
Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecht reopens after a year
The popular “Café Teatro” of the Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecht in Havana finally reopens this 9th August with a celebratory concert by fusion group Interactivo. Also referred to as simply “the cafe” at Bertolt Brecht, this space with over two decades of history is famous for its good music, its atmospheric stage and its intoxicatingly lively, feel-good ambience.
This cultural centre is split into two levels, one of which hosts theatre performances and dance productions while the other, the “cafe” (the one we’re talking about here) mainly hosts concerts. Kicked off by Interactivo’s performance, their concert will be followed by the likes of Tony Avila, Ivette Cepeda, Sintesis, David Blanco, Miel con Limon, Polito Ibanez and Ray Fernandez.
Summer Festival in Jibacoa (4th to 6th August)
The seventh edition of “Festival Verano” in Jibacoa will be in full swing this weekend, treating beach-bummers to the most awesome seaside party in this rarely trodden part of Cuba. There will be three different stages set up along this beautiful beach (wedged between Havana and Matanzas, in the smaller province of Mayabeque) where on Friday and Saturday 5th and 6th August a series of local bands will line up to give smashing concerts in a wide variety of music genres, from salsa and timba to rock, underground sounds like rap and hip hop, alternative and electronic music as well as heavy metal performed by Cuban band Saloma. There will also be plenty of fusion music spanning all genres in between, blending afroCuban beats with more contemporary sounds. Recorded music takes over on Sunday where alternative music will be queen in the absence of live acts.
This is the best place to witness how Cubans experience music festivals, by camping out on the beach and sleeping in makeshift tents (about 100 will be set up by the national company: Campismo, each sleeping up to four people and charged at only 5 Cuban pesos (“moneda nacional “not CUC) per person or 20 pesos per night in total. Ultra-cheap for Cubans which means this festival is not off limits to anyone. Making it all the safer, Cuba’s MININT (Ministry of Interior) will have a special unit looking over the festival to ensure the party is as safe and enjoyable for everyone as it can be. One to definitely attend if you can.
Ballet Camaguey in Havana (4th to 6th August)
Celebrating its 50th anniversary the prestigious ballet dancing company of Camaguey, more commonly referred to as Ballet de Camaguey, will be giving a series of performances in Havana’s Teatro Martí over the first weekend in August. Cuba´s second most prestigious classic ballet company will be staging three different productions, all by award-winning choreographer, Alberto Mendez, winner of “Premio Nacional de Danza”.
Under the direction of Yaylin Ortiz, the “Paseando mi Alma” production, pays tribute to Mr Mendez, who has been involved in Ballet de Camaguey´s history from its very beginnings. The dancing repertoire is an extremely complex one, given that it´s the first time that jazz music is used throughout the entire piece, with contemporary dance elements that go beyond the classical dancing the company is used to. Music is composed by Cuban percussionist, Dafnis Prieto and is inspired by Cuban youth´s dynamism, energy and sensuality by mixing elements of popular culture with jazz. One not to miss, whether you are into classical ballet or contemporary dance – this production seamlessly incorporates both styles in a very Cuban way.
Circuba 2017 stops in Holguin (from 1st to 6th August)
Delighting an eastern audience with their talented acrobatics and fabulous circus antics, Havana´s circus company is stopping in Holguin this week as part of their annual tour around the country in the good company of international circus stars. With a talented cast of national performers from Circo Nacional de Cuba and Teatro Lirico Nacional, joining some international performing guests from the U.S., China, Russia and Venezuela, this will be a one-of-a-kind union for a one-of-a-kind show.
If you happen to be in Holguin over this weekend and have time to attend one of Circuba´s performances, they´ll be at the Ateneo Deportivo Fernando de Dios every night with things kicking off at 9 p.m. and every morning at 11 a.m. in the Raul Camay Hall at the Teatro Eddy Sunol. Make a break from the Guardalavaca beaches and don´t miss it!
Habana Titiritera – Puppets take over Old Havana (7th to 13th August)
Celebrating the often forgotten art of puppetry, Habana Titiritera “Figuras entre Adoquines” (Havana Puppeteering: “Figurines among cobblestones”) is taking over the capital´s old town to entertain young and old alike with a series of theatrical shows. They´ll be performed right on the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, for every passer-by to enjoy and immerse in the universe of puppeteering. Organised by theatre group “La Proa”, under the direction of Erduyn Maza Morgado, a total of 38 different groups of puppeteers will be joining forces to regale the city with this ancient art of performance and entertainment. For those interested in learning more about the world of puppets, several workshops will also take place, giving an insight into the beauty of keeping these figurines alive for the benefit of children who now live in an era of virtual entertainment and unpersonified interactions.
Don’t let language be a barrier, let yourself be carried away by the visual magic of puppet shows and if in Havana during the second week of August do stop by to enjoy a performance or two. In all likelihood you´ll already be familiar with the story.
Violin concerto by Camerata Romeu in Havana (20th August)
An all-female group of talented young violinists led by Zenaida Romeu, will be performing a curated collection of pieces by Bach, Astor Piazzola and Roberto Valera at the Sala Federio Garcia Loca in the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso” on 20th August at 5 p.m. This one-off concert is a special event that won’t repeat itself in a while so get tickets early if you can. They’re sold at the theatre’s ticket office.
Feria del Disco in Trinidad – an awesome beach party (ongoing until 31st August)
Not much is known about this one-of-a-kind event taking place at the even lesser known Playa La Boca beach in Trinidad. All I know and all that I can tell you for now (until I´m updated on the finer details) is that such an event is being advertised in Cuban culture website La Papeleta, which points to a music festival happening every day until the end of August. Recorded music will be played on full blast at the on the Casa de la Musica temporary placed at Playa La Boca (also known as Primera Playita). If you want to join in the dancing action with the locals, you can stop by at any time of day, the action is not limited to evenings, as morning matinees will get the crowds moving from sunrise till dusk.
Traditional 50s concert at Havana´s Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro
Every night this August, between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. a wonderful show full of nostalgia and evocative sounds from yesteryear will fill the air at the Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro in Havana, bringing about the unique chance to go back in time and enjoy the stage antics of one exceptional singer and performer that all Cubans hold dear in their hearts: Juana Bacallao. Some call her crazy, some call her sassy, she is actually a bit of both, but everybody loves her. If you want to meet this one-of-a-kind woman in person and hear her belt out soulful tunes to the accompaniment of the talented Gloria Matancera orchestra, you’ve got a chance to every night this month. Don’t miss it! This is traditional Cuban music at its best and most authentic.
Teatro Sauto in Matanzas reopens with “Musas de las Cubiertas”
Having remained closed for years due to extensive renovation works, this remarkable piece of architecture has finally been restored to its days of glory and is ready to welcome visitors once again. Dating back to 1863, this magnificent neoclassical building closed down in the late 70s to begin a long, slow, in-depth restoration process that’s still ongoing. Many years have we had to wait until its reopening but taking a peek inside now prove that it’s all been worth it.
Built and designed by Italian architect and artist, Daniel Dall’Aglio, the majestic Teatro Sauto now aspires to earn itself the title of UNESCO Heritage Site thanks to its beautifully restored, pastel-coloured mural frescoes with intricate reliefs and motifs. It now features in the top three of classical theatres in Cuba, a declared National Monument and one you shouldn’t miss out on seeing. The “Musas de la Cubierta” (Dome Muses) on its dome-shaped ceiling are the theatre’s main feature and draw. There are eight of them (though many insist there should have been nine, according to original Greek mythology) and many search for the missing Polimina, muse of eloquence and poetry. While you solve the mystery of why this one was left out, simply overlooked (or is mysteriously hidden somewhere) this theatre has many a wonderful sight to peruse, from many picture-perfect vantage points.
Arte en La Rampa (ongoing until 3rd September)
Cuba’s most famous summer fair continues bringing art and music to Havana’s streets during this month. With a variety of special events, from daily concerts at "La Pergola" to short plays and stand-up comedy, "Arte en la Rampa" is one of the capital’s most cherished annual events.
Carrying on with its diverse array of artistic presentations, from photo exhibitions, to seminars, workshops and book launches, the Pabellon Cuba is Vedado´s busiest venue all throughout August. It´s Arte en La Rampa´s main headquarters, along with other nearby venues scattered throughout this part of the city. Handmade crafts sold by Cuban artists will also be on sale.
Sin Mascaras – an afroCuban contemporary exhibit (29th July to 23rd October)
If you want to dig deeper into the island’s afroCuban roots by immersing in its artistic world, the recently relaunched “Sin Mascaras” (loosely translating as "Unmasked" or "No Masks") exhibitions at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, gives you the perfect opportunity to do so. A unique collection of works dating back to 2007 and uniting a variety of artworks, from paintings on wood and canvas to glass, foil, ink drawings, collage, patchwork, engraving (xylography, silk-screen and collagraphy) bronze and iron sculptures, wood carvings, soft sculptures, photography and video art, this interactive display doesn’t leave anyone indifferent.
Masterfully and seamlessly put together, these masterpieces by Cuban contemporary artists spanning the last six decades make of this collection a one-of-a-kind visual spectacle, one that creates a creative continuum, expertly curated by Orlando Hernandez. The works on show are by the following artists: Jose Bedia, Belkis Ayon, Rene Peña, Roberto Diago, Joan Capote e Ibrahim Miranda.
Rolling Stones in Havana – a photo exhibition at FAC (until 27th August)
A collection of photographs by John Rowe documenting the Rolling Stones´ barrier-breaking, history-making concert in Havana last year is now on show at Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) in Havana. Depicting some of the most evocative moments of the band playing for a Cuban audience for the first time, this collection of photographs dramatically capture a unique moment in time, from the exhilaration of The Rolling Stones to the pure elation of their Cuban fans.
The DVD/Blu-Ray documenting the entire concert is already on sale with the title “Havana Moon” The Rolling Stones Live in Cuba and can be purchased directly from the Rolling Stones’ official website. The concert was completely free to attend for all Cubans, which means the only way the Rolling Stones made any money from this epic gift to the Cuban people was through the sale of these concert videos, released on 1st November 2016. But seeing the stunning photographs by John Row is a more artistic way of feeling like part of it all, even if you didn’t make it to the smashing concert.
Art on the streets in Santa Clara (from August through to September)
Espacio Posible’s second edition of the young audio-visual project “Dentro del Juego”(In the Game) is a multidimensional art fair that’s spilled out onto the streets from Santa Clara’s Centro de las Artes Visuales. There’s no main theme or aesthetic guideline, the art presented in this gallery (and on the street that faces it) is varied, free and unbound, presented in a variety of ways and formants, from paintings hanging on walls to sculptures, elaborate multimedia installations and interactive pieces. The work of 23 young and talented artists from all corners of Cuba is displayed through a series of halls and open spaces for all to see and enjoy. Workshops and seminars are also part of the exhibition, as are frequent concerts and live music in the area surrounding the gallery, which found right at the heart of the city.
Young Renaissance art at El Morro (ongoing until 22nd September)
One of the city’s oldest and most symbolic landmarks now hosts one peculiar exhibition made by little hands. A cultural project named “Pequenos DaVincis” (Little Da Vincis) has taken over the historic fortress that overlooks Havana’s bay to show the world what a group of 68 little Cuban artists are capable of. Sprawled on the walls of vault number 3 of the Morro Cabana castle, a collection of reproductions from the Italian Renaissance movement is on show every day this month from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. You can even meet some of the proud little artists who painted their versions of old master pieces from 500 years past.