Hot in Cuba - Fine arts, Ballet Nacional, International Guitar Festival, puppet shows and music galore island-wide

April blossoms in Cuba with a calendar of activities, most of which move to the melody of concerts taking place countrywide. Beyond that, there’s a traditional puppet show bringing joy and smiles to Matanzas, Cuba’s international book fair reaching other corners of the island and bringing literature and special acts to the table, as well as a temporary exhibition of a lesser-known yet outstanding Cuban artist at the Museum of Fine Arts. And more to come as the month unfolds.

Hot in Cuba - Fine arts, Ballet Nacional, International Guitar Festival, puppet shows and music galore island-wide

Spring arrives in Cuba spurring a flurry of activity island-wide to celebrate not just warmer weather and brighter skies (not that it’s ever cloudy or gloomy in Cuba for too long) in the form of numerous concerts island-wide, local festivals, book fairs, puppet shows and art exhibitions. And as the month unfolds we’ll keep updating this space to include more and more events as they are revealed. Keep coming back for more of what’s on in Cuba this April.

EGREM kicks off 55th anniversary celebrations (throughout April)

To celebrate 55 years since its foundation, Cuba’s national music company and record label, EGREM, kicked off its anniversary celebrations on 31st March with a concert by popular local band, Buena Fe, in Havana’s Karl Marx theatre - the first of three mega concerts to take place over the month. But this is just one in a series of events celebrating Cuban music this month, and not just in Havana but countrywide.

As the month unfolds we’ll keep adding to the list of the events here but for now we can give you a glimpse of what you can look forward to.

Events include the launch of new albums, fairs like Cubadisco and Primera Linea, press releases at the University of Havana and music workshops. As part of the celebration, the Casa de la Musica de Galiano will reopen after being closed for months due to extensive refurbishment works. It is here that the EGREM gala ceremony will take place and where the Premio EGREM will be awarded to the winning Cuban singer, musician or band of the year.

Festival Pina Colada in Ciego de Avila (4 - 8 April)

Over 60 different events are planned for the celebration of this annual festival in Ciego de Avila, activities that in their vast majority consist of live concerts and are mainly aimed at locals, but this year, for the first time ever the event looks to reach foreign visitors in offshore tourism enclaves like Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo to engage them in local culture and folklore.

Due to the province’s proximity to the popular Jardines del Rey archipelago and its idyllic resorts, this year’s celebration is turning its attention to new potential visitors to attract a larger number of participants and add a bit of local roots and culture to the region’s touristic appeal. A unique opportunity for tourists to mix with the locals and go for an authentic experience beyond the reaches of their resort.

What to look forward to? An exhibition of local traditions through colourful stands selling a variety of handmade crafts and home-cooked treats, a variety of music and dance shows (including a performance by Toques del Rio and Revolution dance company) with concerts as the backbone of the festival’s celebration. Music galore, that’s the promise, and it doesn't get more Cuban and authentic than this.

Performing bands span a variety of Cuban music genres (from salsa to fusion music, trova, bolero, son and more) with the following confirmed names: David Torrens, William Vivanco, David Blanco, Buena Fe, Moncada, Raul Torres, Alain Perez, Las Canelas and Lucas y Alejandro Falcon.

International Book Fair beyond Havana (5 April to 13 May)

Havana celebrated its famous International Book Fair last February, with its ripple effects having reached other provinces in March (Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio) now reaching other provinces islandwide.

In the case of Isla de la Juventud, Las Tunas and Granma the fair will arrive on 5th April and stay until 8th April. A selection of books with as many as 555 titles will be presented over the space of four days, spanning a variety of literary genres and catering to all ages. The fair moves to the provinces of Mayabeque, Sancti Spiritus and Guantanamo from 6th to 10th April, reaching Villa Clara between 20th to 24th April before putting on a final show in Santiago de Cuba at the start of next month (9th May - 13th May).

Encuentros - a new ballet production by Acosta Danza (6, 7 and 8 April)

Celebrating (and paying tribute to) the 120th anniversary of the Japanese Migration to Cuba, a unique, never-before-seen ballet production will debut in Havana this April under the direction of Carlos Acosta. Presented by his own company, Acosta Danza, the selection of pieces that seamlessly blend in a moving amalgamation of pieces , include the international debuts of productios like: Saburo Teshigawara, Pontus Lidberg, Lost in Dance, Mil Anos Despues, Paysage, Soudage and La Nuit.

It all comes alive at the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alica Alonso over April’s second weekend. An unmissable spectacle for those in Havana at this time of the month.

20th edition of Sindo Garay Festival in Bayamo (10 to 12 April)

The eastern province of Bayamo gets ready to celebrate traditional music this month with the 20th Festival de Musica Popular Sindo Garay, a festivity that pays homage to one of the earliest Cuban trova musicians and which the festival is named after. This 20th edition will be dedicated to maestro Carlos Ramiro Puig Premion,a legendary music director and composer from Bayamo who passed away last January 2018.

As part of the festival’s celebrations, there will be various trova concerts taking place in the city over the course of two days, with a trova competition where 14 finalists will battle it out in a variety of participating music genres, namely; bolero, son and bolero-cha. Festivities also include a pilgrimage to lay flowers in Sindo Garay’s tomb as well as seminars and workshops.

The festival’s main venues are Teatro Bayamo and the Hermanos Cabrera department, where you can catch a concert or two and enjoy provincial music in what has been dubbed “an event to stimulate Cuban music creation”.

Ballet Nacional de Cuba at Havana’s Gran Teatro (13, 14 and 15 April)

Cuba’s prestigious national ballet company brings spring to the stage with a trio of productions: “Prologo para una tragedia” (Prologue to a tragedy) “Celeste” and the second act of “El Lago de los Cisnes” (Swanlake).

The ballet’s new seasonal programme will be performed at the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso” over the course of three days. On 13th and 14th April curtain calls at 8:30 p.m. and on 15th April the show starts at 5 p.m. That gives you plenty of opportunities to get your hands on the coveted tickets! You can do so at the theatre’s ticket office, but expect queues at certain times of the day. Get there early if you want to skip the crowds.

2nd edition of Matanzas Jazz Festival (19 to 22 April)

Showcasing the very best of local jazz talent, the second edition of the Festival Matanzas Jazz is upon us and with it brings a unique opportunity to enjoy good music, just a stone’s throw away from the pristine Varadero beach. Over the course of four days, a long list of concerts will be held at two venues; the Sala de Conciertos Jose White and the courtyard of the Saiz Brothers Association (Patio de la Asociacion Hermanos Saiz). Participating acts include Bobby Carcasses, Jazz Band Juvenil Swing Cubano (directed by Bruno Villalonga), Jazz Band Casino Bellamar (under the direction of Sergio Pichardo), Marcos Morales y Su Quinteto, Grupo Mestizaje, Alejandro Falcon y Cubadentro, Afrocuba de Matanzas, Grupo Akana, Enrique Pla, Janio Abreu, Jose Diaz Moreno, Nuestra America, William Roblejo’s Trio, Dayron Oneyl Pena Valdes, Coro de Camara de Matanzas, Alberto Lescoy and his band and La Academia de Ruy Lopez- Nuss, among others. If you’re a jazz lover in search of raw local talent, Matanzas is the place to be in Cuba towards the end of this month!

13th International Puppet Festival of Matanzas (24 - 29 April)

Officially known in Spanish as “13 Taller Internacional de Titeres de Matanzas", this nostalgia-filled festival promises “a no-strings-attached party for the imagination” with a series of workshops, masterclasses, and, of course, a selection of puppet shows for young and old. If you happen to be enjoying Varadero’s pristine beach late this April, this brings about a great excuse to pop into nearby Matanzas to enjoy a festivity full of folklore, nostalgia and a tinge of vintage beauty.

15th International Guitar Festival of Havana (22 to 29 April)

Calling all guitar music lovers for a series of concerts that will regale their ears with sweetly strummed music. A series of live guitar concerts by some of Cuba’s most talented guitarrists and emerging musicians from all over the world will take over the city for a week starting 22nd April. Participating countries include Brazil, Spain and the U.S., with guitarrists coming down to Havana not only to perform to a Cuban audience, but also with the hope of being declared this edition’s festival winner.

Guitar lovers in Havana during this week can look forward to daily evening concerts the Sala Covarrubias of the Teatro Nacional starting at 7 p.m., as well as the Basilicia Menor of the San Francisco de Asis Convent, which will host morning concertas at 11 a.m. and afternoon concertas at 6 p.m.

The official programme of performers, location and times is as follows:

22nd April - Opening gala at the Sala Covarrubias of the Teatro Nacional with an introductory performance by the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional followed by a performance from Joaquin Clerch, a renowned Cuban classical guitarist and composer.

23rd April - This day is dedicated to workshops, seminars and conferences so, no concerts will take place. Spanish guitarist will give a conference in the morning at 9 a.m., Joaquin Clerch will give a master class at 11 a.m. and Costa Rican guitarist, David Chavez will host a workshop in the afternoon.

24th April - In the afteroon, the Basilica Menor of the San Francisco de Asis will host concerts from local performers Marco Tamayo and Ali Arango, at 6 p.m.

25th April - Concerty by instrumental group Nuestro Tiempo, accompanied by soloists Susana Frade and Alexander Alvarez. It’s on at the Basilica Menor of the San Francisco de Asis Convent and kicks off at 6 p.m.

26th April - U.S. guitarist Eliot Fisk takes to the stage at the Sala Covarrubias of the Teatro Nacional with a stellar performance that starts at 7 p.m.

27th April - Coming down to Havana all the way from Spain, Pepe Romero will take part in the festival with a performance staged at the Teatro Nacional’s Sala Covarrubias, from 7 p.m. onwards.

28th April - Representing Brazil, Egberto Gismonti will offer a concert one day before the festival’s closing ceremony and he will do so at the Sala Covarrubias of the Teatro Nacional, with a starting time of 7 p.m.

29th April - Closing gala with the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional (National Symphonics Orchestra) performing at 11 a.m., preceded by an award-giving ceremony at the Teatro Nacional’s Covarrubias Hall (Sala Covarrubias). To draw things to an end with a big party, the Casa del ALBA Cultural will host “Fiesta de la Guitarra” from 5 p.m. onwards, with the performance of local guitarists and composers Liuba Maria Hevia, Hector Quintana and Emilio Martini.

Marcelo Pogolotti at Museo Nacional Bellas Artes (until 21 may)

One of the precursors of Cuba’s first generation of painters, the often forgotten Marcelo Pogolotti was an important figure in Cuba’s artistic movement of the 1930s, and his work, despite his paintings not conforming to the usual Cuban standards nor portraying the typical Cuban landscapes and folklore as some of his counterparts did. His work reflects on wider international issues and was deeply influenced by worldwide affairs and politics, including the Second World War and European politics, with a style that verged between surrealism and futurism.

He travelled extensively to Europe where he exhibited at numerous venues, always returning to his native Cuba to showcase his works before eventually losing his vision in 1938 by which time he turned to writing, returning to Cuba to become an essayist, critic and novelist. His lifetime’s work in terms of painting is now being presented in an exclusive exhibition at Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes) and will be showing until next month. 

Susana Corona

Susana Corona

The islands' go-between

Having lived most of my life between Cuba and the UK and being half-raised in both island nations, I...

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