Hot in Cuba - Music takes over the island with romerias, festivals and concerts

Last month could have probably been described as “variety month” in Cuba due to the varied acts lining up the calendar to welcome spring in style... So far, it looks like May 2018 could be declared music month with the series of concerts overtaking the capital and the eastern province of Holguin during the Romerias de Mayo, which for the first time will extend to Havana.

Hot in Cuba - Music takes over the island with romerias, festivals and concerts

This spring has already brought a lot of dancing to the largest of the Antilles, as evidenced by our last edition of Hot in Cuba, which announced a great variety of acts filling the April calendar from start to end. From dance productions to music festivals and art exhibitions, there were no shortage of events to attend and May looks just as promising, with one headlining act: Romerias de Mayo, traditionally limited to Holguin as its biggest annual festivity but now extending to Havana for a day of international concerts.

As usual, we’ll keep updating the May calendar as the month goes on and more acts are announced. Cuba is famous for not giving much advanced notice of cultural events, so often we will publish a day or two before they take place, so keep checking back here for regular updates. For now, this is what to look forward to this month if you’re in Cuba.

Romerias de Mayo in Holguin and Havana (2 to 8 May)

A centuries-old festivity (400 years old to be exact!) full of tradition and local folklore, the eastern province of Holguin is famous for its “Romerias de Mayo”, which give way to a week full of celebratory acts, from concerts to colourful street parades, and a variety of cultural events that put the focus on this beautiful city .

Over time the nature of this citywide celebration has evolved from a religious origin to a wider celebration of traditions old and new, aiming to turn Holguin into the Capital of Young Art thanks to a variety of projects supported by the Hermanos Sainz Association. During this year’s edition the calendar is packed with activities.

Festivities will kick off on 2nd May with the traditional car parade along the Avenida de los Libertadores avenue and an evening concert at the Bosque de los Heroes on the Calixto Garcia Revolution Square. On 3rd May tribute will be paid to the founders of this once religious celebration with a colourful parade in the morning that starts at the Che Monument and ends in the Calixto Garcia Park, before the customary ascension to La Loma de la Cruz takes place. The following day will be dedicated to the visual arts with invited guests from Cuba’s prestigious San Alejandro Art Academy while a special selection of works from Cuban painter Flora Fong will be exhibited at the small hall of the Centro Provinciales de Artes Plasticas.

The “Rockmerias” bring about a line-up of international artists for daily concerts with performances from bands like punk legend Suicidal Tendencies and Latin hip hop by Salvatorian band Pescozada taking to the stage on 3rd and 4th May before heading to Havana for a final concert on 5th May. Nightly concerts from Cuban bands will take place at the UNAICC headquarters (National Union of Architects and Engineers), which will also host the 6th edition of Foto Fest, a photography exhibition. The first week of May Holguin will be in full party mode and you’ll feel privileged to be part of the action if you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a sun and sea holiday in the nearby Guardalavaca.

Rapper Fidel Nadal, described by Rolling Stones magazine as “the Rasta that revolutionised Latin rock” will perform in Havana’s Pabellon Cuba on Saturday 5th May at 6 p.m. Initially he was scheduled to perform in Holguin on 3rd and 4th May but some sources claim he will be unable to make it to the eastern Cuban city.

Malpaso celebrates 5th anniversary with performances at Teatro Marti (3, 4, 5th May)

After touring the U.S. and Europe in recent months (and amassing great criticism along the way with fantastic reviews) Cuban dance company, Malpaso, will bring their energetic, breezy style to Havana’s Teatro Marti theatre with a selection of pieces by four prestigious choreographers, namely, Beatriz Garcia, Sonya Tayeh, Abel Rojo and Ohan Naharin. This series of performances are in celebration of the company’s 5th anniversary and as such the selected pieces are a reflection of Malpaso’s evolution over the last few years.

National Artisan Fair 2018 (until 12th May)

The 14th edition of the “Feria Nacional de Artesania” 2018 kicks off islandwide this month with the largest displays of local crafts for sale exhibited at Pabellon Cuba until 6th May and at the recreational centre Hola Ola facing the Malecon, until 12th May. Both locations mentioned are in Havana but the fair extends to every province in Cuba. This year’s theme is “Arte Para Mama” (Art for Mum) giving fair browsers the opportunity to find the perfect present to gift their mothers on Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in Cuba every second Sunday in May.

“A bridge to Havana” festival kicks off 7th edition (14 to 20 May)

Now in its 7th edition, the music festival known as Un Puente Hacia La Habana (“A Bridge to Havana”) will take over the Cuban capital, but also other Cuban cities like Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Artemisa, from 14th to 20th May. This year, the festival will be dedicated to Spain and as such will welcome an impressive line-up of Spanish artists, among them Maribel Martin and Chiki Lora, lead vocals from Canteca de Macao and who will share the stage with Cuban artists. Promoting cultural exchange between Cuba and international talents, the festival’s origins took inspiration from a project founded in the Spanish city of Zaragoza, where music genres like flamenco, rumba reggae, hip hop and rock n’ roll are fused to create a unique acoustic experience. Cuba is the festival’s third stop after previous editions in Colombia and Venezuela.

Habana Compas Dance Festival (18 May 2018)

An exhilarating festival where dance and percussion are the main elements, Habana Compas Dance will unite some of the island’s best musicians to celebrate International Museum Day 2018 in style, with an intoxicating performance that pays homage to Cuban culture. Eduardo Cordova and Julito Valdes will lead the live rumba sessions while DJ Milano, Sound2Pixel and Dj Edy will spin some tunes later on as the evening unfolds. It all kicks offat 8 p.m. on the courtyard of Edificio Arte Cubano at the National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Old Havana. A mega party not to miss!

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at Gran Teatro de La Habana (18, 19 and 20 May)

This month Danza Contemporanea de Cuba will debut a new production titled “Consagracion” (Consecration) and comprising a series of highly-energetic and emotionally-charged pieces like “Coil”, the British-coproduction “Equilux” (with the collaboration of Scottish choreographer Fleur Darkin), “Mas Alla del Polvo”, “El Cristal” and “Matria etnocentra”. The chosen stage is the awe-imposing Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso” and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th and at 5 p.m. on Sunday 20th May. If you’re lucky enough to be in Havana this weekend I wouldn’t waste a second getting tickets, they tend to run out quickly! You can get your hands on one of them at the Gran Teatro’s ticket office (and nowhere else, actually!).

Havana’s Museum of Decorative Arts hosts French exhibition (18 May to 30 June)

Kicking of the islanwide celebrations to pay homage to the art world on International Museum Day this coming 18th May, Havana’s Museum of Decorative Arts (Museo de Artes Decorativas) will be hosting a French exhibition titled “Artes de Francia, 1988-2018 - 30 años del taller de Jean Boggio” celebrating the 30th anniversary of Jean Boggio’s workshop and showcasing a finely curated collection of French jewellery and decorative pieces in glasswork, crystal, porcelain, tapestry, wallpaper and furnishings. Jointly curated by Gustavo Lopez and Olivier Perpoint, this exhibiton also marks the 3rd Month of French Culture in Cuba and will be in place for a little over a month, so plenty of time to enjoy it this spring.

Stars Wars’ soundtrack performed live by Orquesta Nacional Sinfonica de Cuba (27 May)

A groundbreaking concert, the likes of which have never been seen on the island, is to wow music-loving cinema goers with a spectacular live performance. Organised by the Orquesta Nacional Sinfonica (National Symphonic Orchestra) in collaboration with U.S. director and maestro, Stefan Sanders, it promises a musical matinee the capital won’t forget.

Under the title “Concierto con Musica Para Cinde de John Williams” (John Williams’ Cinema Music Concert), this unprecedented performance in the island brings Sanders’ musical direction to Cuba with a programme that includes a selection of pieces from E.T., Schindler’s list, Raiders March, Elegie and Stars Wars. It’s on at Teatro Nacional de Cuba’s Covarrubias Hall and the time is 11 a.m.

Celebrating UNESCO’s Day for Cultural Diversity with an art exhibition by Santiago Hermes (24 May to 8 June)

To honour World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development 2018, Cuba’s National Committee for UNESCO has teamed with Cuban artist Santiago Hermes to exhibit a personal collection of his works at Havana’s UNESCO headquarters, located on Avenida Collie, 151, esquina 32, in the municipality of Miramar.

The exhibition, titled “Puntos de Contacto” (Touching Points) will be open to the general public from Monday to Friday, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m.

Young Choreographers’ Festival in Guantanamo (24 to 28 May)

Guantanamo is celebrating young talent in the local sphere of dance by hosting a series of workshops, seminars and shows that will help local talent grow. It all kicks off on Thursday, at the headquarters of Danza Fragmentada (DF) a dance company that will host the performance of pieces from other dance companies nationwide like Retazos, Danza Libre, Danza del Alma and Ballet Folclorico Babul.

Every evening from Thursday to Sunday, talented dancers will take to the stage at Teatro Guaso to present the most recent productions from Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey, as well as all the above-mention dance groups, with the participation of young dancers and choreographers from all of Cuba, who are all students at the Universidad de las Arts (ISA). If you want to catch one of these performances, the time is 8:30 p.m.

Ballet Espanol De Cuba tours eastern cities (25 to 28 May)

If you love flamenco dancing and happen to be in Santiago de Cuba during May’s last weekend you’re in luck as Cuba’s national Spanish Ballet Company (Ballet Espanol de Cuba) will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a spectacular programme “La Magia de los Estilos”. With live music, bright costumes, the rhythmic sound of castanets and outstanding dancer harmonically tapping their feet on the “tablao”, the show encompasses a variety of Spanish dance styles, from traditional sevillanas, to bulerias, all in all, a visually stunning performance to remember.


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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