A new year starts and following celebrations and a widespread festive mood, Cubans slowly go back to reality and return to the daily grind but not without exciting events to look forward to this month. And the biggest thing in this month’s events calendar is without a doubt, the internationally-renowned Jazz Plaza Cuba Festival, which this year will be celebrated both in Havana and Santiago, giving jazz lovers enjoying Cuba holidays in either Cuban city this month, plenty of opportunities to catch some of the jazz action.
As Cuba is notorious for giving information on events very last minute, expect to see more events pop up here throughout the month and bear with us, as January is an exceptionally slow month where authorities take their time to announce happenings islandwide. In any case, expect this blog post to grow throughout the month as new activities and events are announced and swiftly added. Check back weekly or more often to find out what the next few weeks will bring to Cuba’s events scene.
Top Picks in Cuba's January events calendar
Swan Lake at Havana’s Gran Teatro (11 January to 2 February)
Cuba’s prestigious Ballet Nacional will celebrate the arrival of the new year with month-long performances of Swan Lake this January, which spill into the following month with two further shows. The performances are scheduled for every weekend, taking place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso". Starting the new year with the revival of an old winter classic, Cuba’s oldest and most internationally-acclaimed ballet company gives locals and visitors alike more opportunities than ever to enjoy their exquisite skills and world-famous talent.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the show starts at 20:30 while on Sundays the performances start in the afternoon, at 5 p.m. Tickets can be obtained at the theatre’s ticket office and you can choose from the following dates: 11th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 25th, 26th, 27th January and on 1st and 2nd February.
With so many dates on the calendar to choose from, there’s really no excuse not to enjoy one of the world’s finest ballet companies live if you’re lucky enough to be in Cuba this month.
Festival de la Trova Longina 2019 in Villa Clara, Havana, Matanzas and Trinidad (8 to 13 January)
Latin American voices will unite this January for the celebration of Longina 2019, a festival promoting Cuban Trova music and which this year will be dedicated to the memory of Cuban composer Ela O´Farrill, who died in Mexico five years ago.
For the first time in its more than twenty years of history, the festival, whose origins in Santa Clara made of this a local festivity, will be taken beyond the city´s confines to be simultaneously celebrated in other Cuban cities like Havana, Matanzas and Trinidad, which will also host a series of concerts and presentations.
To get acquainted with Cuba´s best troubadours (singers-songwriters) and check out the island´s Trova music the places to head to in Villa Clara are El Mejunje, the La Caridad theatre, the city´s museum (Museo de la Ciudad) and the Patio de la Union de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba.
Elsewhere in Havana, Matanzas and Trinidad, the hosting venues for the Longina Festival 2019 are still to be confirmed but the idea was to expand this genre of Cuban music to other parts of the island to foster a deeper love for the Trova and give way to new and talented singers and songwriters.
Participating countries in this edition are Chile and Argentina, whose list of famous troubadours include internationally-acclaimed names like Leon Gieco, Mercedes Sosa, Victor Heredia and Alberto Plaza.
Checking out some concerts during this bigger, wider edition of the Longina festival is highly recommended. Not least of all because in terms of soulful, nostalgic tunes with meaningful lyrics to match (even though you don´t have to understand a word of Spanish to feel moved by the music) nothing can beat this festival, promoting Trova talent past and present.
International Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana and Santiago (14 to 20 January)
Jazz Plaza 2019 kicks off this month and the great novelty this year is that it will expand to a second city for the first time ever. The event formerly hosted at the Cuban capital exclusively expands its horizons in this edition, bringing seven days and six nights of jazz revelry and non-stop good tunes to Havana and Santiago, not just for jazz enthusiasts but for music fans in general.
Welcoming to the stage veteran jazzists like legendary Chucho Valdes as well as up-and-coming jazz talent from Cuba and the world. Havana is definitely the place to be this mid’-January with a jam-packed calendar of performances, dance lessons and plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion.
Hosting Havana Jazz Plaza Festival this year are a number of repeat venues like La Zorra y El Cuervo, Fabrica de Arte Cubano (F.A.C), Teatro Nacional and the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. When it comes to the venues hosting concerts in Santiago de Cuba, the names haven't been revealed yet, but we´ll keep you updated.
With little advance notice, as is customary in Cuba, it was announced very last minute that British soul singer Joss Stone would be performing in this festival´s edition on 17th January, at the Teatro Nacional´s Avellaneda Hall. Joining her on stage that night is the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from the U.S. and Cuba´s Septeto Santiaguero, with other invited artists including the following Cuba musicians - pianist Ernan Lopez-Nusa, trumpetist Yasek Manzano and saxophonist Yosvany Terry.
Also performing at the festival´s 34th edition are drummer Dave Weckl, flautist Nestor Torres, pianist Arturo O´Farrill, drummer Dennis Chambers, bassist Jeff Berlin and singer Patricia Kraus.
Here is the line-up of performing artists in the festival’s closing weekend:
19th January at 9 p.m. - Maraca, Nestor Torres, El “Tosco” and Septeto Santiaguero at Teatro Nacional de Cuba (Sala Avellaneda)
19th January at 9 p.m. – Felipe Cabrera and Night Poems, Emma Pask Quartet from Australia and Emilio Morales y Los Nuevos Amigos at Teatro Mella
20th January at 6 p.m. – Septeto Santiaguero at Pabellon Cuba
20th January at 6:30 p.m. – Ernan Lopez-Nussa, Mayquel Gonzalez and Mozarteum Orchestra at Teatro Nacional de Cuba (Sala Covarrubias)
20th January at 9 p.m. – Closing Gala Concert - The Cuban Voices: Omara Portuondo (from Buenavista Socia Club), Roberto Fonseca, Haila, Barbara Yanes, M Alfonso, Ivette Cepeda, Maria Victoria, La Reina y La Real and Paulito F.G. at Teatro Nacional de Cuba (Sala Avellaneda)
20th January at 6 p.m. – Orquesta Son Diamantes at Plaza de Marte
20th January at 9 p.m. – Closing Gala Concert - Atenas Jazz Ensemble, Orquesta Sones de Oriente, Conga de los Hoyos, Ronald y su Explosion Rumbera at Plaza Dolores
Flamenco show with Andarte in Camaguey (13 January)
Part of Camaguey’s Ballet Company (Compania de Ballet de Camaguey), the dance group “Andarte” will join the “Sangre Gitana” flamenco group for an outstanding performance at Camaguey’s Teatro Principal. The show starts at 5 p.m. and tickets can be bought at the theatre’s ticket office.
Los Van Van in Concert! (19 January)
The most legendary Cuban salsa band ever is back to treating the public to one of their rare public performances. This time they’re giving a one-off concert at the Melia Cohiba on 19th January. If you want to know the precursors to pretty much every salsa style present in the Cuban music scene today, this is the band to get acquainted with. They launched in the 70s and their popularity hasn’t waned since. If you want to find out why, the show starts at 9 p.m.
Variety Show in Varadero (20 and 27 January)
Varadero’s Casa de la Musica is throwing two spectacular variety shows this month to treat the audience to live Cuban music and DJ jam sessions, as well as dance performances. These are very Cuban nights so if you want to soak up the folklore during your sun-kissed holiday in Varadero this is the place to be. The shows kick off at 11 p.m. on both days.
FolkCuba 2019 (21 January to 23 February)
Those wanting a closer experience with infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms and those who would like to immerse deeper into African Cuban roots have an amazing chance to do so with this month’s celebration of FolkCuba 2019.
The annual celebration, with different seasonal programme scheduled throughout the year, kicks off its winter season with the International Folklore Workshop “FolkCuba 2019” encompassing 15 days of live music, dancing and all manner of artistic immersions in the Cuban capital.
Havana will don its brighter, most colourful folkloric flair starting 21st January with a packed programme that includes dance sessions to introduce participants to afro-Cuban dances like bantu, arara and Yoruba, mixed with traditional songs or African origin.
Dance professionals from the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional (National Folkloric Group) will host dance and music classes, teaching genres that range from mambo to son, conga to chachacha and rumba. There will also be classes to introduce participants to “toque de tambores Bata” (Bata drum sessions) and other percussion instruments used in Afro-Cuban music. If you’re in Cuba this month, it’s worth it to attend a class or two, visit a workshop or enjoy one of the live performances, the next edition of this festival won’t happen until July, where the second edition of FolkCuba 2019 will be also open to children aged between seven and 14 years old. If you want to be part of winter 2019’s FolkCuba head to its headquarters on Calle 4 in Vedado, just a few blocks away from the scenic Malecon seawall.
Ballet Folklorico de Camaguey (25 January)
Putting on one of their spectacular variety shows, the 30 members of Camaguey’s Folkloric Ballet (Ballet Folklorico de Camaguey) are welcoming the new year with a bright and vibrant production at the Teatro Avellaneda in Camaguey. It starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets can be bought at the theatre’s ticket office.
Yoldance – an explosion of music, singing and dancing (25, 26, 27 January)
Contemporary dance takes over Havana’s Teatro Mella on a full weekend of joyful singing and dancing. Yoldance, a young contemporary dance company that blends Afro-Cuban sounds and dances with a unique modern style will be wowing crowds with one of their mesmerising shows. With eclectic, joyful and colourful performances that leave no one indifferent, their energetic choreographies are innovative, versatile and fresh. They represent the real Cuba today, the new generations, the streets, the people and the day-to-day life of locals in a spectacular, visually and emotionally engaging way. Don’t miss it if you’re in Havana at this time of the month!
Havana Queens on stage (26, 28 and 30 January)
Calling out all showbusiness lovers for yet another must-see dance spectacle not to miss this month if you’re lucky enough to be in Havana. A professional Cuban dance company combining street dance and classical dance, Havana Queens sure knows how to put on a show. For an entertaining night very Cuban-style head to Centro Cultural Paparazzi where the nightly shows scheduled for the end of the month start at 9 p.m.
Ending on a high with Habana Ritmo at Teatro Nacional (31 January)
To close off January in style and provided you’re in Havana at this time of the month, we recommend you head to the Teatro Nacional’s piano bar “Delirio Habanero” to enjoy a live performance from a variety of contemporary Cuban salsa bands. “Habana Ritmo”, as its name in Spanish indicates, gives you the best of the Cuban capital’s rhythms on a night filled with non-stop singing and dancing. We can’t think of a better way to end or start your Cuba holiday if you visit Havana at the end of January this year.