We are happy to announce that Havana Music Tours is a proud sponsor of the Havana Film Festival in New York. The nonprofit film festival has been around for 20 years and they are doing great with helping to promote Latin American cinema. Showcasing talents from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Spain and the United States. The festival promotes award winning full length films, animation, shorts, documentaries, and classics. All of which help to expand the fascinating latin culture to the world. We highly recommend going to see the festival in New York April 5th-16th, 2019. If you are able to go April 13th, you may be lucky to catch a Havana Music Tours video shortly before cuban music documentary, Eliades Ochoa. 🙂

 

About HFFNY:

“HFFNY has paid tribute to some of the most important directors and actors including: Fernando Birri (Argentina), Walter Salles (Brazil), Silvio Caiozzi (Chile), Victor Gaviria (Colombia), Humberto Solas (Cuba), Juan Carlos Tabio (Cuba), Luis Alberto Garcia (Cuba), Jorge Perugorría (Cuba), Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Cuba), Arturo Ripstein (Mexico), Jacobo Morales (Puerto Rico), and Estela Bravo (U.S.).

We continue forging a close relationship with our community, providing a multi-cultural experience to different age groups. Our special events, including retrospectives and panel discussions with notable local and international directors, actors, and producers, provide our audience with educational opportunities as well as a behind-the-scenes look at an industry that continues to gain recognition on a global level. By collaborating with other institutions and festivals, HFFNY is able to bring to NY the work of the most dynamic international Latino filmmakers.”

Film Fest schedules below. For more info please visit https://hffny.com/2019

havana film festival new york schedule

 

 

Every time I go to a show in Havana or anywhere in Cuba for that matter I am stunned by the musicianship. Havana makes me think of 1950s New York City, not only because of the vintage cars, but because of the superior musicianship. It reminds of the greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane on the come up.

Over the years I’ve gained an understanding for why this may be (in my opinion). First of all, in Cuba, there are music schools where children start studying music as young as 8 years old. Around half of the day is spent learning music and the other half with normal academics. They will continue this through “secondary school” also known as High school in America. By the time these kids get to a music university they are already amazing… (not to mention, it’s all FREE)

I also believe that the sociocultural and love of music inspires the musicians to practice a lot. Most of the time for Cubans there isn’t any extra money to be spent on excess things. So maybe they will spend more time at home with their instruments instead of going out to bars, to eat, movie theaters etc. I really think this all contributes to the practice culture of Cuban musicians.

The music venues in Cuba even remind me of New York in a lot of ways. The famous La Zorra y El Cuervo could definitely be another underground jazz club in the village. It has the same feel and ambience, the only difference is that you are in Cuba and hearing authentic Latin Jazz.

The other aspect of becoming a musician and maybe why there are so many musicians in Cuba is that it could serve as an opportunity to travel to world. Most of the great musicians around Cuba will flock to Havana to seek opportunities to play with groups that can gain international attention. Once they are able to begin touring out of the country, it can provide a much greater lifestyle than the typical Cuban.

I really believe that Cuba has the best musicians in the world, and all of my experiences traveling tell me the world needs to know this. I hope that everyone has a chance to travel to Cuba at least once and experience the music of Havana. In only one week you are able to see at least a couple of world class performances. Artists like Alain Perez, Carlos Miyares, Interactivo, Isaac Delgado, the modern day Buena Vista Social Club and Afro Cuban All Stars, and so many more.

-Chaz Chambers

Musician and tour guide for Havana Music Tours

How to make an authentic Café Cubano. VLOG by Chaz Chambers

Cuban coffee is a cultural icon for the island filled with a lot of history. Coffee was first introduced to the island throughout the 1700s by early Spanish colonialist and immigrating slaves of French colonies. The way Cubans make coffee has evolved into a unique style of brewing, mixing sugar by default, and enjoying each cup as small espresso coffee.

The current way to make a coffee by the hands of a Cuban still resembles a sort of European nature. Cubans, historically limited in their luxurious purchasing abilities have also lacked many of the cool coffee machines we have all around the world. But, possibly against their own knowing, this could be a good thing for their final product.

Cubans traditionally use what they call a “cafetera” in Spanish, but otherwise known as a percolator in English. This is a unique contraption that holds water, coffee, and the finished product all in one tea kettle looking device. Enjoy this video from Havana Music Tours owner demonstrating how to make an authentic Café Cubano (Cuban Coffee)

 

Instructions for making a Cuban coffee with a Cafetera.

You will need:

  1. Cafetera or percolator for making coffee
  2. Water
  3. Cuban or other espresso coffee
  4. Sugar, preferably dark and raw organic sugar
  5. Stovetop or hotplate
  6. 15 minutes time
  7. A small cafecito cup or more for your friends

Steps to the perfect Café Cubano

  1. Make sure the cafetera is clean.
  2. Fill the bottom portion of the cafetera with water.
  3. Fill the middle filter all the way with Cuban or espresso style coffee.
  4. Place cafetera on hot stove to begin boiling
  5. After you hear the bubbling and boiling sound, remove the cafetera and place to cool slightly
  6. Immediately stir sugar into the top portion of the cafetera while it is still hot. This is important!
  7. Let cool if you prefer, or begin to pour cafecitos for you and your friends to enjoy.

There are many different ways to travel to Cuba. The “best way” is different for each person. In this blog post I will try to give you some insight to what I know about travel to Cuba. Including how traveling to Cuba differentiates from other international travel destinations. The first thing that you should know is that travel to Cuba is legal for Americans and you don’t have to travel with cruise ships or a tour group. I know I am writing from a tour agency’s blog, but ultimately I think that you should travel to Cuba any way that fits you best. For example, maybe you don’t like cruise ships…? Or maybe you prefer the freedom to explore on your own versus being on tour. This blog is going to break down the differences between the few and give some information to help you decide which travel option is the best for you. Traveling on your own time and exploring freely definitely has it’s benefits. You could stop at a certain store you want, or spend more time inside of a cafe or restaurant. Honestly, I like to do that too. This sort of freedom can give you a bit of freedom to discover something new when you arrive versus when you were initially making all of your reservations.

Despite any misinformation you may have heard, you can definitely travel to Cuba on your own without a tour or cruise ship. However, there may be some major benefits to traveling with a tour to Cuba (at least on your first visit). I will expand on that later in this article. The most important thing to know when traveling to Cuba on your own, especially as an American, someone living in or traveling from the United States. You must, at the very least, follow the general guidelines of OFAC’s Cuba regulations. The only license that allows individual travel is “Support for the Cuban People.” A basic overview of the rules listed in this license: You must stay in a Casa Particular (AirBnB) or any privately owned home. No hotels as they are all partially owned by the government. It is hard to justify a license to Support the Cuban people if you aren’t actually supporting the Cuban People. In addition, You must shop and eat at privately owned businesses and restaurants. You must have a full time itinerary, obey the Cuba restricted list, and keep your receipts for at least 5 years. In any case, you can take a tour and then wander on your own. Many of our guest do this along with a tour. As in, start with a tour, get the hang of Cuba and then adventure on your own. It is really the perfect way!

Cruise ships can be a great vacation with relaxing and exotic environments. Many different cruise ships are traveling to Cuba each day, so you have a quite a few options. Actually, I used to work on cruise ships for about two years as a showband drummer for Carnival Cruise Lines. It was a really fun experience and I was lucky to travel to most of the islands in the Caribbean. I still can’t tell you which ship is best for going to Cuba. My only recommendation is to find one that has an overnight in Havana. Of course, thebest cultural experience you can have in Cuba is the music. All of the great music starts really late at night. Having an overnight schedule allows you to do a day tour and night tour. You can actually do a day or night tour and have the other free. As long as you follow a full time schedule (Estimated at 8 hours per day.) Cruise ships coming from America also have to obey the OFAC regulations. Booking a tour is the easiest way because you aren’t able to stay in a Casa Particular to fulfill your Support for the Cuban people license, Again, the license you must use to travel as an individual to Cuba.

So, should you take a cruise? It depends on your style of travel… If you are wanting to experience a lot culture immersion and be more adventurous I would say no, if you are looking for a relaxing and exotic environment to “kick it” after a lot of work then, yes! Being on a cruise to Cuba is going to give you a small taste of what the country is like. I have been traveling here for over 2 years and I am still learning things everyday. Otherwise, I recommend at least a full week in Havana to begin to grasp all of the different cultural experiences available. If you cruise, you will leave wanting more.

The honest case for a Cuba tour… Any tour, especially our tours are not necessarily relaxing, they are very much interactive, busy, and full of different experiences. We at Havana Music Tours do allow for free time to explore within your itinerary. In fact, our Clave de Playa tour includes a small session at Varadero beach at the end of the cultural tour to decompress.

The ultimate way to experience Cuba is with a cultural tour like ours. Yes, we are biased, but it is true. You can read from the many testimonials on TripAdvisor that our guests have a blast. Our tours give you the opportunity to “skip the line” and experience the best of Cuba in a short amount of time. I would like to quote one our guests, Fred, “Even if you speak Spanish fluently (unlike me) or are really good at ferreting out obscure events in strange places (which I generally can), there is still no way you will find half of what Mr. Chaz Chambers can introduce you to.” Especially if you are a. Cuban music lover, you cant afford to miss what we can introduce you to. Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. 

 

By Chaz Chambers (Musician Tour Guide, and Director of Havana Music Tours)

Hi everyone,

I made a short video regarding the newest travel regulations for U.S. Citizens traveling to Cuba. I know a lot of this gets repetitive, but there is a lot of misinformation out there and I want to set the record straight.

The bottom line is that you can still travel to Cuba as an *individual. I have been reading a lot of misinformation saying that you HAVE to travel with a tour agency. As a tour agency, I am telling you that you do not have to travel with us or any other tour agency! I know it is weird for us to be the ones to tell you that, but it is the truth. We want to see more people traveling to Cuba no matter who you chose as your guides.

The newest regulations regarding Americans traveling to Cuba mostly changed the individual aspect of people to people/educational travel. If you travel under this license you will have to go with a licensed tour group that has an American tour leader, (like Havana Music Tours).

If you decide to go under the Support for the Cuban people license, we can still help you to design your itinerary, make reservations, and generally make the whole process easier. Cuba is a complicated place to travel to, especially for Americans. We don’t want this to stop you from seeing the amazing culture, fantastic music, and experiencing the kindness of the Cuban people.

Although, If you want to go on a tour with Havana Music Tours there are a ton of benefits. Some of which  would be a personalized group setting, private reservations, interactions with Cuban musicians, peace of mind, and much more. Not to mention, you don’t have to spend a ton of time planning the trip. We take care if it all for you. Either way… GO TO CUBA! It is a very safe country and a MUST experience.

Restricted list- https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/cuba/cubarestrictedlist/index.htm

Feel free to email us at [email protected] or call us at 615-669-5441.

 

Sincerely,

Chaz Chambers (Owner/Director)

Dear Travelers,

We are constantly eyeing the changes with Cuba and U.S, and we still firmly believe that Cuba is a very safe place to travel. In fact, Cuba has some of the lowest crime rates in all of Latin America. Havana Music Tours remains dedicated to showcasing the vast amounts of cultural in the music, dance, and art scenes around Cuba. We believe it is important to maintain a positive relationship with our close neighbors. The Cuban people are some of the nicest and most hospitable people I have ever met. The musicianship and way of living in Cuba is something that I believe everyone should see in their lifetime.

On June 16th, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an order to the Treasury Department to re-write the travel regulations to Cuba. As of Today, November 8th, 2017, they have officially enacted the new rules. The basics: You can still go to Cuba. The dirty details: it can get more complicated. People to people/educational travel licenses are now limited to traveling in groups with a U.S. based representative. Good news for reading this because Havana Music Tours remains authorized under the OFAC general licenses to be your official tour guides to Cuba. The Treasury Department also released a list of Cuban military entities that U.S. citizens and businesses are prohibited from having financial transactions with. There are a lot of hotels on this list, and in fact, most of the hotels are considered to be affiliated with a branch of the Cuban military. We continue our recommendation of staying in “Casa Particulars,” which are basically “Bed and Breakfast style” – shared housing with a Cuban family. There are still a few hotels that are authorized by OFAC, and even options for entire houses and condos to be rented. Please email us if you have any questions: [email protected]

 

Below we have attached all of the links to the Treasury and State Department’s documentation on the matter:

 

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cacr_11082017.pdf

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_fact_sheet_11082017.pdf

https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/cuba/cubarestrictedlist/index.htm

https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/cuba/cubarestrictedlist/275331.htm

https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/cuba/cubarestrictedlist/275382.htm

 

Thanks for all of your continued support,

Chaz A. Chambers (Owner)

You’ve probably heard about the vintage cars and delicious cuisine, but as cool as those things are, my favorite part of Cuba was the culture. Don’t get me wrong, eating fresh mango and riding in a car from the 50s is amazing, but there’s something truly unique about their culture.

Cuba’s Culture

The city squares teemed with life every morning and evening. The people were very kind and incredibly excited to hear I was from the US. I sat with locals and watched a Cuba vs USA baseball game, and though my spanish is terrible, we still laughed, cheered and hazed each other when our teams did well. I’m a nerd, so of course I hung out and watched the locals play chess in the square. One evening, I even had a local english-speaking professor come up and tell me about the history of their revolution. There’s a sense of community there that I hadn’t really experienced back in the states.

I consider myself something of an astute musicians, art appreciator and lover of random historical knowledge and Cuba appealed to each of these aspects of my character. From beautiful cathedrals to statues of Don Quixote, from vibrant pastel buildings to streetside musicians improving rumba music, my mind was enamored! I will definitely be taking another trip back to this timeless paradise!

If you’ve always wanted to visit Cuba, but you’re worried about the travel bans and regulations; there’s some great articles in the blog that cover these topics. The new regulations were announced 2-3 weeks before I flew down so I had the same concerns: Can Americans still travel to Cuba? What do I have to do to go to Cuba? Etc. There very well may come a time where we will have limited access to that beautiful country, but that time isn’t now! Enjoy it while you can!

The famous El Malecón stretches five miles along the coast in Havana, Cuba. It is where the sea meets the city and all the priceless fun occurs with the Cuban people and the distant tourists. Here, you can really experience the excitement and free spirit of the Cuban culture. People are walking around playing traditional Cuban music (Afro-Cuban rumba, bolero, guaguancó and more.) You will find diverse groups of people dancing, singing, drinking some Havana Club or maybe even enjoying a Bucanero cerveza (Cuban beer).

Malecón was originally designed as a protection of the city from the water. (Who would have guessed that it would become one of the coolest nighttime hangout spots in the whole city.) Construction of the wall that lines the sea began around 1901 and some parts were even developed up until the early 1920s. The final parts were constructed in the late 1940s and early 50s, before the famous Cuban Revolution.

Your tour leader will make sure that each itinerary has a nighttime visit to El Malecón around sunset. There are a series of small restaurants and bars to grab food and drinks. Sometimes there are even pop up tents selling street food, water, sodas, and beer. You will see plenty of vintage cars driving by as you observe the classic architecture, unlike any other city. It is not only blissful, but it will bring you back to an era that emulates the 1950s. Each area you walk along has something fun and inspiring happening.

Havana Music Tours has a selection of tour dates that are very flexible for anyone’s schedule. We also have some of the most unique itineraries in comparison to any other tour operators. We are simply a music loving company that has a passion for international travel. The music in Cuba has famously influenced jazz musicians in America, Latin America, and the rest of the world for decades. Find out why everyone loves Cuba and their culture so much, book your tour now.