Category: All posts

How do Cubans celebrate New Year’s Eve?

By Gelenny Cervantes (Cuban Musician and Business Development Specialist of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

The great New Year celebration in Cuba is a very special party occasion for Cubans worldwide. It brings together entire families and friends ready to steep in folk traditions passed down for years from generation to generation. On these festive days, we can see the pure essence of the Cuban people in a very authentic way; their traditional food, customs, and preferred music, plus all the cultural and religious diversity that make up their rich culture.

Preparing the great New Year’s Eve feast is a ritual in which the whole family participates and represents the most authentic of our culinary culture: celebration, family, and tradition. The main traditional dishes are roast pork, yucca with Creole “Mojo,” “Congri,” salad, fried plantain, and of course, you cannot miss good rum, cold beer, wine, and perhaps some homemade Cuban Cocktails. Cubans roast a big piece of pork or an entire pig from the beginning of the day until the meat is well cooked, and the pork skin is crunchy. This tradition is probably the most popular thing to do on New Year’s Eve for Cubans, and most of the time is the center of the whole party.

Cubans need to have music so they can enjoy the other things at the party. Some family members even showcase their musical skills by playing guitar, piano, drums, or other instruments in a very cultural way. But, of course, music is always present, while silence and tv are not usually part of Cuban new year celebrations.

Upon the arrival of the new year, the most beautiful thing happens. Family, friends, and neighbors gather at their front doors or on the street to welcome the New Year. They hug each other and wish the best for their people. The sea of hugs won’t end until you share your love and gratitude with everybody, whether you are mad, sad, or even if you don’t know someone around you.

A year says goodbye, and with it, Cubans get rid of everything bad to start from scratch and achieve the greatest goals in the new year without the past affecting us. How? They usually practice traditional rituals like throwing water into the street or burning a homemade cloth doll when midnight strikes, representing the old year and its bad vibes that will be left behind to move into the new year with a new focus and good energy.

If Cubans want to travel next year, they take their suitcases and walk around the entire block, hug family, friends, and neighbors, sing, celebrate and make a toast for the moment’s happiness. They ask their gods for good, protection, and prosperity for their families, which is interesting to see in a country with a wide religious and cultural mosaic. Respect for the beliefs of others can be seen reflected quite strongly in collective Cuban celebrations.

Have you experienced a New Year’s Eve celebration in Cuba? Please share it in the comments; we would love to know your story.

If you haven’t had this experience yet, we can make that happen for you, maybe next year! Contact us and let us create the best Cuba Tour for you, including an authentic Cuban New Year’s Eve party.

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By Ismelys Quevedo (Cuban Music Teacher and Business Development Specialist of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

jazz-plaza-official-flyer-2023The 38th edition of the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival will take place next January from the 22nd to the 29th in cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The festival will be represented by the free spirit of jazz and visual arts, which is reflected in the event’s promotional poster by famous Cuban artist Arturo Montoto.

This festival edition will be a big celebration with two special tributes. One to its creator and Cuba’s National Music Award Winner 2012, Bobby Carcasses, and the other to the 70th anniversary of the Latin Grammy Award Winner group, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. Members of this last group will join the festival in this celebration offering a special master class to show the wide range of interconnections of jazz music with other music genres.

The Havana Jazz Plaza Festival 2023 edition’s promotional music video by composer and pianist Roberto Fonseca (Art Director of the festival) was recently released with the title “Madre Oshun.” A beautiful song that brings together representative jazz performers such as Yandy Martinez (bass), Dayron Ortiz (electric guitar), Ruly Herrera (drums), Adel González (Congas), Javier Zalba, and Emir Santa Cruz (saxophones), Roberto Garcia, Thommy Lowry (trumpets), Eduardo Sandoval and Yoandy Argudín (trombones), Rodrigo Sosa (quena flute) and the voices of Zule Guerra and Brenda Navarrete (batá drums). “Madre Oshun” also has the special participation of the saxophonists Cesar Lopez and German Velazco, along with the classical music singer Bárbara Llanes.

Among the main venues selected for the 38th edition of the Jazz Plaza Festival in Havana are the Teatro Nacional de Cuba (Sala Avellaneda and Sala Covarrubias), Teatro América, Teatro Martí, Sala Tito Junco del Centro Cultural Bertolt Brecht, Teatro del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Pabellón Cuba, Fábrica de Arte Cubano, and the Casa de la Cultura de Plaza. Other activities will be happening on the other side of the island, especially in Santiago de Cuba city. The venues selected for this part of the event are the Iris Jazz Club, Patio de la UNEAC, Teatro Martí, Teatro Macubá, and Plaza Dolores. 

Among the well-curated concerts, the Jazz Plaza Festival will also propose other internal events like Primera Línea and the International Colloquium “Leonardo Acosta in Memoriam.” Yes, Primera Línea is back. This music business event, developed to create an interchange between musicians and business people from the global music industry, has brought a lot of success for Cuban musicians. So, the festival organizers are bringing it back in 2023. 

On the other hand, the Annual International Colloquium “Leonardo Acosta in Memoriam” will proudly commemorate its XVIII edition. This event, curated by musicologist Nerys Gonzalez Bello, will dedicate part of its workshops, lectures, and professional exchanges to a few important anniversaries, such as: the 90th Birth Anniversary of musicologist Leonardo Acosta, the 85 death anniversary of Chano Pozo, the 45 years of the foundation of CIDMUC (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Música Cubana), the 60 Anniversary of the Original de Manzanillo band, and the 65th anniversary of the pianist and composer Ernán López Nussa.

At the moment, only a few artists have been confirmed as part of the event’s Line-Up. However, Havana Jazz Plaza Festival is well known for showcasing the best jazz musicians of Cuba and the world. So, we believe that this 2023 edition won’t be different. 

Join us on our special annual jazz tour. Together we can enjoy the best music of Havana during Cuba’s famous music festival, the Havana Jazz Plaza. As always, we expect the best from this 38th edition of the festival, and you should too.  More info on our tour page, HAVANA JAZZ FESTIVAL TOUR 2023.

By Laluly Romeri (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Specialist of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

Joy grows among Cuban musicians and music lovers after the beautiful nice they had yesterday during and after the Latin Grammys Awards 2022. Cuba and its musicians were awarded seven times last night from the ten nominations in various categories where Cuban musicians were competing. The event ended and left a pleasant surprise.

The musicians Aymée Nuviola and Gonzalo Rubalcava honored Cuban music after winning the award for Best Tropical Album for their album “Gonzalo Rubalcava y Aymée Nuviola live in Marciac.” At the same time, the Best Latin Jazz Album went to the multi-awarded in previous editions Chucho Valdés for the album “Mirror Mirror” with Eliane Elias and Chick Corea.

The video “This is not America” won the Best Short Form Music Video award. A joy distributed among its director Greg Ohrel, the Franco-Cuban sisters Ibeyi, and the Puerto Rican singer Residente. On the other hand, the Cuban singer Lenier Mesa and the Puerto Rican artist Marc Anthony won the award in the category of Best Tropical Song.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest joys of the night was the Best Folk Album category award for the album “Ancestros Sinfónicos” of the group Síntesis, a Cuban band currently celebrating its 46 anniversary.

The award for Best Salsa Album went to the Cuban recording and mixing engineer Juan Mario Aracil Mayito, who has been awarded in previous editions of the Latin Grammys. This time it was for the album “Pa’lla Voy” by an artist mentioned earlier, Marc-Anthony. This award emphasizes how much talent exists in Cuba in any musical field.

Finally, the Best New Artist award was a great surprise and pride for many, where 95-year-old Ángela Álvarez demonstrated that dreams can come true regardless of age. Her speech was one of the most emotional of the night because she longed for her homeland, Cuba, which inspired her to create each song.

Cuban music continues to position itself and grow within an industry where it is difficult to compete with music mostly made for the great masses. It demonstrates that the roots of musical traditions break any commercial barrier and that the most important thing is music, a universal language.

Yes, you can travel to Cuba from the United States!

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

Traveling to Cuba from the United States can seem difficult, but it isn’t. Yes, you can travel to Cuba from the US. The hardest part is trying to find the correct and clear information. This blog is here to answer all those questions in a simplified way. You need four main things to travel to Cuba: Flight, Passport, Tourist Card, and OFAC General License (A reason to travel there). Technically, lounging at the beach and traveling as a “tourist” is not permitted.

Flights:

First, Flying to Cuba is the only way to get there from the United States. There are currently no authorized boats, cruises, or ferries. There are many flights from airlines like American Airlines, Southwest, and Jetblue. At the time of writing this blog, the most popular departure airports are Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Florida, and Miami (MIA), Florida, but there are also direct flights from NYC (JFK) with Jetblue. There are rumors of Delta and United returning soon. Maybe they will have flights from Atlanta again after or around March 2023.

Passports:

You and your group/family will need valid US Passports that do not expire within six months of returning from Cuba. You can find all the info you need about getting and renewing your passport on the Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html.

Tourist Cards:

Some people also like to call this a Cuban visa, but the official name is a Tourist Card. It is not special for the US, as almost everyone in the world needs a Cuba tourist card that isn’t a Cuban citizen or resident. There are two colors, green and red; from the US, you will only get a red one. Most of these are facilitated directly through the airlines and cost between $50-$100. Both Southwest and American Airlines use Cuba Travel Services: https://cubavisaservices.com/product/touristvisa-card/

You can have the tourist card mailed to you in advance (recommended) or get it at the airport the day you depart.

OFAC General Travel License

There are multiple available licenses for travel to Cuba like Religion, Journalism, and Humanitarian projects. As US travelers, citizens, residents, and all people under US jurisdiction have to fulfill general licensing rules from OFAC (The Office of Foreign Assets Control – AKA The Treasury Dept. of the US Gov.) Even flying from the US could constitute the need to obey the general licensing rules. You can read more about that in a blog we wrote explaining the differences: https://havanamusictours.com/can-americans-travel-to-cuba/.

You will need to understand this list of entities and avoid spending money with them:

Cuba Restricted List: https://www.state.gov/cuba-restricted-list/list-of-restricted-entities-and-subentities-associated-with-cuba-effective-january-8-2021/

Prohibited Accommodations 

This can all be easy for the person who likes to do their homework and learn new things, and likely difficult for some… but as a tour agency we can also give you peace of mind while traveling. Havana Music Tours takes care of the general licenses and ensures you don’t spend money on the restricted list. Make the trip easy, and consider taking one of our cultural tours.

 

For more info please check out our Frequently Asked Questions about Cuba Tours

 

Mambo Music is back

By Laluly Romeri (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Specialist of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

¿Tú no querías Mambo? (did you want Mambo?) It’s the question of the moment for the public that follows good Cuban music and, above all, the talent of groups such as Toques del Río. A proposal accompanied by two musical creations from the band’s members, “Mambo No.0” and “Mambo Chípata.” These songs come to fill the existing void regarding the treatment of mambo music, which for many years was in the shadows despite having been one of the most popular and danced traditional Cuban music just a few decades ago.

“Mambo No.0” or “Mambo No.5”?

Yes, the correct title is “Mambo No.0”. This song is a special tribute from the boys of Toques del Río to Dámaso Pérez Prado, who is recognized as the most representative figure of this genre.

“Mambo No.0” is part of the first Toques del Río phonogram, “Pa que te sosiegues”, under the EGREM record label. The song specifically covers the lyrics of the mambo “Ni Habla” by Pérez Prado, in an evident fusion of genres such as pop, rock, and Charleston style of Swing Jazz music.

This back-in-time feeling brought by “Mambo No.0” has gained a lot of acceptance from both the Cuban and international public. The song was awarded in 2015 as the best fusion song at the Cuerda Viva Awards, an event dedicated to highlighting local talent in Cuba’s fusion and alternative music scene.

¿Tú no querías Mambo? Yes, we want more Mambo!

But the story does not end there. Toques del Río accepts its challenge to consume more Mambo with the delivery of a second composition, the “Mambo Chípata,” a creation that is also a challenge for the band due to the complexity included in the musical arrangement.

“Mambo Chípata” has been used on Cuban television as the theme for the program “Al Fin Sábado” presentation that premiered in the summer of 2018. This is just one example of the media impact of the band because many of their songs have been used on several occasions as incidental music for various television programs such as “Ruta 10” and “No te lo pierdas.” Added to this are the dance companies that have choreographed these songs for different kinds of shows.

Toques del Río has opened a new stage in the Mambo. Many of the singers and groups in Cuba have accepted this invitation to cultivate the Mambo again, demonstrating that the new generations are interested in enjoying, dancing, and listening to these rhythms.

 

If you like this traditional Cuban music we recommend you to check out our Spotify Playlist Cuban Traditional Songs. There you will find one of the “Chan Chan” versions and many other beautiful Cuban songs that you will certainly enjoy.  

By Rocío de Lucía (Cuban Musicologist)

One of the most iconic Cuban songs is undoubtedly “Chan Chan.” Many people can immediately identify that simple but delicious composition just by entering the four chords on which the song is based, authored by another of the great symbols of Cuban culture: Máximo Francisco Repilado, better known as Compay Segundo. Star of the Buena Vista Social Club, Compay achieved world fame with this traditional Cuban Music project. However, he was more than 70 years old and a respectable figure, an authority in Cuban Trova and Son music.

Compay Segundo never had academic musical training, but he brought an innate gift with which he would captivate everyone. One morning he woke up with the harmony in his head, to which he put the lyrics of one of his childhood anecdotes. He said he dreamed of the melody of “Chan Chan,” like many of his compositions. 

The song tells the story of Juanita and Chan Chan, two young lovers who wanted to get married. As they lived in poverty, they went “to the sea to sift sand” to find gold and thus be able to become independent. When the young Juanita entered the sea, her dresses got wet and clung to her body, so when she wiggled while she “shook the jibe,” the sensual movement of her figure caused “pain to Cha Chan.”

The author recreates this story that hides a subtle double meaning and turns it into an adventurous artwork, with some very well-suggested touches of eroticism, but never explicit or vulgar. The verses accompany a singular tumbao, not the typical Cuban son. It is a Phrygian turn in rhythm with such a peculiar cadence, resulting in an extremely simple and irresistible song. 

In other verses, he sings: “the love I have for you, I can’t hide it from you, the drool comes off, I can’t avoid it anymore.”

compay-segundo-chan-chan-cover

The journey of the song

Being a troubadour from the tip of his hair to the end of his feet, Compay Segundo begins his song by recounting one of the popular tours he used to do in his wanderings as a musician. The first verses of the single describe a route that includes several towns in the Holguín province, located east of the island of Cuba: “from Alto Cedro, I go to Marcané, I get to Cueto, I go to Mayarí.” Finally, the last verses are related to this introduction: “clear the straw path, that I want to sit on that log that I see, that I cannot get there.” Knowing the good humor of Cuban musicians and their propensity for double meanings, a second meaning related to the history of Juanita and Chan Chan can also be added to these final verses.

“Chan Chan” became known during the jam sessions of the Cuarteto Patria, directed by the great musician Eliades Ochoa, around 1987. Eliades says that the same year he had met Compay, and Compay had given him a cassette with his compositions, asking him to formally record them with his quartet so that he could earn some money from copyright. In that cassette came a son that Eliades drew attention to since the tumbao was quite unusual. That son was Chan Chan, to which Eliades Ochoa would later add his mastery to finish the bill for the song. 

The song was performed for the first time at the Casa de la Trova Santiaguera by Compay himself and the Patria quartet. The single immediately hit the public with its contagious cadence and natural grace. The composition was recorded on the Buena Vista Social Club album in March 1996, and its international premiere was on September 16, 1997.

Pope Juan Pablo Segundo invited the Compay Segundo group to give an exclusive concert in a small room below the papal office. There they performed “Chan Chan,” among other great classics of Traditional Cuban music. Even in the Vatican, they enjoyed this legendary song. This exquisite composition shows that simplicity is an exact path when you want to communicate something honest and meaningful. 

Experts could analyze the success formula of “Chan Chan”  endlessly. Yet, without a doubt, its pertinent arrangement has been an emphasized factor in helping the spontaneous flavor of its rhythm and harmony to shine and make even the most skeptical dance.

If you like this traditional Cuban music we recommend you to check out our Spotify Playlist Cuban Traditional Songs. There you will find one of the “Chan Chan” versions and many other beautiful Cuban songs that you will certainly enjoy.  

ByYami Cabrera (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

Modernity in Cuban music continues to showcase excellent female artists, who make the culture grow on the island more and more. In the last 20 years, women musicians have stepped forward to create songs in various genres. Therefore, we could not end Women’s History Month without honoring the new generations of Cuban Women in Music. That’s why we are launching this second part of our blog CUBAN WOMEN IN MUSIC: SPOTIFY PLAYLIST TRIBUTE TO WOMEN ARTISTS – PART 1.

In this new edition of our tribute blog post, we will be presenting the songs we recently added to our Spotify Playlist, Cuban Women in Music; Playlist Tribute to Women Artist. These additions mainly display songs popularized or composed by Cuban singers.

This new list of artists included in our Playlist will find an extraordinary variety of impressive Cuban and Cuban-American female musicians who defend their musical roots worldwide. Most of them are considered among the best contemporary female singers and composers in Cuba and Latin America due to the diversity of their voices and musical spectrum.

Cuban Women in Music, 21st Century songs written or popularized by female musicians in the last 20 years

  1. Ángel y Habanera – by Liuba María Hevia
  2. Mala – by Haila María Mompié
  3. La Bella Cubana – by La Camerata Romeo / Zenaida Romeo
  4. Bailando con otro – by Anacaona / Omara Portuondo 
  5. Donde stabas anoche – by Aymee Nuviola / Septeto Santiaguero
  6. Lágrimas de soledad – by Danay Suarez
  7. Guajiro – by Sexto Sentido
  8. Tu nombre – by Diana Fuentes
  9. Equivocao 8.6 – by Telmary y Habana Sana
  10. Tenerme – by Gretell Barreiro
  11. Palabras – by Haydée Milanés
  12. La rumba me llamo yo – by Daymé Arocena
  13. Mulata Linda – by Brenda Navarrete
  14. Tengo que partir – by Luna Manzanares
  15. Voy – by Eme Alfonso
  16. River – by Ibeyi
  17. Universo – by Yissy García y Bandancha

Bonus track: Havana – by Camila Cabello / Young Thug

You can find our Spotify Playlist Tribute to Women Artists here. Enjoy, and let us know your opinion about our selection on the bottom part of this blog post. 

If you want to know more about women in Cuban music, check out our blog, THE 10 MOST INFLUENTIAL FEMALE MUSICIANS IN CUBAN MUSIC FOR 2020.

 

 

ByYami Cabrera (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

Cuban women are the inspiring soul of the great culture that Cuba preserves. Each sector of Cuban society and each bit of history contains the names of sovereign and courageous women who became examples for the nation and the world. That’s why we want to share this Spotify Playlist Tribute to honor the role of Cuban women in music during this Women’s History Month. 

There is an extended list of female figures who have triumphed in the Cuban and international music scene when it comes to musicians. They have made history through songs.

Many of these courageous women have become an example for younger generations in Cuban society. Among these musical legends it is possible to mention: Maria Teresa Vera, Omara Portuondo, Celia Cruz, Isolina Carrillo, Mercedita Valdés, Elena Burke, Rita Montaner, Celeste Mendoza, Rosita Fornés, and others.

Vanesa-formell-cuban-women-in-music

Vanesa Formell

Nowadays, Cuban culture enjoys an immense arsenal of talented young women who defend their musical roots anywhere. Cuban women musicians have positioned themselves among the best in the industry. Some of them are Daymé Arocena, Eme Alfonso, Yissy García, Brenda Navarrete, Luna Manzanares, Gretell Barreiro, Diana Fuentes, Telmary, Vanesa Formell, Aymée Nuviola, La Reina y la Real, etc.

@havanamusictours

#WomenInMusic #CubanWomen in Music,@DayméArocena at #Havana #JazzPlazaFestival 2019 🇨🇺 #jazz #cubansinger #musicacubana #cubanmusic #womenhistorymonth #trending #sing

♬ original sound – Havana Music Tours

What is in our Spotify Playlist Tribute to Women Artists? 

A long list of women’s names has become part of Cuban cultural and daily life due to their crucial role in music. We know that we can count thousands of songs dedicated to Cuban women, but we can also acknowledge a lot written, performed, and popularized by various women. In this Part 1 of our Spotify Playlist Tribute to Women Artists, we would like to mention essential classic songs written or popularized by women musicians in Cuba.

The following list mentions a few of our favorite classic songs written or popularized by Cuban women.

  • Veinte Años (written by Maria Teresa Vera, in 1935)
  • Damisela Encantadora (popularized by Esther Borja in 1935)
  • Dos Gardenias (written by Isolina Carrillo, in 1945)
  • Quimbara (popularized by Celia Cruz in 1974)
  • El Manisero (popularized by Rita Montaner, in 1927)
  • Yo soy el Punto Cubano (written by Celina González, in 1956)
omara-portuondo-cuban-women-in-music

Omara Portuondo

Cuban women’s beauty and unique identity have also been a source of inspiration for multiple musicians. You can find lots of great songs dedicated to Cuban women. Many of them become representative compositions of Cuban music internationally. We decided to include a few of these songs on our Spotify Playlist Tribute to Women Artists Part 1. 

The following list mentions a few of our favorite classic songs dedicated to Cuban women.

  • Guantanamera (written by Joseíto Fernández, in 1929)
  • Longina (written by Manuel Corona, in 1918)
  • Marilú (title theme of the orchestra Los Van Van, between 1969 and 1970)
  • María Caracoles (written by Pello El Afrocán, in 1964)
  • Yolanda (written by Pablo Milanés, in 1970)
  • El cuatro de Tula (written by Sergio Gonzalez Siaba of the Buena Vista Social Club, in 1996)

You can find our Spotify Playlist Tribute to Women Artists Part 1 here. Enjoy, and let us know your opinion about our selection on the bottom part of this blog post. 

If you want to know more about women in Cuban music, check out our blog, THE 10 MOST INFLUENTIAL FEMALE MUSICIANS IN CUBAN MUSIC FOR 2020.

 

Cuban Dance 101

By Rocío de Lucía (Cuban Musicologist)

We want to start by saying that perhaps contrary to what many expected, all Cubans do not dance like salsa professionals; not even all of them like to dance. For some, it could be an evident axiom; for others, not so much, so it is worth the clarification. Although, Cubans have alternatives for any dancer. If you prefer slower and more relaxed types, you can practice danzón or son. But, if you desire faster and more energetic movements, you can try the casino, conga, rumba, and even reggaeton with its extreme sensuality add-on. In general, Cuba is full of options when you ask about dance styles. That’s what we want you to learn from our article today. Let’s find out what are Cuban dances like?

Local dances that Cubans like

The last three decades of history have changed the music-dance scene in Cuba quite a bit. Although many people tend to think that people from Cuba only dance casino (salsa style), rumba, and danzón, the truth is that Cubans nowadays practice a diverse and modern variety of dances. The cultural opening of the Island revived its link with international trends, a connection quite similar to other regions of the Caribbean and Central America such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico, among others.

Like in other Caribbean contexts, reggaeton has become the favorite musical genre among the youngest and most of the Cuban population. However, even when Puerto Rican reggaeton is widely consumed by the Latinxs community everywhere, Cubans have their own style, different and particular. Without the intention of doing a far-fetched musicological dissertation in this regard, we will comment that this Cuban reggaeton is distinguished by a specific rhythmic cell based on the Cuban clave.

Cuban reggaeton also uses and generates a lot of local slang. Some of the most popular reggaeton names are Chocolate MC, Yomil y el Dany, El Chacal, Divan, El Taiger, Harrison, El Kamel, etc. Then, the dance has particular characteristics and patterns, totally different from the rest of the geographical area.

Besides reggaeton, the other most danced genre is timba, with its casino dance. Timba is a mix derived from Afro-Cuban jazz, similar to son (original type of salsa), but faster and more aggressive. Cubans started calling it casino dance since its widespread use in casino clubs during the ’50s. The style sets the basic rhythm of the salsa, but it does not do it linearly but freely.

This style allows greater freedom of improvisation and more spontaneous and rhythmic movements. You can dance in pairs and around, hence the famous “Ruedas de Casino” (Casino Wheels, a type of casino danced in a group). Among the most popular orchestras of this timba genre are: Alexander Abreu y Habana de Primera, Bamboleo, El Noro y Primera Clase, Alain Pérez, Pupi y los que Son Son, Adalberto Álvarez y su Son, and Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco.

In addition to these dances, we found Rumba dance, a folkloric style that remains strong among Cuban peopleThe Rumba style is divided into YambuColumbia, and Guaguancó. The dancers’ energy and flavor explosion is their central characteristic. Despite its more than a hundred years of history, this “mestizo” style continues to captivate generations and generations of Cubans. 

The dance varies according to the style of each dancer and the type of variant. You can dance in pairs, separate people, or in a group. You can find rumba dance at both public and private parties, as well as in cultural or recreational centers. One of our favorite places to dance rumba is the Callejon de Hamel.

Another folkloric Cuban dance very vivid on the Island is conga. This genre has a marked African influence, where percussion plays the leading role. This style is a single type of dance, but in a group: the musicians play the congas (drums) and horns, and the dancers follow them through the streets, setting a basic rhythm with their feet. It’s also common for Cuban people to dance at least one conga at private parties and Carnivals.

Other styles danced in Cuba.

Cuba has been working hard to preserve a few other famous but “old school” styles among the popularity of many modern dances. “Classical” orchestras are a big part of this effort, groups that have essentially made Cubans dance for decades. Los Van Van and La Orquesta Aragón are two of these bands highly prestigious in the national and international music scene.

Los Van Van developed a music/dance style called Songo, where the Cuban son’s essence is interpreted with a particular rhythmic base and a charanga style of music format. The most faithful follower of this genre has been Maikel Blanco y Su Salsa Mayor. Another of the most beloved by the Cuban people, La Orquesta Aragón, also uses a traditional charanga music format. They mostly performs danzones, chachachás, boleros, and sones.

However, we must point out that these music and dance genres are reserved for most adult populations. In the same sense, you must know that even when it seems paradoxical, the Buena Vista Social Club and its exquisite repertoire are icons currently reserved mainly for tourism and not the Cuban people. But, that doesn’t mean that they won’t enjoy it every time someone plays it. 

On the other hand, it is essential to talk about foreign dance styles currently popular in Cuba, like merengue and bachata. For the youngest, electronic and pop music also appear in their tastes. These styles have become very famous after the abundance of more modern music festivals on the Island. In this realm, we need to add a special mention of a phenomenon called Cimafunk. This band has made the funk style fashionable and danceable among Cuban youth, mixed with Afro-Cuban rhythms and other indigenous stylistic features.

Where do Cubans like to dance? 

As a general rule, family celebrations, national anniversary dates, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, the New Year, school graduations, religions, and the reception of friends or relatives who live in other regions are often top reasons to organize a party. Food, drink, and dance music will not be missing in these celebrations. We must add that, in reality, there is not always a reason for this kind of event; many times, Cubans meet only for leisure and recreation.

Yes, socialization and partying are essential elements in Cuban society. To better illustrate the Cuban character on this topic, note that some dates indicated as “International Worker’s Day” or “International Women’s Day” are usually commemorations of struggle and protest in other world regions; in Cuba, they are holidays. In addition, we will mention events such as Festivals and Carnivals, different spaces that occur regularly, and where music and celebration abound.

So, if you are looking for a community where you can find cultural parties, not so much in clubs, but spontaneous and artistic events, full of traditions, culture, and joy, Cuba is one of the best places for it. However, you can also find all kinds of venues around the Island with excellent music and an impressive number of people dancing. 

 

If you want to learn more about Cuban dance, we highly recommend the Music Education & Cultural Cuba Tour

Cuba, a benchmark for dancers

We could list hundreds of reasons in favor of travel, and about the benefits of visiting and interacting with new cultures. One of these, without a doubt, is that knowing a new city allows us to confront stigmas and stereotypes usually built around culturally different communities. Cuba has not been exempt from this condition. That is why it is necessary to talk about these common stigmas related to Cubans and their culture.

If you like to dance, undoubtedly, Cuba will not disappoint you, especially since the conceptions of dance tend to be more accessible and without so many rigid structures of interpretation. As a general rule, Cubans value the atmosphere, the energy more than the virtuosity of the movements. Their celebrations are full of life and flavor, a friendly spirit, and communion. Even if you are not a dancer, but you like to enjoy this type of environment, in Cuba, you will have unforgettable experiences, and you will indeed be infected with the joy and warmth of its people.