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.

 

The Buena Vista Social Club Today

 

By Rocío de Lucía (Cuban Musicologist)

When we talk about The History of Buena Vista Social Club Part 1 and The History of Buena Vista Social Club Part 2, we find that Buena Vista Social Club was the name of a Social Club where the best “soneros” of the 50s used to sing in Cuba. Then, it was a song that paid tribute to those sublime encounters and musical sessions of the homonymous Club. Later, the song would give the name to an album, a project, and finally to a musical artistic concept, with a particular style and format, founded on bringing together the glorious musicians and songs of previous decades. All that is Buena Vista Social Club.

The project traveled the world always changing the members of the orchestra. Although, it is true that some figures achieved greater popularity, becoming a kind of Buena Vista icon. Many of these original interpreters passed away a few years ago, others are now of advanced age. Let us remember that, by the creation date of the project in the 90s, the vast majority of artists were over 65 years of age.

What happened in Cuba? 

Currently, in Cuba, the legacy and principles of the Buena Vista Social Club continue to be exalted, in a project called Tradicionales de Los 50. Because the original name is the intellectual property of the record company that recorded the homonymous album, the longest-lived figures of the Cuban son, they meet every night at the Rosalía de Castro Club. Located in the heart of Old Havana, there those songs that for years have brightened the lives of all those who enjoy them are honored.

Former members of the Sonora Matancera -the orchestra with which Celia Cruz recorded her first two musical albums in Cuba and a legend of Latin American dance music of the last century-, along with other great stars of the Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All-Stars have been part of this project since 2002.

Among the most prominent figures who have collaborated, we find Julio Alberto Fernández, Barbarito Torres, Amadito Valdés, “El Guajiro” Mirabal, Julienne Oviedo Sánchez, Carlos González Cárdenas, Lázaro Villa, Rosa Fornés, Rolo Martínez and Manolo del Valle. These names are joined by other great personalities of the Cuban music scene: Rolito, Armandito y Navarro, Feliz Baloy, Hector Téllez, Alfonsí Quintana, Caridad Hierrezuelo, Hilda de la Hoz, María Elena Pena, Xiomara Valdés, Teresa García Caturla, Ela Calvo, María Victoria Gil, Amparito Valencia and Luis Téllez.

The current stars, all stand out for an important musical trajectory, of excellence within Cuban music. There we will find Rolando Montero, Mundito González, José Valladares, Jorge Mulet, Migdalia Hechavarría, Jose Luis Arango, Sergio Farías, Raquel Hernández, Flora Max, Pablo Santamaría, Millán Zuaznabar, Leonor Zayas, Feliz Bernal, Yanko Pizako, Emilio Ramos, Adalberto Ávila “Candela”, Martha de Santelices, Andrés Sánchez, Maria Elena Lazo, Alfredo Rodríguez, Laura Rodríguez and María de Jesús López.

The wide versatility of the project and its classic sound make this show a jewel of Cuban cultural heritage. A repertoire that ranges from the great classics of Miguel Matamoros, Miguel Cuní, Benny Moré, Compay Segundo, Celia Cruz, and Sonora Matancera -among others-, continues to transport us to the golden age of Cuban music, with the particular timbres and styles of each interpreter.

All of them preserve that old and delightful essence that allows us to enjoy, even in the XXI century, those glorious moments that made the Havana nights of past decades shine. An enjoyment turned into a privilege to get a live glimpse of the flavor and talent of the musicians who have made the whole world dance and distinguished the name of this beautiful island through passion and art.

You can find Parts 1 and 2 of this blog trilogy in the following links:

THE HISTORY OF BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB PART 1: THE VINDICATION OF CUBAN MUSIC

THE HISTORY OF BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB PART 2

A Reflection about Female Musicians For Women’s History Month

By Rosi del Valle (Cuban musician)

Last year was one of the most difficult for artists, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, music events were not possible. However, the artistic movement in Cuba did not stop. Social media was flooded with concerts from every genre. Female artists made a difference during this time of total isolation. That’s why we prepared this list of the 10 most influential Female Musicians in 2020 as a tribute to them in this Women’s History Month. All of them are great singers and talented musicians.

10. Luna Manzanares

luna-Manzanaers-female-Cuban-artist

Luna Manzanares is part of the young generation of Cuban Female singers. Last year she released a new album, “Luna Nueva,” made up of her songs, and ventured into musical theater. She also made her debut as host of the “Adolfo Guzman” Song Festival.

9. Aymeé Nuviola

aymee-nuviola-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Aymée Nuviola is a Cuban/American Female Musician and singer based in the United States. Winner of the 2020 Grammy Award in the Best Tropical Latin Album category for “A Journey Through Cuban Music.”

8. Gretell Barreiro

gretell-barreiro-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Gretell Barreiro is a peculiar Cuban Female singer and pianist. In her most recent musical production, “Marina,” she highlighted femininity through various genres of Cuban music.

7. La Reina y La Real

la reina y la real-influential-Cuban-female-artist

La Reina y la Real is a Cuban Female Musicians and Rap duo based in Havana, Cuba. These rappers released their most recent phonogram, “Mirame,” on April 3, 2020, under Bis Music record label. During the confinement, they participated in various international online programs and festivals.

6. Haila Maria Mompié

haila-maria-mompie-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Haila María Mompié is a Cuban Female Musician and singer and a trendy icon in the Cuban music scene. Last year Haila premiered her new children’s music album “A song to the smile,” licensed by the EGREM record label. She also frequently offered online concerts.

5. Daymé Arocena

dayme arocena-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Daymé Arocena is one of the youngest Cuban Female Musician and singers dedicated to mixing Afro-Cuban music with Jazz, having already achieved a prominent career. She’s also one of the singers who emphasizes women’s right to art, regardless of race.

4. Brenda Navarrete

brenda-navarrete-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Brenda Navarrete is a surprising Cuban Female percussionist and singer with a very active career in Havana, Cuba. She is also a composer and jazz musician invited to Miami’s Global Cuba Fest 21. She stands out for reflecting Afro-Cuban rhythms in her songs.

3. Diana Fuentes

diana-fuentes-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Diana Fuentes is a very versatile Cuban Female Musician and singer currently based in Miami. She and Divan (Cuban reggaeton artist) starred in the song “Otra Boca,” one of the most popular last year. Diana captured the attention of the Spanish singer Pablo Alboran, with whom she co-authored two songs.

2. Telmary

telmary-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Telmary is one of the most potent Cuban Female voices of Cuban Rap Music and a former member of Free Hole Negro and Interactivo bands. Together with her group, Habana Sana, she has substantially impacted social networks. Being considered an icon for style, she launched her accessory brand “Tumbao de Telma” last October.

1. Omara Portuondo

omara-portuondo-influential-Cuban-female-artist

Several magazines selected the Cuban Female singer Omara Portuondo as the most important Cuban woman of 2020. She is also a national glory. Omara received another Grammy nomination for her latest album, “Mariposas,” with the collaboration of several artists. She was one of the first to join the online concert strategy.

 

We hope you will follow along with us and learn more about Cuban culture and music. You can even take a tour with us!

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

The rumba is one of the most important and universal Cuban styles of music. Many travelers and music lovers go to the island of Cuba to learn and enjoy a good Cuban rumba. Without a doubt, it is a relevant cultural attraction of this Caribbean island. Therefore, in this article, we will be addressing some essential elements of this peculiar genre.

What does the term rumba mean?

The term rumba is included within a series of Afro-Cuban words that designate a collective and profane festival in Cuba during colonial times. It is originally conceived as a couple of dancers that occur within a related group of people. Rumba is a party, touch, and dance. It manifests itself within a cohesive collective by ties of kinship or friendship, of the neighborhood.

Rumba party? Music and dance in Cuban rumba.   

At the rumba party, some play the drums, others raise the song, others respond as a chorus, and the others cheer with claps, waddle, go into the ring to dance, etc. Initially, the instruments used in these festivities were boxes of different sizes, frequently boxes of cod and candles; to achieve the highest sounds it was percussed in a bottle, in pans, or in some metallic implement.

These instruments were replaced with the development of the genre by three “tumbadoras” or “congas” of different heights. Each drum has a particular and specific rhythmic function.

The highest voice, the “Quinto”, a talking drum, is the one in charge of the improvisations that urge the dancer to make different figurations. The third drum or “salidor”, with a deep voice, marks a low ostinato, and the middle voice, “tres dos”, produces another stable rhythm that balances the whole percussion section of the rumba music. The singer carries the “claves”, which start and remain stable during the song.

Generally, rumba songs are preceded by a melodic vocal inspiration called “Diana”. Then, with the entry of the text, improvisation begins to expose the issue that gives rise to the rumba; this is called decimating. After improvisation, it “breaks” the rumba with the entrance of the instruments and the alternating solo-chorus form.

When the rumba breaks, a couple of dancers go into the ring. The dance is evocative and, in general, convulsive and disjointed; every step and gesture represents the events that precede the possession of a chicken. The Cuban rumba also presents variants of its style of music and dance: the guaguancó, the yambú, the Columbia, and a Spanish type of rumba.

Cuban rumba style became known at the beginning of the 20th century through famous groups such as `Los Roncos´, and `El Paso franco´. Later, they met rumberos who acquired great prestige such as Agustín Pina, Roncona, Malanga, Tío Tom, Chano Pozo, Virulilla, etc.

New technologies and most current rumba sounds

Undoubtedly, technology has allowed the Cuban rumba to approach contemporary sounds. With it, the electric bass is incorporated into a percussive plane. On some occasions, you can see the electric piano’s presence and the jazz band’s current sound, which has accompanied us since the 1920s when Cuban musicians, mentioned above, brought the rumba and the son to the Latin Quarter of New York. In addition, we can regularly find the violin combined with a contemporary touch during the spiritual songs to the ancestors.

Nowadays, there are famous rumberos such as the Clave and Guaguancó, Yoruba Andabo, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Los Papines groups, among others. The artistic representation of this folkloric manifestation can also be appreciated in the presentations of professional groups such as the Conjunto Folclórico Nacional, and local groups such as Rumbatá de Camagüey and Rumbávila de Ciego de Ávila.

Conclusions

As you can see, these are just some relevant data regarding the Cuban rumba. The Cuban rumba is a complex and very peculiar artistic phenomenon. On our part, it only remains to invite you to meet and enjoy this wonderful Cuban party with us.

The rumba is one of the most attractive Cuban styles for our team. That is why we always have a special space for her on our Tours. Havana Music Tours offers the opportunity to enjoy this style through direct contact with specific artists and musical groups such as Los Muñequitos de Matanzas or Clave y Guaguancó.

However, we recommend our Cuban Jazz and Rumba Tour, Fiesta Del Tambor (VIP), and even the Josone Music Festival in Varadero (Rumba, Jazz Son). These tours specialize their experiences in Cuban musical matters such as the rumba, and especially its percussion instruments. It is valid to highlight that our agency will also take into account personalized suggestions.

Are you ready to dance and enjoy Cuban rumba with our Havana Music Tours team?

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your CubaTour Now!

Also, check out our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist (Updated January 2022)

Tonadas Trinitarias, Cuban Folk Music

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

Trinidad is a beautiful city in the center of Cuba. There we can find a very distinctive genre of this city, known as Tonadas Trinitarias. In the beginning, this musical expression was developed as part of a festive musician-dance event of a movement and purely profane nature. This style is currently performed by some of its main folkloric-traditional musical groups from Trinidad city.

Although its name refers to a generic species linked to country Cuban music, the Tonadas Trinitarias musical form is very distant from this type of music. On the contrary, it denotes a type of music that is accompanied by three small drums with the parietal wedge, a guataca, a guiro, and a mixed choir. This type of group is also very similar –in terms of sound and instrumental format– to that of the harpsichord choirs from the rumba and typical of the cities of Matanzas and Sancti Spíritus.

This tradition dates back to the second half of the 19th century, and some sources highlight its similarity with the beginning of the independence struggles and the revolutionary fervor of the time. They were organized by choral groups of men and women, in charge of representing the different neighborhoods established in the town.

During the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, it was known of the existence of two main groupings of Tonadas Trinitarias, each one representing specific neighborhoods, such as La Popa or Jibabuco and Simpá or El Tamarindo. However, the socio-cultural changes that occurred in the neocolonial stage caused a strong depression in the practice of these tunes, leaving both groups practically disabled.

The group meets again with the Triumph of the Revolution. This was possible at the request of government entities such as Cultura Municipal, and with the help of young art instructors. They bring together the main bearers of the tradition, it makes possible the creation of the Tonadas Trinitarias Group in 1963.

Unfortunately, starting in the 80s, this process led to the degradation of the tradition.  The Tonadas Trinitarias became a generic type to be included as part of a repertoire of the Conjunto Folclórico de Trinidad, and other local groups.

However, due to the ideological and commercial value attributed to the tradition, this tradition has a new resurgence as a cultural product after opening the city to tourism in the 2000s. The Tonadas reaches into the present despite the great challenges in improving its practice.

Currently, the group remains in force thanks to its own members’ efforts and some of the cultural authorities of the town. The Tonadas Trinitarias can be found in different places in the very center of Trinidad, Cuba, such as the Palenque de Los Congos Reales, or in the Patio Bécquer.

 

Here are a couple of different videos,

including a collaboration with Havana Music Tours founder, Chaz Chambers

 

 

By Rosi del Valle (Cuban musician)

For more than a century, the transverse flute has been one of Cuban music’s leading and most exciting instruments. Its prominence ranges from the so-called Charanga orchestras to the most contemporary Jazz, having virtuous exponents renowned worldwide.

In Cuba, the boom of the flute made this instrument increasingly present in orchestras due to the singularity of its sound and the “flavor” it added to dance music.

The transverse flute can be classified as an aerophone instrument whose register encompasses the mid-bass and high-pitched sounds. It’s got a versatile sonority since it can achieve different sounds for different purposes.

History and significant performers of the transverse flute in Cuba

The flute reached its peak in Cuban popular music during the first decades of the 20th century with the emergence of the “Charanga orchestras.” These traditional music groups were made up of percussion instruments (tumbadoras, timpani, minor percussion), piano, violins, bass, flute. Later on, other instruments such as the trumpet, the trombone, and a more extensive percussion set were added. Because of its sonority, the flute became emblematic in the orchestras of the time; it is essential in musical genres such as Danzón, Cha-cha-chá, and Son, all of which are characteristic of Cuban music.

Orquesta Aragón (Aragón Orchestra) is undoubtedly Cuba’s most crucial charanga band, while Richard Egües, nicknamed “the magic flute,” has been its most recognized flutist. His skills and peculiar sound became a reference for many professional and amateur musicians. His improvisations became so famous that they were imitated inside and outside the country. This virtuous musician became the hallmark of this orchestra. One of his most outstanding soloist performances appears in the recording of the famous song “Tres Bellas Cubanas” during the boom of the Buena Vista Social Club musical project.

Over the years, the flute has become essential in Cuban music. This fact justifies its presence in different musical genres and instrumental formats, as was the case of the well-known Los Van Van Orchestra —directed since its foundation by the late Juan Formell, an artist who claims to have changed the development of his group with the incorporation of this instrument.
The versatile and renowned Cuban musician José Luis Cortés was the first flutist to use this instrument in Los Van Van. Cortés, known as “el Tosco,” is considered one of the essential flute players within Cuban musical culture.

After being a member of orchestras such as Los Van Van and Irakere, Jose Luis Cortés founded his own, NG la Banda. His performance in this new musical group brought about new sonorities, more moderate and different. His technique to play the flute is nourished daringly by elements of concert music and Jazz, which generates a change in his way of improvising. Due to his transgressive and diverse career, Cortés is considered the most influential flutist of the new generation of Cuban Jazz.

Orlando “Maraca” Valle, another representative flutist of Cuban music, came onto the same artistic background. Unlike Jose Luis Cortés, he covered a much broader spectrum in the world of flute performance. During his studies, he absorbed specific and unique techniques beyond the trend, focusing on sonority according to the instrument’s evolution.

Maraca has the merit of having managed to reproduce the sound of the wooden flute in the transverse flute. He has become one of the world’s strongest exponents of Latin Jazz, especially for his technique to play the instrument and his improvisation skills. He has expanded his music, reaching out to a very diverse audience. He was named “the liberator of the flute” for moving away from the standard established for flutists in charanga music.

The transverse flute is and will be one of the most fantastic attractions of Cuban dance music. It came from Europe to stay forever.

Buena Vista Social Club: From Local Phenomenon to Global

It´s never too late if happiness is good.

 

By Rocío de Lucía (Cuban Musicologist)

Throughout its history, the Son -as the Cuban Rumba- took longer to achieve institutional recognition, even though they were always venerated by the people and respected by the musicians of the continental circuit. The Cuban musical product -in all its manifestations- was a great reference for Latin American and Caribbean culture. However, after a glorious time for Cuban artists during the first half of the 20th century, in the young years of socialist Cuba, Cuban music lost its prominence in the region.

At the end of the 70s, a project called Estrellas de Areito was carried out, whose purpose was to summon the great figures of the golden age of Cuban Son (the 40s and 50s) in an attempt to exalt these colossi of the Cuban music that were falling into oblivion. The American musician and producer Ry Cooder and the record producer Nick Gold were involved. Although that musical work did not have the expected resonance, it laid the groundwork for subsequent projects that would give rise to the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon.

Years later, the Sierra Maestra group, a format that paid tribute to the Sonera tradition and Cuban Trova, developed a series of international tours and presentations. Juan de Marcos González (Cuban musician and producer) was a member of that band. Participation in these events around the world allowed him to interact with essential personalities and music entrepreneurs. From these exchanges emerged the connection and friendship with Nick Gold and World Music. This record label would launch the Buena Vista Social Club album to the world and with it distinguish Cuban music within the heritage of universal culture.

The World Music label had been promoting a line of recordings that explored the richness of African culture and in 1994, they had won the Grammy award for Best World Music with the album Talking Timbuktu, produced by Ry Cooder. Finally in 1995, Juan de Marcos and Nick Gold agreed to organize a project, in a Jam Session style, where Cuban and African musicians would merge. With Ry and Nick’s experience and interest in African and Cuban music, which had fascinated them during the edition of Estrellas de Areito, they traveled to Havana in 1996 to undertake this new project.

Along with the troubadour from Santiago de Cuba, Eliades Ochoa, and other Cuban musicians who would be part of the recordings, the arrival of the two African musicians was expected: Toumani Diabate, Cora player, and the guitarist Chadi Madi. The African instrumentalists could never arrive due to difficulties with their visas, and this new circumstance caused a change in the project’s original conception. It is then when Juan de Marcos summons consecrated figures of Cuban music, among which were: Compay Segundo, Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo.

Ángel Terry Domech, tumbador and member of the project, relates:

We were lucky that Rubén González kept, in a folder, danzones of all times: Buena Vista Social Club, La Negra Tomasa, etc., arrangements were not even made; it was all from memory (…). There was a true professional of teachers who, for many years, dedicated themselves to music.

The instrumental danzón “Buena Vista Social Club”, authored by Israel López, Cachao, evoked those glorious dances of the homonymous Social Club, gave the title to one of the records that were produced at that time. Another of the albums was A Toda Cuba le Gusta, with a big band format. Both musical works were nominated for the 1997 Grammy Awards, but the Buena Vista Social Club studio album won in the Traditional Music category. However, before obtaining the award, the album had already sold more than half a million copies in Europe, as a result of several concerts performed with the Afro-Cuban All Stars format, under the direction of Juan de Marcos, where they only included a few of the musicians who participated in the recordings.

In 1998, Ry Cooder returned to Havana with the German film director Wim Wanders with the intention of filming a documentary about those troubadours and soneros, who were living testimony of a millenary culture, and who had achieved world fame in their old age, to become legends. The cinematographic work recognized the talent and virtuosity of Cuban interpreters and composers, and a whole heritage that had survived wars, revolutions, emigration, and discrimination, yet sounded full of life and joy and managed to move the most diverse audiences.

Artists with capital letters, with no other pretensions than to sing their melodies and serve Cuban music itself, who never renounced their identity, their purest roots, being the most worthy way to honor the nation that fathered them. The documentary was titled Buena Vista Social Club, and beyond its technical values, Wim Wanders delivered a sensitive and honest work, that transmitted the charisma and grace of these Cuban musicians. The film won more than fourteen international awards and an Oscar nomination, in a kind of double distinction: for Wanders’ work and, at the same time, for the work that gave the documentary a reason for being.

 

You can find Part 1 and Part 3 of this blog trilogy in the following links:

THE HISTORY OF BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB PART 1: THE VINDICATION OF CUBAN MUSIC

THE MODERN BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (PART 3)

Buena Vista Social Club: The vindication of Cuban music

By Rocío de Lucía (Cuban Musicologist)

In a marginal neighborhood of Havana in the 1930s, an “alluring mestiza” danced in a black social club, eventually packing the most important and distinguished stages in the world. This is the true story of the “Buena Vista Social Club”. More than a name, more than a gathering of dance-loving folks, more than a nostalgic song, more than a Grammy-winning record, and a multi-awarded documentary, this phenomenon enticed the whole world to dance and became the antonomastic insignia of Cuban Son. Buena Vista Social Club is all that and it is also the vindication of that “alluring mestiza” that Cuban popular music has always been.

The place. The Social Club in the humble Buena Vista neighborhood.

From the depths of the Cuban East, the Son and the Trova were dragging musicians, poets, dancers, love stories, tragedies, parties, and passions in a kind of conga, until they reached Havana in the early twentieth century. In the capital, the Son seduced with such force that he came to merge with ballroom and solar dances, he entered the bowels of the culture to baptize everything he touched as “Cuban”, from danzón to salsa -which would later be consolidated as a genre in New York, at the end of the 60s-.

Thus the Son arrived at the Buena Vista Social Club, which, according to Rafael Lam (2016: 58), was a black society, of the many that existed in Havana before 1959. The Social Clubs were popular cultural societies in Havana, divided according to the different social strata, and where its members paid a monthly fee to participate in the activities that were organized there. Buena Vista, on the other hand, is a neighborhood located to the west of the city, and it was built to be inhabited by the servants who worked for the rich of Miramar, a neighborhood that was right next door, much more luxurious and residential.

The Buena Vista cultural society owner, Julio Dueñas, had moved the entity from a small and humble house to a slightly larger one in 1948. The new location had a patio and living room 15 meters long by 20 meters wide, where dances were developed and some of the most popular musicians of the time played. Although it was a humble neighborhood and the society was frequented by black proletarians, it was mandatory to dress elegantly in correspondence with the standards of the time.

Many of the events exceeded the cost of the average salary of the club’s worker members. The musician and composer Antonio Arcaño, one of the great monarchs of the dances, would later confess that he offered many free dances in that society. He did it not only for the satisfaction of that humble sector, but because those entities were dance music authorities, practically judges of the charangas, and if an orchestra succeeded in that environment, it could be considered a good orchestra.

The Buena Vista Social Club became the mecca of Cuban Son, where the most authentic musicians, composers, and orchestras of the time passed, paradoxically the most humble. Antonio Arcaño, Arsenio Rodríguez and Regino Frontela Fraga –director of the Melodías del 40 orchestra- became the sovereigns of dance after passing the litmus test of the Buena Vista public. Legend has it that while absurd waltzes or fox-trots were performed in the highest status clubs, at the Buena Vista Social Club dancers packed the sidewalk when a concert by the danzoneras brass bands was announced, for example, La Ideal by Joseíto Valdés, La Típica by Pedrito Calvo, Cheo Belén Puig or La Típica by Aniceto Díaz.

In the new regime established after the triumph of the revolution in 1959, all societies and Social Clubs in Cuba were eliminated. Considered a “vice” that promulgated racism and the division of society, the concept of the Social Club was not compatible with the new socialist ideology. The Buena Vista Social Club was closed and the building became merely a home, with no more glories, and whose joys would not be evoked until decades later.

Footnotes (Spanish):

  1. El término “son”, en español se refiere al género musical bailable de origen cubano.
  2. Conga: Dígase del género musical bailable de origen afrocubano donde los bailadores siguen a los músicos en marcha, marcando el ritmo con sus pasos.

  3. Edificios donde los habitantes viven en cuartos muy pequeños y aglutinados y comparten baños públicos y otras zonas comunes.

 

You can find Parts 2 and 3 of this blog trilogy in the following links:

THE HISTORY OF BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB PART 2

THE MODERN BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (PART 3)

Cuban Music Festivals

(Updated February 2022)
By Chaz Chambers(Musician, Tour Guide Leader, and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

Cuba and its capital Havana have been renowned for being one of the premier musical hotspots in the world. After all, you can see it, hear it and feel it everywhere. From narrow alleys and balconies to blasting speakers from cars to hottest venues and dance floors. But just because we can see it anywhere and everywhere, doesn‘t mean we should ignore a wonderful opportunity to explore particular Music Festivals in Havana.

Music Festivals in Havana are not only they are unique to each other and are rich in variety, but they offer the best Cuban music with a spice of international twist as well. We invite you to explore our list of the top 5 most popular music festivals in Havana where everyone is bound to find something they prefer and admire!

1. Havana Jazz Plaza – Havana’s Annual Jazz Festival

We simply have to start with a jazz festival. After all, we are talking about Cuba! Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival is one of the most important music events in the country.

The Festival dates back to 1980 to its first gig. And over the years it became nothing short of a premium jazz experience in Havana and all of Cuba. Performances from such artists as Telmary, Joe Lovano, Interactivo, Alain Perez, and others only testify to it.

It is all about diversity in artistic expression, inter influence between different music scenes, and a strong presence of international music. Attending the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival will allow you to truly feel that pulse of music that Cuba is known for!

2. Havana World Music Festival

The festival pulses right in the heart of Havana with a profound link to musical culture and heritage. A celebration and showcase of talent from both Cuba and around the world.

The broad spectrum of musical genres available to soak upsets the festival apart the most. From hip-hop, folk, and jazz to acoustic, reggae, electronic music, and more! Havana World Music Festival ensures that everyone will find their moment of groove! In addition to all of this, you‘ll also be able to witness dazzling street art, dance performances, and other forms of creativity exploding.

To sum it up, the award-winning Cuban artist said it best about the festival: “The focus of HWM is to give the Cuban people the chance to become acquainted with the musical diversity of Cuba and the world and encourage exchanges among international and Cuban bands. This can be very beneficial to the musicians, producers, and music promoters in our country“

havana-world-music-festival-cuba-2019


3. Fiesta del Tambor – Havana’s Annual Percussion Festival

Let‘s shift our focus to the drums! Fiesta del Tambor offers a wonderful chance for percussion enthusiasts to attend the biggest drum party on the island.

Featuring some of the best percussionists, drummers, and musicians, both international and local, the festival is now operating for more than 15 years and is organized by the National Center for Popular Music.

Greatest percussionists and drummers are accompanied by Cuban dance music bands, various dance groups, folklore jazz compositions, and even Drum masterclasses and cultural events. A festival is rich in every aspect of heritage, art, and music.


4. International
Salsa Festival

Just as we turned the tides towards drumming, we are now going to put some emphasis on dancing. A form of expression that has been around since 3300 BC!

The festival offers a 7-day adventure with over 100 hours of dance classes with different levels and styles to choose from. Whether it is Casino dance (style of Cuban salsa), ChaChaChá, Reggaeton, or Rumba with much more available. And once the sun sets, the party will set Cuban salsa clubs on fire!

Capture the very best of Cuban dance and share your love for music and dancing with thousands of enthusiasts, performers, instructors that are bonded by a passion for something rather simple – dancing!

havana salsa festival flyer 2022

5. Josone Music Festival in Varadero

While every festival mentioned before had at least some kind of area they specialize in more, Josone Music Festival will be a beautiful mix of everything. The musical side of the festival will allow famous Cuban orchestras, dancers, musicians, and even international DJs to perform. 

The Festival specialized in Cuban Jazz and Rumba, it includes two music stages inside Josone Park, one of the biggest in the beach city of Varadero (Matanzas province). If you‘re interested in something alternative and different format, then be sure to check out the potential of the Josone Music Festival!

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your CubaTour Now!