Rooted deep in history and composed of sounds that seem to not only move the body but the soul as well – music in Cuba is larger than life. It is culture, identity, lifestyle, tradition and a force that moves the whole country in one never-ending concert. And us visitors are always looking to capture the best out of our limited time. So, if you‘re looking to have that iconic music experience in Cuba and have unforgettable fun than make sure not to miss these top five music venues in the capital Havana!

1. Fabrica de Arte Cubano

Established inside of a former cooking oil factory, La Fabrica de Arte Cubano also known as La FAC has quickly become one of the most trendy and popular nightlife hotspots in Havana. And it‘s success lies in many distinctive details.

La FAC delivers incredible diversity both in amenities and activities. Within these refurbished historic walls, you‘ll find a snack restaurant, nightclub and a bar mixed in with spacious outdoor and indoor spaces. But tat‘s only the tip of an entertainment iceberg that La FAC is.

What truly draws in those crowds are intriguing art exhibitions, funky live music, movies and creativity that the venue explodes in every week. And there should be no surprise why the main reason for visiting the Vedado neighborhood is usually the vibrant La Fábrica de Arte Cubano.

2. La Zorra y El Cuervo

Next up we have another exciting place where music makes the air vibrate every night – La Zorra y El Cuervo. A New York Manhattan Village style jazz club and one of the best at it in Havana.

Low ceilings, cramped space, dark and a dim basement with a red English telephone box at the entrance. La Zorra y El Cuvero translates for “the Fox & The Crow“ and offers a vintage and soulful jazz club experience.

Leaning towards freestyle Jazz mostly, the club has brightest performers of the Cuban jazz scene to perform here while also casting a spotlight on young and upcoming artists. Spectacular, special and memorable performances are a guarantee for any kind of jazz or music fan.

Cuba is breathing jazz, and if you want to experience to be top-notch, the La Zorra y El Cuervo is where it is at in Havana!

3. Cafe Teatro Bertolt Brecht

Looking for more of that wild nightlife escape in Havana? Then leave a Cafe Teatro Bertolt Brecht name in your notes and prepare to move those hips!

It is without a doubt one of the coolest nightspots in Havana, Cuba. Live music is played every night here, with Wednesdays leading the way. This is when the iconic Jazz fusion group “Interactivo” headlines the show almost every week.

Cafe Teatro Bertolt Brech is the past, present, and future all in one and a beautiful mix of artists perform here simply for good vibes.

While you will also find the theatre here as well, the club is known as “No Se Lo Digas a Nadie“ (Don‘t Tell Anyone“ and is a basement of the building. Tables here are few, and ques can belong. It is best to get here early at around 11:00 PM to get a good feel for the place before the crowds surge in.

4. Casa de la Musica Miramar

It seems that every venue so far has to offer something intriguing and different. And Casa de la Musica Miramar is no exception!

This is a venue known for hosting at least one famous Cuban artist every week. Bands and musicians such as Los Van Van, Alain Perez, Habana D‘Primera and others don‘t shy away from an opportunity to perform here.

The beautiful and elegant old Havana mansion delivers a sophisticated ambiance. However, it is not the most spacious venue. Therefore be prepared to be crowded, even without large numbers of people coming in. But once you surrender yourself to the rhythms and dance, everything will simply fade away!

5. Habana 309

Formerly known as Kpricho Bar-Restaurant, the new venue has been born just recently under the new name of Habana 309.

A new place is yet to be discovered by many people, but good reviews are already making their way. One thing assured – live music here is stellar and is accompanied by the finest cocktails, good service, and a cozy setting.

It seems that Habana 309 is becoming a hub for new underground music and performing it at this cool new venue is no stopping any time soon!

Fiesta del Tambor 2019 in Cuba

By Yamilka Cabrera

(English Translation)

 

Fiesta del Tambor is an event that finds space in every corner of Havana to begin the “rumba” and celebrate. In addition, it allows the exchange of musical cultures from around the world. The festival that we will be dedicated to this blogpost.

In the last 18 Edition of Festival and competition, Fiesta del Tambor “Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam”, a tribute was made to Spain, a country that gave birth to many styles of Cuban music and that still keeps latent such inescapable connection that unites both countries. A week where both cultures came together in rumbas, bulerías, couplets, rhythmic and even Jazz, to be enjoyed by all audiences. The doors were opened for a long-awaited meeting with well-known Spanish artists and groups in Cuba, such as Ketama, Patax and Falete and other excellent musicians, such as the pianist Laura de Los Angeles and Israel Suárez “El Piraña”.

Drums, pailas and congas were a crucial part of these shows. Without exaggeration, the duets were stunning in the drums starring the young pillars of Cuban percussion, such as Rodney Barreto, Oliver Valdés, Ruly Herrera and Ruy Adrián López Nussa, who were joined by improvisations by Giraldo Piloto and Samuel Formell, with their respective orchestras Klímax and Van Van.

The rumba had a special space, the “Salon de la Rumba” dressed up to receive thousands of followers of the genre inside and outside of Cuba. Stage that warmly welcomed groups, such as Yoruba Andabo, Ronald and Explosión Rumbera, Obbini Batá and the Mutanquitos de Matanzas.

On the other hand, there were a lot of people attending Casa de la Música de Plaza 31 and 2 to learn and apprehend updated ways of interpreting percussion instruments, through the master classes of Cubans Rodney Barreto (drums), Tomás Ramos “el Panga” (congas) and the Spanish drawer Israel Suárez “el Piraña”. A musical space that also gives birth to many young Cuban percussionists, those who were amongst the participants of the International Percussion Competition.

There is no doubt that this is a necessary event for the development of Cuban music, inside and outside this island, both for its educational value and its ability to unveil the valuable history of its instruments and roots through the symbolic and leading role in performing the drums. This party has the courage to go beyond the stereotypes that stalk Cuban music, bringing all kinds of audiences closer to the consumption of good live, latent, and unbreakable Cuban music.

 

 

La Fiesta del Tambor 2019 en Cuba

Por Yamilka Cabrera

(Original Spanish Version – Versión original en español)

 

La Fiesta del Tambor es un evento que encuentra espacio en cada rincón de La Habana para comenzar la rumba y celebrar. Además, permite el intercambio con culturas musicales de todo el mundo. Por supuesto que les estoy hablando de la Fiesta del tambor, festival al cual le estaremos dedicando esta tarde.

En la pasada Edición 18  del Concurso y Festival Internacional Fiesta del Tambor “Guillermo Barreto in Memoriam”, se hizo tributo a España, país que dio origen a muchos estilos de la música cubana y que aún mantiene latente esa conexión ineludible que hermana a ambos países. Una semana donde se juntaron ambas culturas en rumbas, bulerías, coplas, sones e incluso jazz, para ser disfrutados por todos los públicos. Se abrieron las puertas para un anhelado encuentro con artistas y agrupaciones españolas muy conocidas en Cuba como Ketama, Patax y Falete y otros excelentes instrumentistas como la pianista Laura de los Ángeles y el cajonero Israel Suárez “El Piraña”.

Baterías, pailas y congas fueron parte crucial de estos espectáculos. Sin ánimos de exagerar, fueron despampanantes los duetos en el drums protagonizados por los jóvenes pilares de la percusión cubana como Rodney Barreto, Oliver Valdés, Ruly Herrera y Ruy Adrián López Nussa, a los que se sumaron las improvisaciones de Giraldo Piloto y Samuel Formell, junto a sus respectivas orquestas Klímax y Van Van.

La rumba tuvo un espacio especial, el “Salón de la Rumba” se vistió de gala para recibir a miles de seguidores del género dentro y fuera de Cuba. Escenario que acogió calurosamente agrupaciones como Yoruba Andabo, Ronald y Explosión Rumbera, Obbini Batá y los Muñequitos de Matanzas.

Por otro lado, no fuimos pocos los que nos acercamos a la Casa de la Música de Plaza 31 y 2 para aprender y aprehender actualizadas maneras de interpretar los instrumentos de percusión, a través de las clases magistrales de los cubanos Rodney Barreto (drums), Tomás Ramos “el Panga” (congas) y del cajonero español Israel Suárez “el Piraña”. Espacio que además permitió dar a conocer, como cada año, las jóvenes promesas de la percusión cubana entre los participantes de la Competencia Internacional de Percusión.

No hay dudas de que este es un evento necesario para el desarrollo de la música cubana, dentro y fuera de esta isla, tanto por su valor educativo como su capacidad de develar la valiosa historia de sus instrumentos y raíces a través de la simbólica y protagónica utilización del tambor. Esta fiesta tiene el valor de ir más allá de los estereotipos que acechan la música cubana, acercando a todo tipo de público al consumo de la buena música cubana en vivo, latente e inquebrantable.

There are many great restaurant options around Havana, Cuba… but these are a few of my favorite. They are all “Paladares,” which means a privately owned restaurant. The food in Cuba is usually pretty heavy with different meats like pork, beef, and chicken. All the food is typically accompanied with some rice and a savory sauce. Each of the below restaurants are very diverse from each other and I think if you try them all you will get a nice variety of food options during your Cuba trip.

 

5. El Cocinero

El Cocinero, (which means the “The Cook” in Spanish) is a very lovely and ambient restaurant located near and attached to the famous Fabrica de Arte Cubano. It is in the Vedado neighborhood of La Habana, Cuba. They have two levels of terraces with two different menus. The terrace on the 3rd floor is slightly cheaper while the 2nd floor is a little more expensive. El Cocinero has a nice mix of international cuisine including different meats such as pork, chicken, seafood and they also have some vegetarian options. A very cool place to eat and grab some drinks before visiting FAC (Fabrica de Arte Cubano)

Delicious duck at el cocinero in havana cubaPlate with pork loin at el cocinero in Havana, Cubagroup picture eating at el cocinero in havana cuba

4. Plan B

Plan B is a restaurant where mostly Cubans eat. It is relatively inexpensive at about 3-6 CUC per meal. I love this place because they are usually open 24 hours and they serve traditional Cuban food that is really good. If you want to try tamales, Ropa Vieja, Pan Con Lechon, Malanga, Boniato, Pork plates (Masas, Lomo, etc) this is a great place at the right price!

ropa vieja at plan B, a 24 hour restaurant in Havana, Cuba

3. La Guarida

This place was made famous by the movie Fresa y Chocolate. It is located in the exact same building as where the movie was filmed. It is a wonderful place with a very romantic environment. The food is excellent. They even have one of the top rated rooftops in Havana. I highly recommend having a cocktail on the rooftop at sunset!

Fresh beef at La Guarida the Paladar in Central Havana, Cuba Upclose picture of food at la guarida in central Havana the stairs going up to la Guarida in central havana, cuba

2. El Del Frente

El Del Frente is located in Old Havana on O’reilly street. They are definitely one of the most crafty restaurants in Havana. They serve fresh prepared vegetables from a unique organic farm right outside of Havana. You won’t find many of these vegetable selections around Cuba. They make a mixture of international cuisine and some interesting Cuban food styles. El Del Frente has some of the most unique and strongest craft cocktails in Havana. Try a mango daiquiri!

close up picture of grilled vegetables at el del frente in old havana, cuba Fresh fish plate at el del frente in old havana cuba craft made cocktails at el del frente in old havana, cuba

1. Atelier

Atelier is the place to go for one of the best Ropa Vieja plates in Havana. In my opinion, of course. I also think they have the best black beans and rice. I think it is best to order the beans and rice separately and then pour the black beans and their juices over the rice. IT IS AMAZING! Otherwise most Cuban restaurants serve what is called Morro y Cristianos which is black beans and rice cooked together. I don’t mind this from time to time, but it is more dry than the first recommendation. Atelier is also the perfect place if you want to eat some lobster or other great seafood options mixed with other meats, vegetarian, and gluten free options.

A close up shot of a steak entree at atelier in Vedado, havana, cuba

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.