The Symbiotic Journey of Cuban Music and Jazz: From Havana to New Orleans and New York

By Yami Cabrera (Cuban musicologist and Co-Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways

In the realm of music, few genres demonstrate the dynamic interplay of cultural influences as vividly as jazz. Celebrated for its improvisational prowess and complex harmonies, jazz did not emerge in a vacuum. Instead, it is a product of rich, interwoven musical traditions, among which Cuban music is pivotal.

As we celebrate today’s International Jazz Day, we wanted to bring you this article that briefly explores the influences of Cuban music on jazz, tracing the musical journey from Havana to New Orleans and New York, cities pivotal in the evolution of this quintessentially American genre.

The Cultural Crossroads: Havana and New Orleans

Cuban music’s infiltration into the core of jazz was intricately tied to the migration of people and their musical ideas. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Havana and New Orleans emerged as pivotal port cities—veritable cultural crossroads where the pulsating energies of the Atlantic and Caribbean converged. This period marked an era of exchange of rhythms and melodies, a musical melting pot stirred by the constant flow of ships and the diverse communities that thronged these bustling harbors.

The clave, a rhythmic pattern that is both fundamental to Cuban music and deeply rooted in African musical traditions, played a significant role in this cultural synthesis. Its distinctive syncopation, characterized by a compelling and complex sequence of beats, resonated deeply within the musical landscape of New Orleans.

As Cuban musicians settled and performed, the clave’s infectious rhythm permeated the local music scene, influencing and eventually becoming embedded in the evolving sound of early jazz. This rhythm not only enriched the musical vocabulary of New Orleans musicians but also provided a rhythmic backbone that would come to define much of the early jazz structure, bridging two rich musical cultures through shared beats and sounds.

Like in traditional Cuban genres such as son and rumba, the clave rhythm became essential to the New Orleans music scene, influencing the habanera rhythm prevalent in early jazz. This pattern introduced a new approach to musical timekeeping and phrasing, vital for developing jazz’s swing rhythms.

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Expanding Influence: From New Orleans to New York

The cultural exchange facilitated by Cuban music was dynamic and multidirectional. In New Orleans, musicians such as the legendary Louis Armstrong absorbed and adapted Cuban influences, weaving them into the fabric of American jazz. Armstrong’s use of Cuban-inspired techniques, exemplified during his trips to Havana in the 1930s, helped transform jazz into a more complex and globally resonant musical form. These trips also highlighted Havana’s role as a musical hub, reflecting its impact on local and international music scenes. As Cuban music left its mark on New Orleans, the influence continued to ripple northward, finding a new home in New York.

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Cuban Music in New York’s Melting Pot

In New York, a city already known as a melting pot of musical styles, the impact of Cuban music became even more pronounced by the mid-20th century. The migration of Caribbean musicians, including prominent Cuban artists, introduced direct Cuban musical elements into New York’s burgeoning jazz scene. Iconic music halls and nightclubs in New York were the backdrop for these interactions, where Cuban rhythms seamlessly blended with jazz harmonies.

Artists like Machito and his Afro-Cubans played a crucial role in this musical fusion, popularizing styles like the mambo and profoundly influencing an entire generation of jazz musicians. This synthesis in New York enriched its music scene and solidified the city’s status as a critical nexus for the ongoing evolution of jazz.

Key Figures and Musical Exchange

Significant figures who navigated these musical worlds further cemented the connection between Cuban music and jazz. Mario Bauzá, a Cuban clarinetist, trumpeter, and composer, played a pivotal role in shaping Afro-Cuban jazz. His transition from Havana’s vibrant scene to New York’s big bands directly transferred Cuban influence into seminal jazz developments. Collaborating with jazz icons like Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s, they created classics such as “Manteca,” which blended intricate Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz’s spontaneity to forge the Latin jazz subgenre.

Chano Pozo, another monumental figure and Cuban percussionist, became renowned through his innovative work with Gillespie. Pozo’s integration of complex Afro-Cuban rhythms into pieces like “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo” revolutionized modern jazz, paving the way for further collaborations between Cuban musicians and American jazz artists.

Machito, born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, also significantly influenced the New York jazz scene. Leading his band, the Afro-Cubans, Machito introduced authentic Afro-Cuban sounds to a broader American audience. His performances and recordings throughout the 1940s and 1950s played a crucial role in popularizing Latin jazz, making him a central figure in the genre’s development. His collaboration with both Bauzá and musicians like Gillespie helped fuse the rhythmic complexity of Cuban music with the harmonic sophistication of jazz, enriching the musical tapestry of America.

Cuban Instruments Meet Jazz

Cuban percussion instruments like congas/tumbadoras, bongos, and timbales have deeply influenced jazz’s textural and rhythmic landscape. Congas added depth with their resonant tones and complex syncopations, while bongos introduced high-pitched, sharp sounds that enhanced rhythmic dialogue within ensembles. Timbales’ crisp, aggressive accents enriched the percussive spectrum, particularly in big band and Latin jazz settings.

These instruments were pivotal in integrating Afro-Cuban rhythms into jazz, as evidenced by the collaborations between jazz icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban percussionists like Chano Pozo. Their partnership expanded jazz’s rhythmic foundation and encouraged a broader incorporation of Latin elements into jazz, influencing generations of musicians and shaping the genre’s evolution.

Conclusion: Celebrating Cuban Music in Jazz

It is crucial to acknowledge and honor the profound impact of Cuban music on jazz as we celebrate International Jazz Day. The musical dialogues between Havana, New Orleans, and New York have enriched jazz and underscored the music’s capacity to act as a conduit for cultural exchange. Cuban music’s contributions to jazz—from rhythm and instrumentation to innovative collaborations—have indelibly shaped the genre, highlighting the power of music to transcend geographical and cultural boundaries.

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Join us in January 2025 for the Havana Jazz Festival, the biggest celebration of jazz in Cuba!

The Jazz Plaza Festival, Cuba’s most significant music event, showcases a blend of renowned and emerging artists from across the globe. Past festivals have featured legendary performances by icons like Chucho Valdés, David Weckl, Arturo O’Farril, Snarky Puppy, Aaron Goldberg, Dayramir Gonzalez, Emmet Cohen, Brenda Navarrete, Alain Pérez, Interactivo, Alejandro Delgado, Oliver Valdés, Los Van Van, Hector Quintana, Muñequitos de Matanzas, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, alongside stars like Cimafunk and the vibrant Pedrito Martinez.

We invite you to join us and experience the pinnacle of jazz in Cuba with our Havana Jazz Festival Tour. This tour is designed for the ultimate VIP experience by professional musicians and musicologists from Cuba and the United States. It is tailored for those who truly appreciate music and wish to explore it deeply.

Click here for more info about our Havana Jazz Festival Tour 2025.

Cuban Music Festivals

(Updated April 2024)
By Chaz Chambers (Musician, Tour Guide Leader, and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

Cuba and its capital, Havana, have a reputation for being one of the world’s foremost musical hotspots. The city is alive with music, from the narrow alleys and balconies to the blasting speakers in cars, as well as in the hottest venues and dance floors. However, just because music is everywhere doesn’t mean we should miss out on the amazing opportunity to explore the unique music festivals in Havana.

Each music festival in Havana has its own distinct flavor and offers a variety of Cuban music with an international twist. We invite you to check out our list of the top 5 most popular music festivals in Havana, where you’re sure to find something that you’ll love and appreciate.

5. Josone Music Festival in Varadero

The Josone Music Festival is a highly anticipated event that brings together a diverse range of music genres. It is a popular festival known for its specialization in Cuban Jazz, Son, and Rumba. It features a lineup of famous Cuban orchestras like Isaac Delgado, Los Van Van, Havana D’ Primera, Alain Pérez, etc., as well as dancers and international DJs. The festival takes place in the picturesque Josone Park in the beach city of Varadero in Matanzas province.

The festival offers an immersive musical experience with two stages that host performances from the afternoon until late at night. The main stage is situated in the center of the park and is the primary location for the festival’s headline acts. The second stage, located near the lake, provides a more intimate setting for performances. Various food and beverage vendors and local artisans displaying their crafts complement the festival’s musical program. Attendees can sample a range of traditional Cuban dishes and beverages while enjoying the music.

Overall, the Josone Music Festival is a must-attend event for anyone interested in experiencing the vibrant Cuban music scene and also enjoying one of the best beaches in the world, Varadero Beach. Its unique blend of genres and lively atmosphere make it a one-of-a-kind festival that should not be missed.

More info about our festival tour here.

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

Let’s dive into the exciting world of percussion! The Fiesta del Tambor is a must-attend event for all percussion enthusiasts, as it offers an exceptional opportunity to participate in the biggest drum party on the island. The festival, which has been in operation for more than 20 years, is organized by the renowned Cuban percussionist Giraldo Piloto, and it attracts some of the best percussionists, drummers, and musicians from both international and local scenes.

But that’s not all! The festival is a feast for the senses, as it is filled with Cuban music bands, various dance groups, folklore jazz compositions, and even drum masterclasses and cultural events. You will have the chance to witness and experience the richness of Cuban culture, music, and art in every aspect.

The festival celebrates drums and everything related to them. From traditional Cuban rhythms to modern beats, it has it all. The greatest percussionists and drummers will be accompanied by the best dance groups and musicians, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone who attends.

So, if you’re a percussion enthusiast or someone who loves music and culture, don’t miss out on this opportunity to attend the Fiesta del Tambor. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the world of drums and to celebrate the beauty of Cuban heritage, art, and music.

More info about our festival tour here.

3. Havana RPM – The Vinyl Music Festival in Cuba

Next on our list is the young Havana RPM Music Festival, an extraordinary celebration of vinyl music. It’s a cultural landmark event created and organized by Guampara Music, 𝐂𝐮𝐛𝐚’𝐬 𝟏𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐚𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐛𝐚𝐧 𝐥𝐚𝐛𝐞𝐥. The Festival brings together enthusiasts, artists, and storytellers from across the globe, all united by their passion for vinyl. This isn’t just any music festival – it’s a heartfelt tribute to the timeless allure of vinyl.

Over the course of two days, the event gathers a community of vinyl collectors, music enthusiasts, and those curious about the world of records. You’ll have the chance to attend thought-provoking discussions on the evolution of discography in Cuba, the unique role of vinyl in DJ culture, and the empowering connection between women and vinyl.

You’ll also get to explore captivating exhibitions featuring sound-inspired posters by artists like Pepe Menéndez, and a marketplace full of vinyl, equipment, accessories, and crafts. This is your chance to find that rare gem of a record or appreciate the intersection of visual art and music.

The Havana RPM is all about enjoying the exciting world of vinyl records, celebrating vinyl music and the tradition of record collecting, and immersing ourselves in the energetic atmosphere of Cuba’s contemporary music scene. You will be able to participate in Sunset and Main Shows at Stage 45RPM and Stage 33RPM, featuring international and national DJs as well as invited bands.

More info about our festival tour here.


2. Havana
Salsa Festival

Dancing has been around for thousands of years and is a form of expression that has captivated people of all ages and cultures. The International Havana Salsa Festival is focused on salsa-dancing lovers. With a wide variety of styles to choose from, including Casino dance (a style of Cuban salsa), ChaChaChá, Rumbatón, Timba, and many more, there is something for everyone.

The International Havana Salsa Festival is not only about dance, but it also combines the most relevant music orchestras from all over Cuba, including famous bands. The festival organizers have announced the line-up for the 2023 edition, which was specifically picked by the audience through an online vote. The line-up includes Alexander Abreu y Havana D´Primera, Pupy y los que Son Son, Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son, Elito Revé y su Charangón, Enrique Alvarez y su Charanga Latina, Lazarito Valdez y Bamboleo, Maikel Blanco y su Salsa Mayor, Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco, Alain Pérez, Isaac Delgado, El Niño y la Verdad, and Los Van Van orchestra.

If you decide to go to the Havana Salsa Fest, Havana Music Tours provides you with VIP passes, allowing you to experience the festival from the very front and more. Every night, you’ll be surrounded by music around the magical city of Havana, including the festival concerts and a premium music schedule outside this event. As a team of musicians and musicologists who have been working within the Cuban music scene for years, we are committed to curating unique experiences within the Cuban musical realm. So, join us to experience the best Cuban music and dance!

More info about our festival tour here.

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

The Havana International Music Festival is a highly respected annual event that has been held in Cuba for many years. This festival is considered one of the country’s most important and popular music events, attracting many music enthusiasts and performers from all over the world.

The festival is known for showcasing diverse musical styles, including traditional Cuban music, jazz, classical, and contemporary music. It provides a platform for both established and emerging artists to perform and gain exposure to a wider audience.

Over the years, the festival has featured performances from many renowned artists such as Omara Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Chucho Valdés, Telmary, Joe Lovano, Snarky Puppy, Aaron Goldberg, Dayramir Gonzalez, Emmet Cohen, Brenda Navarrete, Alain Pérez, Interactivo, Alejandro Delgado, Oliver Valdés, Los Van Van, Hector Quintana, Muñequitos de Matanzas, Pedrito Martinez, Cimafunk, Ruy López-Nussa, Dave Weckl, Horacio Hernández (El Negro), Habana de Primera, Rumbatá, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and much more!. It has also provided a platform for many up-and-coming artists to showcase their talents and gain recognition.

Attending the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival is a must for any music lover and a great way to experience the rich and diverse musical culture of Cuba.

More info about our festival tour here.

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

Welcoming You to a Celebration Like No Other:

Prepare to enter the lively and heartwarming atmosphere of Cuban music with the much-anticipated Havana Salsa Festival 2024. From the 20th to the 26th of February, the historic and breathtaking avenues of Havana will transform into a stage for a grand celebration that captures the essence of Cuba’s rich musical heritage. This festival isn’t just an event; it’s a profound expression of Cuba’s spirited culture, offering a deep dive into the world of traditional Cuban music. It stands out for its homage to ‘son’ and ‘timba,’ ensuring a paradise for every salsa aficionado.

An Exquisite Line-Up Awaits You:

With a tradition of featuring Cuba’s most influential music orchestras, the festival’s 2023 roster, chosen by the loving votes of the audience, brought together stars such as Alexander Abreu y Havana D’Primera and the legendary Los Van Van orchestra. 2024 promises to elevate this legacy, setting the stage for nights filled with captivating performances that are the very heartbeat of Cuban music.

Confirmed performers for the event include renowned acts like Los Van Van, Monika Mesa, Mayito Rivera, Manolín el Médico de la Salsa, Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco, Alain Pérez, Haila, Iván el hijo de Teresa, David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera, and many others. Dance classes will be led by famous instructors such as Maykel Fonts, Yanet Fuentes, Fredy Clan, and Jennyselt Galata. The festival will also feature prominent international DJs, DJ Massimo Roger Greco and DJ El Ratón Rabioso, to celebrate Cuban music further.

The Exclusive Havana Music Tour Salsa Fest Experience:

Our VIP Havana Salsa Festival Tour is crafted with the utmost attention to detail, ensuring an experience that goes beyond attending the festival—it’s about living and breathing every vibrant moment. Here’s why our tour is an unparalleled choice:

  • Unique Musical Insights: Guided by a team of passionate musicians and musicologists, we offer exclusive experiences that offer a deeper understanding of Cuban music, from intimate live studio sessions to being front and center at mesmerizing folkloric performances.
  • Cultural Immersion at Its Finest: Our tour extends beyond music, encompassing salsa dance lessons in the heart of Havana, engaging walking tours, and a journey through Cuba’s best culinary offerings. Experience dining at renowned spots like Atelierband El Del Frente, where the essence of Cuban cuisine comes to life.
  • Unmatched Comfort and Style: We provide a selection of accommodations, from nice villas to deluxe hotels, ensuring your stay is both comfortable and memorable.
  • Personalized Attention: With bilingual musicians and tour guides from both Cuba and the U.S., we guarantee an experience that’s genuine, enriching, and attentive to every detail.

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The Adventure of a Lifetime Awaits You:

The Havana Salsa Festival Tour 2024 extends an exclusive invitation to discover Cuba in its most genuine and musically enriched form. From the thrilling beats of salsa to the warm embrace of Cuban hospitality, this tour is set to be an unforgettable journey. With the festival just around the corner, there’s still time to secure your spot in this extraordinary celebration of music and culture. Book now, and let the adventure begin. Click here for more info.

Havana Music Tours’ 2024 Cuba Tours: A Ouray of Experiences Awaiting You!

Hello, music enthusiasts! At Havana Music Tours, we are gearing up for an extraordinary 2024, packed with tours that are more than just trips – they celebrate Cuba’s music and culture. Forget the clichés; we’re here to offer you a genuine, warm, and professionally crafted journey into the heart of Cuba’s musical landscape. Let’s take a tour through our upcoming adventures, shall we?

1. Havana Jazz Plaza Festival 2024 (January 21st- 29th, 2024)

As the new year unfolds, the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival awaits you. This is where Jazz meets Latin rhythms in an electrifying environment. Set in Havana’s heart with parallel events in Santiago de Cuba, the festival features performances in iconic theaters and is a confluence of jazz, rumba, and Latin fusion, creating a mosaic of unforgettable musical moments.

2. Havana Music & Cultural Tour (February 7th-11th, 2024 & April 2nd-6th, 2024)

This five-day experience in December 2023 is a tribute to vinyl music culture and includes visits to Havana’s iconic music venues. Think vibrant Fabrica de Arte Cubano evenings, insightful conversations with local musicians, and getting up close with the unique rhythm of Havana.

3. Havana Salsa Festival Tour 2024 (February 20th-26th, 2024)

Feel the heat of Cuban salsa in February with our Havana Salsa Festival Tour. This is where ‘son’ and ‘timba’ come alive in the streets of Havana. Club 500 in Vedado becomes a sprawling space for music and dance, offering you an authentic taste of Cuban music and rhythm.

4. Santiago Music & Cultural Tour 2024 (March 28th – April 1st)

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Spring in Santiago de Cuba is a spectacle of music and culture. Our Santiago Music & Cultural Tour takes you through the streets of this historic city and the rich musical heritage of Guantánamo Province. You’ll enjoy performances from Grammy Award-winning groups and delve into the depths of Cuba’s musical heart. This tour is an opportunity to connect with the Cuban soul, taste the local cuisine, and enjoy the comfort of staying in a Casa de Renta.

5. The Drummer’s Cuba Tour: Percussion Festival 2024- Fiesta del Tambor (March 7th – 11th, 2024)

Fiesta del Tambor, the drum party, is Cuba’s annual Percussion festival. This Cuba Percussion Festival features some of the greatest drummers, percussionists, and other musicians from all over Cuba and the world. This is the perfect mix for a
music tour of Cuba. We will be immersed in Cuban music and drumming the entire trip! If you are a drummer or musician, YOU HAVE TO GO! Not a musician? No worries, it will still be a blast! Lots of dancing, good music, and food.

6. VIP Music Tour of Cuba (April 7th-13th, 2024)

Our 7-day VIP Music Tour in April is the perfect fit for those seeking luxury and exclusivity. It combines the elegance of Havana with the tranquility of Viñales Valley. Expect front-row seats at Havana’s most thrilling performances, serene moments in Viñales, and a stay at the sumptuous Hotel Grand Aston.

7. Cuban Jazz and Rumba Tour 2024 (February 2024, TBD)

Experience the lineage of Cuban music, its evolution, and the interplay between Jazz and Rumba, all tailored for the passionate Jazz and Cuban music enthusiast. This tour is a blend of traditional Cuban rhythms with contemporary jazz. It’s a chance to meet artists like Ruly Herrera & Real Project and Roberto Fonseca, creating a rich tapestry of sounds and stories.

8. Varadero Josone Music Festival 2024 (August 2024, TBD)

In August, we take you to the scenic Josone Park in Varadero for the Varadero Josone Music Festival. Here, the backdrop of stunning beaches sets the stage for a rich display of Rumba, Jazz, Son, and more. It’s a journey from the historic streets of Havana to the musical shores of Varadero, a complete Cuban musical spectrum.

Conclusion

2024 with HavanaMusicTours.com is set to be an unforgettable year of musical exploration in Cuba. Our tours are designed to connect you with the real Cuba – its people, music, and vibrant culture. This isn’t just another vacation; it’s a journey into the heart of Cuban music, a chance to experience its magic firsthand. Join us for a year of discovery, fun, and unforgettable musical moments. For more details and to book your spot, check out our “Musical Getaways 2024-25 Catalog” available here. Let’s make 2024 a year to remember!

What to Expect from the Havana Jazz Festival 2024

Welcome to Jazz Plaza 2024, where Havana and Santiago de Cuba transform into stages for an exhilarating blend of jazz performances, bringing together the best Cuban and global talent. As we gear up for this grand musical festival, let’s dive into what makes Jazz Plaza 2024 a must-attend event for jazz lovers worldwide.

The International Jazz Maestros

Jazz Plaza 2024 boasts an impressive lineup of international artists, each bringing unique styles to Cuba’s vibrant jazz scene. Among the headliners, we have the electrifying pianist Nachito Herrera, who seamlessly blends classical, Latin, and jazz genres, promising a dynamic and soul-stirring performance. Violin virtuoso Karen Briggs, known for her ability to transcend musical boundaries, is set to deliver a performance that’s as diverse as captivating.

And then, there’s Emmet Cohen, an American jazz pianist whose innovative approach to jazz has earned him worldwide acclaim. From the Nordic lands, the Mathias Eick Quintet and Benjamin Koppel are set to add a unique Scandinavian touch to the festival, blending smooth jazz with European sensibilities.

Adding to this stellar lineup is Cuba’s own Roberto Fonseca, a pianist whose name resonates with the essence of contemporary Cuban jazz. Fonseca, known for his charismatic blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and jazz, brings an electrifying energy to the stage. His performances are not just concerts; they’re an exploration of the rich musical landscapes of Cuba, infused with the spirit of jazz improvisation. Fonseca’s participation in Jazz Plaza 2024 is a nod to the festival’s commitment to showcasing the best Cuban jazz alongside international legends.

Cuban Rhythms and More

No Jazz Plaza festival would be complete without the rich tapestry of Cuban music. This year, we celebrate 60 years of the Original de Manzanillo and 45 years of Son 14, marking significant milestones in Cuban musical history. Additionally, Alejandro Falcón y Cubadentro will showcase their fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz, exemplifying the innovative spirit of Cuban jazz.

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Havana Jazz Plaza Festival 2019 – Performance at Teatro Nacional de Cuba

A Week of Musical Delights

Jazz Plaza 2024 spans a week filled with performances across various venues in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Each day unfolds a new chapter in the jazz saga, from tributes to jazz legends to showcases of emerging talents. Attendees can look forward to a blend of jazz styles, from traditional to contemporary, ensuring there’s something for every jazz enthusiast.

Buena Vista Social Club’s Stars Shine at Jazz Plaza 2024

An extraordinary night awaits at the Teatro Nacional Sala Covarrubias with “Estrellas de Buena Vista y más,” a showcase featuring the luminaries of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. This performance is poised to be one of the festival’s most memorable highlights.

A Gathering of Cuban Music Legends: This special event brings together a constellation of Cuban music icons, including Pancho Amat, Pedro Pablo Gutiérrez, Javier Zalba, and Lázaro Jorge Villa Morgan, among others. Each artist carries the legacy of Buena Vista Social Club, known worldwide for their profound impact on Cuban music. Accompanied by guests like the renowned Alain Pérez and María Victoria, the evening promises a blend of son, bolero, danzón, and more, creating a tapestry of sounds that embody the soul of Cuba.

This performance is a tribute to the enduring spirit of Cuban music and a testament to its ongoing evolution. It’s an opportunity for festival-goers to experience the richness of Cuban musical heritage brought to life by the very artists who have shaped its course.

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Omara Portuondo

Why Attend Jazz Plaza 2024?

Jazz Plaza 2024 is more than just a festival; it’s a cultural experience. It’s where the soul of jazz meets the heart of Cuban music, creating an exhilarating and deeply moving ambiance. Whether you’re a jazz purist or a casual music lover, this festival promises unforgettable moments set against the backdrop of Cuba’s rich cultural heritage.

Stay tuned for more updates, and get ready to dive into the world of the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival 2024!

For more info, check out our Havana Jazz Festival Tour page.

Tour Release

Explore the Heartbeat of Cuba: Havana Music & Cultural Tour feat. Havana RPM Vinyl Music Festival 2024

Welcome to a musical journey like no other, set in the vibrant streets of Havana, Cuba. This November 2024, we invite you to join us for the Havana Music & Cultural Tour, a unique blend of rhythm, culture, and the joy of vinyl music. The inaugural Havana RPM Vinyl Music Festival is highlighting our journey, proudly presented by Guampara Music, Cuba’s pioneering independent record label.

A Tour Through Havana’s Musical Soul

The Havana Music & Cultural Tour is your gateway to the soul of Cuban music and culture.

Stroll Through Historic Havana

Take a leisurely walk through Old Havana, where history and artistry meet. Engage with local artists, discover hidden craft stores, and learn about the musical evolution that has shaped Cuba.

Taste the Authentic Flavors of Cuba

Indulge in the rich flavors of Cuban cuisine at some of the city’s finest paladares. Enjoy moments of culinary delight, and share stories and laughter with fellow travelers.

Move to the Rhythms of Cuba

Whether you’re a dance enthusiast or just looking to enjoy the music, there are plenty of opportunities to move to the rhythms of Cuban music and feel the joy it brings.

A Celebration of Vinyl: Havana RPM Festival

The Havana RPM Vinyl Music Festival stands out as a heartfelt tribute to the timeless allure of vinyl. Over the course of two days, the festival gathers a community of vinyl collectors, music enthusiasts, and those curious about the world of records.

Engaging Conversations and Insightful Discussions

Join us for thought-provoking discussions on the evolution of discography in Cuba, the unique role of vinyl in DJ culture, and the empowering connection between women and vinyl. Gain valuable insights from speakers like Leydi Marrero and Rafael Valdivia, who bring their passion and knowledge to the forefront.

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Art, Vinyl, and Everything In-Between

Wander through captivating exhibitions featuring sound-inspired posters by Pepe Menéndez, and explore a marketplace brimming with vinyl, equipment, accessories, and crafts. This is your chance to find that rare gem of a record or appreciate the intersection of visual art and music.

 

Live Music That Resonates

Feel the energy as the festival stages come to life with Sunset Shows and Main Shows at Stage 45RPM and Stage 33RPM. Groove to the beats of International and National DJs and experience the vibrant performances of invited bands.

Be Part of Something Special

If you love music, are curious about vinyl, and desire to experience the warmth of Cuban culture, the CUBA CULTURAL TOUR FEATURING HAVANA RPM MUSIC FESTIVAL 2024, November 27th – December 3rd, 2024, is for you. Join us for this special journey and create memories that will last a lifetime.

For booking and more information, please visit our tour page.

Havana RPM Vinyl Music Festival - Havana Music Tours Promo

Let’s Set the Scene

Dates: September 13th-17th, 2023, featuring “Jazz Emprende” music event at Fábrica de Arte Cubano, Havana, Cuba.

Picture yourself strolling through the sun-kissed roads of Old Havana, sensing the age-old cobblestones under your soles. The melodious salsa rhythms from a nearby window and the vivid hues from the buildings fill your senses with joy. This could become a reality for you in September.

Why Join Us On This Adventure?

It’s Just Us: Intimate and Cozy

Our journey will be more than just a typical tourist experience. By limiting our group to only eight spots, we’ll have the opportunity to create a more intimate and personal journey among friends. We’ll have the chance to make a more intimate and personal journey among friends.

Nightly Jam Sessions

Imagine yourself with a refreshing mojito in hand, swaying to the rhythms of live jazz under the Havana moon at renowned spots like Fangio Habana and La Zorra y el Cuervo.

Culinary Love Affair

During our trip, we plan to dine at some of the best Cuban Paladars. Our list includes El Del Frente, La Tierra, and El Cocinero. These restaurants are known for their unique combination of classic Cuban flavors and modern culinary techniques. We’re thrilled to taste their signature dishes, including ropa vieja, tropical ceviche, family-style black beans and white rice, lechón asado, and more, including vegan/vegetarian options.

Step into the Studio: Your Private Concert

Imagine this: you, in a sunlit Old Havana studio, as a Latin-Jazz ensemble treats you to a session that feels like it’s just for you. It’s raw, intimate, and unforgettable.

The Cherry on Top: Jazz Emprende Music Event

This event offers a unique atmosphere that blends the style of a TED talk conference with a jazz lounge. Attendees will have the chance to network with the talented Italian rhythm artist Aldo Mazza and the soulful musician from Parisian jazz, Sebastien Videl. The ambiance is incredibly cool, making it the perfect place to immerse yourself in an electrifying yet smooth environment.

The event boasts an impressive lineup of legendary musicians, including Ruly Herrera & Real Project from Cuba, who bring a fresh wave of Cuban jazz with snappy drums and infectious rhythms. Roberto Fonseca, a Cuban pianist, expertly dances his fingers along the piano keys, captivating the audience with mesmerizing tunes. Eme Alfonso, also from Cuba, has a soulful and ethereal voice that is pure magic to the ears. The United States Robert Glasper is a true maestro who effortlessly blends jazz and R&B in a heartfelt embrace. Lastly, Crystal Murray from France has a silky, fresh, and downright hypnotic voice will leave you yearning for more.

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The Itinerary Outline: Your Perfect 5 Days in Havana

Day 1: Warm Welcomes, Music and Cuban Cocktails

Day 2: Uncover the Secrets of Old Havana and the majesty of Cuban Music during Jazz Emprende Concerts

Day 3: Engage and Get Inspired at Jazz Emprende Events

Day 4: Your Day, Your Way & A Farewell Fiesta

Day 5: One Last Cuban Coffee, then Homeward Bound

Dive into the Full Details Here

The Last Word

Crafted with love by musician’s dreamers, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill vacation. It’s your gateway into the pulsating heart of Cuba.

Ready to swap your routine for some rhythm? Mark those calendars for September 2023. Come make memories with us.

For reservations and more information, visit our website or contact us at email.

What You Should Know About the Varadero Josone Music Festival? + Bonus Playlist

Discover the Varadero Josone Music Festival: “Rumba, Jazz, Son,” an epic musical journey that promises to transport you to the heart of Cuban music. Set in the stunning Josone Park, near the pristine beaches of Varadero, this festival guarantees an unforgettable experience. This blog post will tell you everything you need to know about this sensational event.

Experiencing the vibrant Cuban music scene firsthand.

This highly anticipated event usually features an impressive lineup of world-class performers, including Alexander Abreu y Havana D’ Primera, Isaac Delgado y su Orquesta, and Alain Pérez y La Orquesta, among others. From soulful melodies to irresistible beats, this festival promises to deliver an unforgettable musical experience showcasing the best of Cuban music, culture, and talent. 

A Blend of Musical Genres

Varadero Josone Music Festival showcases the lively pulse of Cuban music, from rumba to jazz and son. One of the most exciting aspects of the Varadero Josone Music Festival is the fusion of sounds that mesmerizes audiences. The festival invites artists worldwide to collaborate with Cuban musicians, creating a unique and unforgettable experience. From the infectious energy of rumba to the improvisational brilliance of jazz and the timeless allure of son, the festival celebrates the universal language of music.

Experience the Beauty and Culture of Cuba

The festival not only presents an opportunity to indulge in music but also provides a chance to submerge oneself in Cuba’s breathtaking splendor and opulent heritage. Varadero’s pristine beaches, adorned with soft, white sand and glistening turquoise waters, create a tropical haven that visitors will undoubtedly find arduous to leave. 

What to Expect at Varadero Josone Music Festival 2023

The Third Varadero Josone Music Festival is all set to take place from August 21st to 27th. This year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with a diverse lineup of over 20 invited groups from around the world, including Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the United States, Venezuela, and various provinces in Cuba. The festival’s expansion to the city of Matanzas brings new dimensions to the experience, with performances at the iconic Teatro Sauto, a National Monument.

Prepare to be awed by the diverse range of performances at the upcoming festival. The selection has been thoughtfully chosen to satisfy various preferences. The Varadero Josone Music Festival 2023 is set to be an exultant commemoration of EGREM’s 60th anniversary and Matanzas’ 330-year landmark, providing an opulent and varied cultural affair for all participants. Every attendee can look forward to a truly enriching and engaging experience filled with captivating music and diverse artistic expressions.

Conclusion

The Varadero Josone Music Festival is a must-attend event for music enthusiasts. From the captivating performances of acclaimed Cuban artists to the blend of musical genres, the festival guarantees a one-of-a-kind and memorable experience. So pack your bags and let the Varadero Josone Music Festival transport you to a world of melody, passion, and cultural richness. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable event – book your trip now!

More Tour Information: Varadero Josone Music Festival Tour 2023 

Bonus Playlist Varadero Josone Music Festival 2023 – Playlist by Havana Music Tours

To get you in the mood for the Varadero Josone Music Festival, we’ve curated a special playlist featuring some of the best tracks from the festival’s lineup. From classic Cuban rhythms to contemporary jazz fusion, this playlist will give you a taste of the incredible musical journey that awaits you at the festival. So grab your headphones and get ready to groove to the infectious beats of Cuba! Check out the playlist on Havana Music Tours Spotify profile now.

Varadero Josone Music Festival 2023 – Playlist by Havana Music Tours

 

Havana Jazz Festival

Are you a jazz enthusiast looking to immerse yourself in the vibrant Cuban music scene? Look no further than the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival. This annual event brings together some of the world’s most talented jazz musicians for unforgettable performances in the heart of Havana. In this post, we’ll provide a complete guide to the festival, packed with insider tips and must-see attractions to help you make the most of your visit.

The Havana Jazz Festival 

The Havana Jazz Festival, also known as the International Jazz Plaza Festival, celebrates Cuban jazz’s rich history and culture. Held annually for over 35 years, the festival features an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary jazz styles, showcasing both Cuban and international musicians.

But what exactly can you expect from the festival? Here are some additional details to help you plan your trip:

Dates: The Havana Jazz Plaza Festival typically occurs in January, but exact dates can vary yearly. We recommend checking with a Havana Music Tours team member to confirm the dates before booking your travel. More info here!

Venues: The festival takes place across various venues in Havana, including theaters, clubs, and outdoor stages. Some popular venues include Teatro Mella, Teatro Nacional de Cuba, and Casa de la Cultura de Plaza. Check the festival schedule for a complete list of venues and performances, usually released one to two weeks before the festival.

Tickets: Due to the high demand, getting access to the festival can be challenging if you’re on your own. We recommend booking a curated festival tour with a well-crafted itinerary and concert selection by musicians and musicologists. Havana Music Tours provides an excellent selection of tours and tickets for the festival. For more information, visit havanamusictours.com.

Festival Highlights: The festival is packed with diverse performances, workshops, and jam sessions. Some of the festival’s must-see attractions include the national theater concerts, the Late Night Music at Casa de la Cultura, and the rumba shows in Jardines del Mella.

International Jazz Colloquium: In addition to the music performances, the festival also hosts an international jazz colloquium where scholars, musicians, and fans can gather to discuss jazz music and its impact on society.

Traveler Tips 

Navigating Havana can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. To help make your trip as smooth as possible, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Accommodations: Since the festival takes place across various venues in Havana, staying in the city center (Vedado, Centro Habana, or Habana Vieja) is recommended to be closer to the action. Havana has plenty of hotels and guesthouses, but book in advance as the festival is a popular event. Havana Music Tours provides an excellent selection of accommodations. To find out more, email us at info@havanamusictours.com.

Getting Around: Havana is a bustling city with plenty of transportation options. Taxis and buses are readily available, but you can rent a classic car or bike to explore the city if you’re feeling adventurous. Make sure to check prices first with your local guide or host. You can download an offline map like Maps.me to help you walk around the city. 

Other Jazz Spots in Havana: While the Havana Jazz Festival is the main attraction, Havana is home to many other jazz spots worth checking out. Some popular ones include La Zorra y el Cuervo, a well-known jazz club that hosts nightly performances, and Café Miramar, a restaurant featuring live jazz music on weekends. Other new venues include Bar H, El Antonia, Fangio Habana, and El Ecléctico.

Here are some additional Cuba travel tips to make your trip to the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival even more enjoyable:

  1. Try the local food: Cuba is known for its delicious cuisine, and Havana is no exception. Make sure to try some of the local dishes, such as ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, and tostones. Street vendors also sell delicious snacks like churros and empanadas.
  2. Learn some Spanish: While many people in Havana speak English, knowing some Spanish will make your trip much more enjoyable. Not only will it help you communicate with locals, but it will also allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture fully.
  3. Explore Havana: While the festival is a highlight of any trip to Havana, there is so much more to see and do in the city. Take some time to explore Havana’s historic Old Town, visit the famous Malecon seafront, or take a tour of the city in a classic car. 
  4. Bring cash: While some places in Havana might accept credit cards, most don’t. Make sure to bring plenty of cash with you. We encourage you to consult with your local guide or host for more up-to-date information about money and currency exchanges in Cuba.

By following these tips and making the most of your time in Havana, you can fully experience the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival and everything else this vibrant city offers.

In conclusion, the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival is a must-visit event for any jazz lover or music enthusiast. With its talented performers, diverse venues, and lively atmosphere, the festival offers an unforgettable experience for visitors worldwide. By planning your trip in advance, taking advantage of local resources, and immersing yourself in the local culture, you can make the most of your trip to Havana and create memories that will last a lifetime.

More info on our TOUR PAGE:

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.