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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let‘s admit it, we all love music. And with so many different genres, sub-genres, techniques, sounds, and historical aspects, sometimes it can seem like a vast ocean, almost endless. But when it comes to Cuba, and discovering its culture, one particular style stands out as a staple of Cuban rhythm of life, heritage, and history  the soul-moving Afro-Cuban Jazz. Acknowledging the intriguing and complicated development of such music genres like Afro-Cuban jazz might not be easy, but if you‘re a music fan and want to explore Afro-Cuban jazz without hassle, then let this article create you a composition of easy history notes that you will certainly love exploring!

 

It All Starts With Deep Roots of History

 

Until the mid-20th century, clave-base Afro Cuban Jazz didn‘t appear, but that doesn‘t neglect the fact that Cuban presence and influence was there, from the very moments of the birth of jazz music. 

African-American music started to include Afro-Cuban musical motifs extensively in the 19th century when the habanera gained international popularity. 

The habanera itself was the firstever music to be written that was rhythm-based on the African motifs which are often described as the tresillo and the backbeat combination.

 

An Important Interaction With American Music

 

During the first decades of the Afro-Cuban jazz movement was much stronger in the United States compared to Cuba.

The interaction and connection between the US and Cuba isfascinating when it came to jazz music. The early jazz bands of New Orleans jazz incorporated habaneras as well, and eventually the habanera became a staple of jazz music in the 20th century.

Musicians from Havana and New Orleans traveled between both cities to perform, while Latin American melodies and dance rhythms spread through the United States, and the sound waves of American jazz made theirs towards the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Both trading, interacting, blending, and cherishing music, making jazz evolve strongly.

Formation of Cuban Jazz Bands

 

Jazz bands in Cuba started forming as early as 1920. 

These bands often showcased versatility in their repertoires, by jamming both North American jazz and Cuban pop music. But even with this diversity in their lively music, the sounds that molded Afro-Cuban rhythms, pop music and jazz together, wasn‘t enough to make their presence strong in Cuba for decades to come.

Leonardo Acosta once said, “Afro-Cuban jazz developed simultaneously in New York and Havana, with the difference that in Cuba it was a silent and almost natural process, practically imperceptible.“

But that only was until Grammy Award-winning Cuban band Irakere was born and sparked a new era in Cuban jazz that is still present to this day.

Irakere made historic innovations not only in Afro-Cuban jazz but Cuban popular dance music as well, as the band made a very wide array of percussion instruments create magic. Those instruments included maracas, claves, cencerros, tumbadoras, abuaka, arara drums and many more!

Afro-Cuban Jazz Blends It All Up

 

Afro-Cuban jazz is sometimes known as Latin jazz, but that‘s mostly because Afro-Cuban jazz is the earliest form of the Latin jazz genre. 

It is a style of music that blends and encompasses many components to craft that soulful jazz sound. From Cuban and Spanish Caribbean rhythms and percussion instruments to jazz harmonies, improvisations alongside European and African musical elements as well. 

After everything that was made and played, Afro-Cuban jazz truly emerged in the early 1940s when Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá and Frank Grillo more known by his iconic name“Machito” formed a band called Afro-Cubans in New York City. 

Machito’s music not only refined Afro-Cuban jazz but also had a tremendous effect on the lives of many musicians who played in the Afro-Cubans over the years, and on those who fell in love with the rhythms of Latin jazz because of his music.

An intersection in East Harlem is named “Machito Square” in his honor.

 

If you would like to see the best Latin and Afro-Cuban Jazz, join us on our Cuban Jazz and Rumba Tour featuring Havana Jazz Plaza (Cuba’s annual Jazz Festival)

Cuba Music Festival

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

Havana Jazz Plaza is one of the biggest music festivals in Cuba all year. It usually happens around December or January. For 2020 it will be happening January 14th-20th. Some of the most famous artists from Cuba and around the world come to perform for an international audience each year. Almost every theater and music venue in Havana will have an interactive schedule of music events, public performances, clinics, and workshops.

havana music tours jazz plaza festival picture at teatro nacional

In the past we have seen such artists as Chucho Valdes, Alain Pérez, Interactivo, Daymé, 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!

The Havana Jazz Plaza is not just Jazz, but the foundation and history is Jazz. Cuba and its musicians are very much influenced by jazz, Latin jazz, and world music. This music festival is a great example of a modern-day fusion. Usually, you can find many artists that you want to see each day and sometimes it seems there are too many options!

live latin jazz in havana cuba

Live Jazz at La Zorra y El Cuervo

The Havana Jazz Festival is organized in multiple venues all over the city and has a schedule each day full of music. Some of the best venues in Havana are available to host each concert. Venues such as Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Teatro Mella, Teatro Karl Marx, Teatro Nacional, La Zorra y El Cuervo, Bar Elegante at Hotel Riviera, Jazz Café, Casa de la Cultura, Teatro America, Cafe Teatro Bertolt Brecht, and more!

No matter if you are a fan of Latin jazz, rumba, son, or even jazz fusion, this is the festival for you. If you have never been to Cuba before and want to see the music, this is the best music event to catch many amazing artists within one week.

a picture of chucho valdez playing at havana jazz plaza

American travelers can visit Cuba with Havana Music Tours under a license for Support for the Cuban people and Public Performances, Workshops, and Clinics. Despite further regulations from the US Government it is still possible to travel legally to Cuba. Music travel to Cuba has never been easier. When you are ready, you can book your VIP Jazz Plaza pass and festival tour here.