Tag Archive for: Tours to Cuba

Tour Release

Explore the Heartbeat of Cuba: Havana Music & Cultural Tour feat. Havana RPM Vinyl Music Festival 2023

Welcome to a musical journey like no other, set in the vibrant streets of Havana, Cuba. This December 2023, we invite you to join us for the Havana Music & Cultural Tour, a unique blend of rhythm, culture, and the joy of vinyl music. Highlighting our journey is the inaugural Havana RPM Vinyl Music Festival, 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.

guampara music building - Havana RPM Vinyl festival 2023 511 - Art Exhibition

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 have a love for music, a curiosity about vinyl, and a desire to experience the warmth of Cuban culture, the Havana Music & Cultural Tour, December 20th – 24th, 2023, 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

Tour Release

Today, as we honor Cuban Culture Day, we’re thrilled to introduce our Santiago de Cuba Music and Cultural Tour, March 27th-31st, 2024. Santiago de Cuba, often referred to as the cradle of Cuban music, holds a special place in the heart of our nation’s cultural tapestry. Nestled in a remote corner of Cuba, Santiago boasts an authenticity that is both rare and captivating.

With Havana Music Tours, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Santiago de Cuba’s rich musical heritage, guided by our expert musician team. Over five unforgettable days, you’ll connect with the soul of Santiago, experiencing its vibrant rhythms, historic landmarks, and the warmth of its traditions. From the iconic Casa de la Trova and Salón del Son to the Grammy Award-Winning performances of Septeto Santiaguero and the UNESCO-recognized Tumba Francesa La Caridad de Oriente, every moment promises to be a feast for the senses.

Conga de los Hoyos, Santiago de Cuba 2023 – Havana Music Tours

But it’s not just about the music. Santiago’s culinary scene is a delightful journey in itself. Relish meals at renowned spots like Restaurante La Cabaña and Restaurante El Madrileño. As the sun sets, let Santiago’s nightlife enchant you with performances that resonate with the city’s deep-rooted musical legacy.

Beyond the music and food, Santiago’s history is a testament to its significance in Cuban culture. With visits to places like the Conservatorio de Música Esteban Salas and a day trip to Guantánamo guided by historian Jesús Cuenca, you’ll gain insights into the city’s storied past.

Sala Dolores, Santiago de Cuba 2023 – Havana Music Tours

So, as we celebrate Cuban Culture Day, we invite you to join us on this special journey to Santiago de Cuba. Let’s come together to honor the rhythms, flavors, and stories that make Cuban culture so beautifully unique.

Discover more about this exciting tour and book your spot: Santiago de Cuba Music and Cultural Tour 2024

Happy Cuban Culture Day! 🎉🇨🇺

Cuba Travel Licenses for Americans

 

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

Support for the Cuban People is one of the most popular and legal general licenses under the US Treasury Department for United States Citizens to travel to Cuba. But it’s not the only one. There are 11 licenses for travel to Cuba, so let’s make this simple for you.

*The OFAC licenses you could easily use to travel to Cuba are highlighted in bold.

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalistic activity
  4. Professional research and professional meetings
  5. Educational activities
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. Support for the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.

Professional research and professional meetings License

Depending on what you do for a living or what you want to do for a living (professionally) you can travel to Cuba to meet with people and certain organizations to further research your work or your future work. For example… I am a professional drummer and a tour operator owner. I can travel to Cuba under this license and meet with musicians, musical institutes, travel agencies, etc. I can also do research by going out to music venues and researching music culture, rhythms, styles, etc. Check out this video I made on my VLOG talking about this license and if Americans can go to the beach in Cuba.

Educational activities License

Group People to People is the preferred license for U.S. travelers but must be accomplished with an organized and legal tour operator, like us!

Here are the rules from OFAC:

  • “Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may not travel to Cuba to engage in “people-to-people” educational exchanges on an individual basis.  However, group people-to-people travel is generally authorized for educational activities, subject to certain conditions.  Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended 31 CFR § 515.565(b) to authorize group people-to-people educational travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, provided such travelers are accompanied by an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization.  Travel-related transactions authorized pursuant to § 515.565(b) must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and will result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.”

Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

This license that you will almost never hear a travel agency talking about. Mostly because it is almost impossible for them to facilitate these sorts of activities. I think this is also what makes our tour company unique and how we deal with music, music festivals, and musicians. Most of our travel will now include this license and its activities along with the Support for the Cuban people license. This license is also freer than other licenses to travel to Cuba. As in, there is no requirement for a full-time itinerary. Though we still maintain a full-time itinerary for our tours, it isn’t particularly necessary. Here is the information directly from OFAC:

  • (a) General license for amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are directly incident to participation in athletic competitions in Cuba by amateur or semi-professional athletes or athletic teams, or organization of such competitions, are authorized, provided that:
  • (1) The athletic competition in Cuba is held under the auspices of the international sports federation for the relevant sport;
  • (2) The U.S. participants in the athletic competition are selected by the U.S. federation for the relevant sport; and
  • (3) The competition is open for attendance, and in relevant situations, participation, by the Cuban public.
  • (b) General license for public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are directly incident to participation in or organization of a public performance, clinic, workshop, athletic competition not covered by paragraph (a) of this section, non-athletic competition, or exhibition in Cuba by participants in or organizers of such activities are authorized, provided that the event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public.
  • Example 1 to §515.567(a) and (b): An amateur baseball team wishes to travel to Cuba to compete against a Cuban team in a baseball game in Cuba. The game will not be held under the auspices of the international sports federation for baseball. The baseball team’s activities therefore would not qualify for the general license in paragraph (a). The game will, however, be open to the Cuban public. The baseball team’s activities would qualify for the general license in paragraph (b).
  • Example 2 to §515.567(a) and (b): A U.S. concert promoter wishes to organize a musical event in Cuba that would be open to the public and feature U.S. musical groups. The organizing of the musical event in Cuba by the U.S. concert promoter and the participation by U.S. musical groups in the event would qualify for the general license in paragraph (b).
  • Note 1 to §515.567(a) and (b): Each person relying on the general authorizations in these paragraphs must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§501.601 and 501.602 of this chapter for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
  • Note 2 to §515.567(a) and (b): Transactions incident to the organization of amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions include marketing related to such events in Cuba.
  • (c) An entire group does not qualify for the general license in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section merely because some members of the group qualify individually.
  • (d) Nothing in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section authorizes a direct financial transaction prohibited by §515.209.
  • (e) Specific licenses. Specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis authorizing the travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are related to public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions that do not qualify for the general licenses under paragraphs (a) or (b) of this section.

Support for the Cuban People

Don’t want to travel with Havana Music Tours? You don’t have to!! This is the license to use if you want to travel without a group to Cuba. Though you can use the others as well, this one is the most popular.

For this license, like almost all other licenses you will need a full-time itinerary, keep your receipts for 5 years, avoid spending money at places on the Cuba Restricted List, and make sure you are ACTUALLY Supporting the Cuban people. How do you do that? Buy doing business at privately owned places, like Paladares (Private Restaurants), staying in Casa Particulares (Airbnb, Bed, and Breakfast, etc), having and paying for breakfast in your casa, and generally making an itinerary that utilizes as many privately owned entities, people, businesses as possible in Cuba. Here is the OFAC license information from their website to understand more:

  • (a) General license. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people are authorized, provided that:
  • (1) The activities are of:
  • (i) Recognized human rights organizations;
  • (ii) Independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; or
  • (iii) Individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba; and
  • (2) Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:
  • (i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and
  • (ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.
  • (3) The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.
  • Note 1 to paragraph (a): Each person relying on the general authorization in this paragraph must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§501.601 and 501.602 of this chapter for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
  • Note 2 to paragraph (a): Staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) are examples of activities that qualify for this general license. However, in order to meet the requirement for a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.
  • (b) An entire group does not qualify for the general license in paragraph (a) of this section merely because some members of the group qualify individually.
  • (c) Certain direct financial transactions restricted. Nothing in paragraph (a)(1)(iii) of this section authorizes a direct financial transaction prohibited by §515.209, with the exception of transactions on behalf of a non-governmental organization.
  • (d) Specific licenses. Specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis authorizing the travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are related to support for the Cuban people that do not qualify for the general license under paragraph (a) of this section.
  • Example 1 to §515.574: An individual plans to travel to Cuba, stay in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eat at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shop at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) during his or her four-day trip. While at the casa particular, the individual will have breakfast each morning with the Cuban host and engage with the Cuban host to learn about Cuban culture. In addition, the traveler will complete his or her full-time schedule by supporting Cuban entrepreneurs launching their privately-owned businesses. The traveler’s activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Because the individual’s qualifying activities are not limited to staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) and the traveler maintains a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people, supports civil society in Cuba, and promotes the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that results in meaningful interaction between the traveler and Cuban individuals, the individual’s travel qualifies for the general license.
  • Example 2 to §515.574: A group of friends plans to travel and maintain a full-time schedule throughout their trip by volunteering with a recognized non-governmental organization to build a school for underserved Cuban children with the local community. In their free time, the travelers plan to rent bicycles to explore the streets of Havana and visit an art museum. The travelers’ trip would qualify for the general license because the volunteer activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba and constitute a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people and supports civil society in Cuba, and results in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.
  • Example 3 to §515.574: An individual plans to travel to Cuba, rent a bicycle to explore the neighborhoods and beaches, and engage in brief exchanges with local beach vendors. The individual intends to stay at a hotel that does not appear on the Cuba Restricted List (see §515.209). The traveler’s trip does not qualify for this general license because none of these activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.

I am not an attorney, so please make sure to understand all of the rules completely before traveling to Cuba. This blog is to help share correct information about traveling to Cuba. We recommend you read all of the information directly from OFAC, by clicking this link. Also, please refer to the Cuba Restricted List for a list of government entities on that you are not allowed to spend money.

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

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

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

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

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

Flights:

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

Passports:

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

Tourist Cards:

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

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

OFAC General Travel License

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

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

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

Prohibited Accommodations 

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

 

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

 

Cuba Travel Updates

New updates as of June 8th, 2022, regarding Cuba travel from the United States. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Treasury Department, authorized group People to People and Professional Research general Travel Licenses for US travelers.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to implement elements of the policy announced by the Administration on May 16, 2022 to increase support for the Cuban people. This rule authorizes group people-to-people educational travel to Cuba and removes certain restrictions on authorized academic educational activities, authorizes travel to attend or organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba, removes the $1,000 quarterly limit on family remittances, and authorizes donative remittances to Cuba. These amendments also add or update several cross references.

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Office of Foreign Assets Control / 31 CFR Part 515 / Cuban Assets Control Regulations

In the following video, Chaz Chambers (Founder and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways) explains what People-to-People Travel License is and the difference between that and Support for the Cuban people.

It is essential to mention that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) also dropped restrictions on commercial and charter flights to Cuba, including many other provinces.

Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay updated about Cuba Travel Rules.

If you are looking to travel to Cuba, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or join us on our unique music and cultural tours.

(Covid-19, Cuba tourism reopening, vaccinations, & more)

 

Hi Traveler friends,

It has been quite the journey for Cuba, the world, and all of us enduring the pandemic. While the pandemic officially continues, many countries around the world are reopening tourism in a responsible way. Cuba is one of those countries. Let’s check the newest Travel Updates.

The ministry of tourism on the Island has announced that it will open its borders to more tourism starting November 15th, 2021. See the newest entry requirements on our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist. 

Over 90% of the Cuban population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, and health officials believe over 90% will be fully vaccinated before 2022. All workers in the tourism industry in Cuba are required to have booster vaccine shots as well.

We are seeing most of Havana’s famous music venues and restaurants reopen while maintaining super-low case numbers. on November 13th, 2021 the Island had less than 300 new cases of COVID-19 and they continue to decline each day.

Cuba could become one of the safest post-pandemic destinations in all of Latin America!

We really believe that all of that is the best option for travelers to Cuba going forward. We have small groups of no more than 10 people and we are also requiring proof of vaccination. You can rest assured that all of our tour leaders and guides are also fully vaccinated.

They are ready and they need our tourism!

Book your trip today!

 

Sincerely,

Chaz Chambers (Founder/Director)
Email: Chaz@HavanaMusicTours.com
WhatsApp: 1-850-396-2855

 

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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)

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!

The life story of glory

Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, more widely known as Celia Cruz, was a famous Cuban singer and left a footprint in history as one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century. Often referred to as Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz‘s biography and history are very rich, intriguing, and full of accomplishments. Therefore, let‘s explore and discover the history of the legendary Cuban singer in 4 steps that are made simple, to take you back through one of the most illustrious music careers in Latin America‘s history.

Step 1: Early Life Footprints

According to Catalina Alfonso Ramos, her mother, Celia Cruz began singing as early as 10 months of age!

Celia Cruz was born at 47 Serrano Street in the Santos Suárez neighborhood of Havana, Cuba while her father, Simon Cruz, worked as a railway stoker and her mother was a housewife who took care of a big family of 14.

What started early continued every year for Celia Cruz. She sang practically everywhere: in school during the Fridays’ actos cívicos, in her neighborhood ensemble, Botón de Oro, and in cabarets as a teenager when her aunt took her there to perform.

Yet, still, Celia Cruz originally intended to become a literature teacher, but it was that critical victory in a
talent show where she interpreted the tango piece „Nostalgia“ in a bolero tempo that became life-changing, making her pause her studies to pursue what became an elusive music career.

celia-cruz-promo

Step 2: The Rise Of Musical Career

Her musical breakthrough started here in Cuba with her first recordings made in 1948 and 1950 when she began singing with the celebrated Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera.

Celia Cruz sang regularly in Cuba with the ensemble on radio and television, made extensive tours, compiled full-length albums, headlined Havana’s Tropicana nightclub, and even appeared in five films that were produced in Mexico.

Unfortunately, after the Cuban revolution of 1960, Havana’s nightlife came to a standstill which made her leave Cuba.

A journey that changed her life and career forever.

celia cruz and band

Step 3: Commerical Success In the USA

When the revolution started sweeping over Cuba, Sonora Matancera with Celia Cruz was touring Mexico and decided to cross into the United States instead of coming back home to Cuba. This led Cruz to become a U.S. citizen by 1961, settling in New York City while enraged Fidel Castro forbade her to return to Cuba‘s soil.

In the beginning, as expected, she was relatively unknown in a new country, with a presence only in the Cuban exile community. In the mid-1960s she started gaining exposure and momentum after joining Tito Puente Orchestra which had a strong following across Latin America.

Not only did she become the face of the group, but Cruz captivated audiences with her enthusiasm, sparkling attires, and crowd entertainment, skyrocketing her musical career into new heights that not many could have predicted, forming one of the greatest music legacies in Cuban history.

celia cruz

Step 4: Strong Legacy & Death

Celia Cruz passed away in New Jersey on July 16, 2003, at the age of 77.

Her legacy left behind still goes strong to this day, and it encompasses so many areas that she was able to touch with her fascinating 40-year musical career.

As Celia Cruz continued to perform throughout the years, she made over 75 records of which 23 went gold, winning multiple Grammy & Latin Grammy awards. But that‘s only the tip of a legacy iceberg that still floats around today, approaching 2020.

The singer made an appearance in several movies, stamped a star on the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame, and received an award of the American National Medal from President Bill Clinton. The highest recognition an artist can receive from the United States government. Cruz is remembered as one of the 20th century’s most beloved and popular Latin musicians with many tributes made for her over the years, including music schools being named after her, television series, and many many more.

However, Celia Cruz did manage to return to Cuba in 1990 after she was invited to make a presentation at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. After that, she took a few grams of earth from Cuba with her.

An epilogue in her autobiography notes that, in accordance with her wishes, Cuban soil which she had saved from a visit to Guantánamo Bay was used in her entombment. Returning her home, forever.

Image links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz#/media/File:Celia_Cruz,_1957.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz#/media/File:Celia_Cruz_y_La_Sonora_Matancera.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz#/media/File:Cruz_and_Ros-Lehtinen1992a.jpg