CUBA 50 Celebrating Cuban Culture  /  July 2019

All the latest cultural news from Cuba and events coming up around the UK


Cuba celebrates 50 years of Los Van Van and the legacy of Juan Formell

This summer Cuba celebrates 50 years of Los Van Van, their most famous dance music band formed in 1969 by bassist Juan Formell. 

“I’ve always liked to break the mould,” Juan Formell said in a interview once “I’m a nonconformist by nature and I don’t regret it.”

Led by Formell, Van Van created their own super popular but unique sound, with lyrics reflecting Cuban life using social satire and everyday popular phrases, always adapting and innovating the music and making people dance.


Santiago de Cuba Carnival 2019 in pictures 

Carnival in Santiago de Cuba was celebrated in style once again this July, on its 350th anniversary, starting with the “invasions” by the conga groups who invade nearby neighbourhoods from 15 July then the children’s parade, culminating in the full night time parades of the Congas, Paseos, other music and dance groups, personalities and floats. Enjoy a taste of this year’s carnival…


The works of Fernando Ortiz are declared National Cultural Heritage in Cuba

Fernando Ortiz’s classic work, ‘Cuban Counterpoint:Tobacco and sugar’ is recognized as one of the most important books of Latin American and Caribbean intellectual history. Ortiz’s examination of the impact of sugar and tobacco on Cuban society, though published in 1940, is crucial to contemporary postcolonial studies.


Interview with Eusebio Leal Spengler on the city of Havana's 500th birthday 

…culture has been almost a mantra of our Master Plan for the rehabilitation and restoration of the historic centre. Every development project that forgets about culture only produces decay.” Eusebio Leal, the Official Historian of the City of Havana, talks about the job of restoration of Old Havana, including creating jobs and training and renovating housing, and the project of commemorating the city's long and complicated history. artists from the island.


Nicolas Guillen, National Poet and his legacy

This July Cubans marked 30 years since the death of national poet Nicolas Guillen. "In 1930, Guillen created an international stir with the publication of “Motivos de son,” eight short poems inspired by the Son, a popular Afro-Cuban musical form, and the daily living conditions of Cuban black people. Composed in Afro-Cuban vernacular, the collection separated itself from the Spanish literary canon and established Black culture as a legitimate focus of Cuban literature."


Listen to this great 12 min radio programme from BBC Sounds with recent tracks from contemporary Cuban musicians from the world of salsa, jazz, soul, funk, hip hop and electronic beats: Alain Perez, Dayme Arocena, Yissy Garcia,  Telmary, Cimafunk and DJ Jigue.


Buy Cuban coffee, honey, chocolate 

Fresh and rich Crystal Mountain coffee, beans and ground, direct from the Escambray mountains of central Cuba, delicious honey from Matanzas and much more




Rene Alvarez & Cuban Combination at La Clave Fest, Sat 3 August, London

With Cuban Rene Alvarez leads this explosive 18 piece salsa big band, which was voted Best Tropical Act at the Lukas Awards last year in London, and headlines at this London festival of Latin American music and arts.


Havana After Dark,

5-25 August, Edinburgh

A new Cuban dance musical for hot summer nights. Starring singer Luna Manzanares, live salsa band, dancers from Acosta Danza, Ballet Nacional de Cuba and Ballet Revolucion, mixing ballet and salsa.


Dayme Arocena,

Fri 4 October, London

Singer, composer and choir director, Dayme is a bright-shining performer carrying the flame for a new generation of Cuban musicians. Approaching jazz, soul and classical influences with an innate sense of rhythm, she knows her Cuban traditions, whether rumba, changui or guaguanco, but is also an outward-looking artist finding new musical connections.  


Ariwo - Late Night Jazz at Royal Albert Hall, Thu 10 October, London

Ariwo sculpt an immersive sound world using a base of Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, carnival melodies, cosmic jazz and live electronics.

The band brings together acclaimed Iranian electronic composer, Pouya Ehsaei, Latin Grammy-winning percussion virtuoso Hammadi Valdes, important figure of London’s Cuban music scene, Oreste Noda and  jazz trumpeter, Jay Phelps.


Afro-Cuban All Stars,

Thu 24 October, Canterbury

After gaining international fame for reviving the classic sound of Cuban son, tres master Juan de Marcos turned the Afro-Cuban All Stars into a sensational showcase for Cuba’s most prodigious young musicians. The group draws on classic Cuban styles, like son and danzón, and contemporary dance rhythms like timba. “What I’m trying to do is create a bridge between contemporary and traditional Cuban music,” de Marcos has said.


RanKanKan Cuban Night,

Sat 26 October, Oxford

Ran Kan Kan team up again with charismatic Cuban dance teacher Ariel Rios, for a night of Cuban dance, with live music from the golden years of Cuban big bands.  This 24-piece Oxford based big band bring syncopated mambos, rumba and son montuno classics to dance to.


Acosta Danza: Evolution,

28 October 2019 - 11 April 2020, UK tour

With its mix of ballet and contemporary dance, Carlos Acosta’s Cuban company brings a new programme, in which Acosta himself makes a guest appearance, which includes Paysage, Soudain, la nuit by visionary Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg; the iconic Rooster, choreographed by Christopher Bruce to music by The Rolling Stones; and a new work, Satori, by breakthrough Cuban choreographer Raúl Reinoso


5th Havana Glasgow Film Festival,

12-16 November, Glasgow

This year the film festival celebrates 50 years of ICAIC – the Cuban Film Institute – with screenings of some truly classic Cuban films made by the legendary Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Fresa y Chocolate) and Jorge Perugorría (Se Vende). Mirtha Ibarra, top actor and wife of the late Alea, will visit from Cuba. Plus dance, talks and discussions.


Omar Puente & friends, 22 November, London

Cuban jazz violinist Omar Puente is performing a very special show in honour of his wife, campaigner Debbie Purdy who died in 2014. Omar will showcase work from throughout his career for solo violin, piano duo, and with his new project Classico Latino Sextet. Puente will be joined by some very special guests including pianist Alex Wilson, saxophonist Courtney Pine, trombonist Dennis Rollins plus some surprise appearances.


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