Havana youths drumming for a dance in the streets of Old Havana

Photo: Havana Live

Beats, Steps & the Visual Arts in Cuba Today


By Shelley Seale in G Adventures

One of the most culturally rich destinations in the Caribbean, Cuba's love of music and art is renowned—and thriving.

Cuba is a melting pot of indigenous, African, European, and Asian influences. It’s a country that experienced periods of war, upheaval, and economic prosperity before its fate was changed dramatically by a revolution that isolated it from much of the world for the last half century. Cuba is truly a unique place. Its culture reflects that.

With the opening of relations with the US, and increased interest in the Caribbean nation, today’s Cuban culture is a colourful mix of old and new ready to be explored by visitors.


A Diversity of Rhythms

Born of Afro-Cuban rhythms, numerous musical forms have developed in Cuba and have gotten the whole continent dancing. Bolero, mambo, and rumba all call the island home. music is a blend of Spanish guitar with African percussion, and is the origin of salsa. In Havana, , along with other musical traditions, is alive and well. This style of music is most famously embodied in the Buena Vista Social Club, a members’ club that closed in the 1940s but enjoyed a revival with the with the 1990s band.

Several original members still perform individually worldwide, but Compay Segundo’s grandson carries on the salsa tradition on Monday and Wednesday nights at the . Classic pre-revolutionary nightlife can also be experienced at the historic , a world-renowned cabaret extravaganza of Cuban music and folklore.

Contemporary music is a fusion of salsa with rock, jazz, and hip hop. Some of the most popular modern artists are Danay Suarez, X-Alfonso, and the super-group band Interactivo, which plays at the every Wednesday night. The theatre is really a cultural centre with poetry and art alongside the music, and it’s a hip nightspot made for experiencing the modern scene in Havana.

X-Alfonso also represents the melding of multiple creative genres. Along with his music, he’s collaborated on dance and cinema projects, and is the mastermind behind the , one of the best places for live concerts, performances, and visual exhibits and a thriving hub of today’s Cuba.

For modern jazz, check out Jazz Café, oddly located in the Galerias del Paseo shopping mall. Don’t let the location put you off. Step inside and you’ll find an upscale supper club venue with performers from the legendary to young newcomers.


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Article by Shelley Seale in G Adventures

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