Havana, Cuba

Jan 05, 2018 - Harmony V

Cuba's creativity was on full display today as our explorations took us to one of Latin America's finest art museums, the offices of a leading publication focused on arts and culture, the workshop and theater of an innovative dance and music company and a private performance by one of the most legendary music ensembles in the history of popular Cuban music. And that doesn't even include the fine meals we were treated to along the way.

Our first top was Havana's Museo de Bellas Artes, a massive edifice filled with centuries of artwork by Cuban and international masters. This truly stunning collection would take days to explore in-depth, so we were tantalized with just a quick pass by some of the more notable items in the contemporary art collection. It was clear the impressive work that art has been an important cultural expression in Cuba since before and after the revolution.

After that, we visited the offices of OnCuba magazine, a groundbreaking English-language publication that is providing quality journalism and stylish presentation to local and international readers. Our meeting with the editors of the magazine enabled us to discuss important issues related to freedom of the press in Cuba, as well as other challenges and possibilities for a print and web magazine of this nature.

From there, it was off to a fantastic lunch at Abel, a paladar founded by the former director of Partagas, one of Cuba's largest cigar companies. After years of servicing high-end clientele and celebrities, Abel, the founder of the paladar, has applied his sensibilities to fine dining in a lovely old house overlooking a busy Havana street.

Our bellies full, we drove out to the Playa neighborhood in Havana's western edge, where we were treated to an impressive performance by Habana Compás, a mostly female music and dance company that explores the connections between Afro-Cuban percussion and Spanish flamenco. Filled with energy and joy, the show blew away any after-lunch tiredness we might be feeling.

After a brief rest back at Hotel Nacional, we hopped on the buses and drove over to a chic hotel where we enjoyed a dinnertime performance by Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro. A venerated ensemble founded by Piñeiro in 1927, Septeto Nacional was the first group performing Cuban son to incorporate a trumpet into their lineup. This proved to be a groundbreaking move that set the standard for son and salsa bands for decades to come. Over 90 years and four generations on, Septeto Nacional is still going strong and they had us up and dancing by the end of the meal. While our moves might not have been the best, the smiles on our faces more then made up for our inability to compete with the outstanding Cuban dancers that joined the ensemble.

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About the Author

Jacob Edgar

Cultural Specialist

Jacob Edgar is an Ethnomusicologist, world music tastemaker and global explorer with an insatiable curiosity for the diverse ways in which people express themselves through music. Jacob’s adventures have taken him to dozens of countries, and hundreds of the world’s greatest international music festivals, showcases and performance venues in search of exceptional musical talents. Since 1998, Jacob has been the main music researcher for the acclaimed world music compilations label Putumayo World Music, contributing songs and liner notes to over 300 Putumayo collections that combined have sold over 15 million copies. In 2006, Jacob founded the record label Cumbancha, whose artists include some of the top names in international music. In 2009, Jacob embarked on a new adventure as host of a new music and travel television program Music Voyager. The series invites viewers to discover the exciting sounds of the planet and broadcasts on PBS and other stations around the world. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, where he was a double major in History and Latin American Studies, Jacob conducted field research on music and society in Central America. His love of music took him to the West Coast where Jacob was awarded the Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and graduated from University of California, Los Angeles in 1994 with a Masters in Ethnomusicology.

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