Cinematheque of Cuba proposes film series tribute to Federico Fellini

Cinemateca de Cuba will hold a series of films throughout the month of January to honor the centenary of the birth of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini.

According to a note from the entity, this is the largest retrospective made in the Caribbean nation on the work of the filmmaker and will include all his feature films and some documentaries of his own.

It reveals the text that each screening will be accompanied by restored editions of the Latin American ICAIC News, the one-minute shorts Federico Fellini in Frames that record episodes of their filming or premieres.

A seasoned scriptwriter and nicknamed as the most important post-war filmmaker in his country worldwide, Fellini directed more than a score of films, among which La Strada (1954), La Dolce Vita (1960) and Amarcord (1973) stand out.

During his artistic career he won four awards granted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the Best Foreign Film section and in 1993 he won an honorary Oscar for his career.

This 2020 the Cinemateca de Cuba celebrates its 60 founding years with a varied program that plans to show restored films and chronological retrospectives that will include silent film classics.

The institution, guarantor of the conservation of the film heritage of the country and the region, will celebrate throughout the year with its usual cycle of projections for all ages and film events.

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Adrian Berazaín prepares the ground for 2020: hope does not get tired

CubaSí interviewed young Cuban singer-songwriter Adrian Berazain on New Year’s Eve: the perfect timing for brewing up projections and reunions, a change of cycle.

Was 2019 a happy year for you?

2019, well…I believe my 2019 was great, especially in Spain where I shared my music with Nasiri Lugo, Karamba Band, David Blanco, and Kamankola, as part of the Habana Alternativa project. Besides, some of my songs have reached the top really fast; for instance, the song Suelta, from the soap opera Entrega

Any challenges and plans for 2020?

Happiness will be part of my 2020 as well. We are now organizing a major concert to be held on March 7, at Karl Marx Theater where I plan to cover all the hits from every album I have made. I will share stage with star guests such as Israel Rojas and Buena Fe, David Blanco, Luna Manzanares, my very best friend Mauricio Figueiral, just to name a few.

Are you brewing up new album?

I am preparing my fourth album which, as a result of the song Suelta, will be focused on this way of writing my songs, a new path of saying, and doing arrangements. Hence, the song Suelta is like the genesis of this new album.

Will the song Suelta be included in the new album?

Of course it will be included. I have spent many years writing songs like this and I believe there is no better timing to introduce them to the world. Perhaps in a list of ten of twelve songs, you may find two or three linked to love, which is the primary subject of my work. But most of them will be worked like this, from a philosophical perspective with no politics or social problems involved.

Would you like to send a message to the Cuban people and your fans on the eve of 2020?

It is very simple: hope does not get tired and roams free.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

Cuba's National Ballet holds a gala performance

Cuba's National Ballet (BNC) celebrates this Wednesday the 61st anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution with a gala performance and the delivery of the Alicia Alonso Annual Grand Theater Award.

Havana's Great Theater, one of the oldest in Latin America, since the end of 2015 is also named after the Cuban first dancer Assoluta who died last October 17, in this capital.

The company led since the beginning of 2019 by the first dancer and current artistic assistant director Viengsay Valdes will play 'Nutcracker,' the most popular classic worldwide at the end of the year.

According to a BNC press release, the functions of that play will continue on January 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12.

The current 'Nutcracker' season in Alonso's version will exhibit in the leading roles Viengsay Valdes, Grettel Morejon, Anette Delgado, Sadaise Arencibia, Dani Hernandez, Rafael Quenedit, Adrian Sanchez, Chanel Cabrera and Claudia Garcia.

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Sing Vctor Manuelle for the first time in Cuba

The Puerto Rican salsa singer, songwriter and producer Victor Manuelle will sing for the first time in Cuba, at the V Salsa Festival in Cuba, 2020, which will take place from February 25 to March 1, at the recently inaugurated Paseo Maritimo de 1ra . and 70, in Miramar.

The Festival, which is chaired by Cuban musician Maykel Blanco, leader of the Salsa Mayor group, announces the performance of three or four concerts a day, especially that of Victor Manuelle, on the last day, whose theme Drums sound, popularized in the nation the Cuban interpreter Laritza Bacallao.

There will also be dance workshops and visits to the National School of Art and the house of maestro Adalberto Alvarez, in addition to a concert-opening dinner, at the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso.

In 2016, Victor Manuelle, was in Cuba as part of a cultural visit, in which he shared with artists such as Adalberto Alvarez, Paulo FG and Laritza Bacallao.

He also shared on the set of the television program Sonando in Cuba, with many of the young participants with whom he spoke and to whom he gave someone other than advice.

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Havana Film Festival will also see launch of books and publications

The presentation of books and magazines related to film stands out among the proposals of the 41st International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, to be held from today until December 15.

The event will make a dozen titles available to moviegoers, among them, Issue 21 of the Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano magazine, and the book 'Tribute to the 60th Anniversary of ICAIC,' by the Casa del Festival publishing house.

The book 'Santiago Alvarez: A filmmaker in Revolution,' with a prologue by National Literature Prize winner Reynaldo Gonzalez, offers an approach to the life and work of the renowned Cuban documentary filmmaker, who will be honored in this edition of the Festival on the occasion of his centenary.

In addition, 'El hombre de Maisinicu,' from the Cuban script collection, 'Cuban film billboard (1960-2017),' and 'Fifty Years of Cuban Film (1959-2008),' a compilation by Cuban critics Luciano Castillo and Mario Naito, will be presented.

Among the publishers are diciones ICAIC, Ediciones Boloña, y a las Editoriales Oriente y Letras Cubanas.

Under the slogan 'Ojos que ven' (Eyes that see), the Festival will see the screening of more than 300 films reflecting the cinematographic reality of Cuba and Latin America.

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Artist Profiles: Alexander Abreu

Alexander Abreu Manresa was born September 6, 1976 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He comes from a family of nonprofessional musicians, including his grandfather who taught him to play the tres guitar.

As a boy, he wanted to be an athlete, but his mother took him to a school that tested abilities and he got the highest scores in music. Alexander started studying trumpet at age 11 and credits his mother for inspiring him to practice and pursue his career.

Originally, Abreu wanted to give up the trumpet and take up the flute, but his teachers understood his talent and insisted, predictively, that he stick to the brass instrument. At 18, the young musician moved to Havana to continue his studies at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA), a breeding ground for Cuba’s best musicians. He graduated in 1994 and later would return as a professor, teaching trumpet.

In Havana, Abreu found himself at the focal point of the timba music upsurge that rocked Cuba in the early 1990s, marking an exciting evolution in the way Afro-Cuban dance music, or salsa, was performed. He played for six years with the innovative band of singer Paulito FG, one of the leading stars of the timba wave. Abreu’s skills were forged in this powerful ensemble, working together with two musicians he considers his greatest influences – Carmelo Andrés, his trumpet teacher; and producer/arranger Juan Manuel Ceruto. Several band-mates from this influential ensemble would go on to form part of Havana D’Primera, including Ceruto.

Abreu has also played and/or recorded with virtually every major act during one of the most exciting and creative eras in Cuban music. He was a member of the popular and esteemed band led by singer Isaac Delgado, who now lives in Miami.

Alexander Abreu

As a highly sought-after studio musician, Abreu has recorded with top acts in different styles, including famed dance band Los Van Van and powerful fusion group Irakere. He has also worked with poetic singer-songwriters such as Pablo Milanés and Amaury Pérez, who played trombone in Havana D’Primera. In addition, Abreu was recruited for previous all-star projects, such as the touring timba band named Team Cuba and the Grammy-winning Cuban roots recording “La Rumba Soy Yo.”

After the Cuban dance music scene started declining in 2000, Abreu traveled to Europe and spent time in Denmark, where he was invited to give master classes in trumpet and Cuban music at the jazz conservatory of Copenhagen. During an extended stay there, he joined Grupo Dansón, a band composed of Cuban and Danish musicians, serving as arranger and composer. Abreu appeared in Europe’s top music festivals and in 2002 he performed on the same stage with Sting, Lou Reed and James Brown as part of the benefit concert “Pavarotti & Friends.”

The time he spent performing abroad helped Abreu avoid the consequences of other Cuban timba bands, often considered too tailored to a home crowd and too hard for outsiders to dance to.

“I believe that to live outside of Cuba for a time has been one of the keys to the hallmark of this group,” said Abreu of his band. “Because I learned how to interact with people that don’t speak the language. I learned how to spread that same happiness and energy….You have to be precise with the rhythms and arrangements. You have to make sure that they are understandable, that they are solid, that they are clear, so that people understand.”

By 2007, Abreu was back in Havana putting together his own band. The aspiring bandleader returned home with only an developing concept, inspired by a New York salsa band he had seen in Copenhagen. There, he had watched the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a group of veteran salsa musicians who came together with a common determination – to recapture some of the original sound and excitement of the great salsa bands of the 1970s. The group, led by pianist Oscar Hernandez who had played with salsa greats such as Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades, managed to generate enough nostalgia to initiate a one-band salsa revival, touring the world and recording various popular albums featuring star vocalists such as Blades.

That served as an inspiration to do something similar with session musicians in Havana,” said Abreu. “It gave me the strength to come to Cuba and say, ‘I can do it here.’ From that idea, basically, Habana D’Primera is born.”

Abreu brought together an ensemble of experienced musicians who had played with some of the best bands of that exhilarating era, a golden age of contemporary Cuban salsa and timba. Concerned about the decline of Afro-Cuban dance music, Abreu decided to continue the great tradition started by the very bands he had played with, such as Paulito FG y Su Elite and Isaac Delgado.

Since 2000, many of the leading timba stars had left Cuba, including Manolin, Isaac Delgado and Carlos Manuel, all of whom were Abreu’s colleagues and collaborators. In the meantime, young fans in Cuba flocked to foreign pop music styles such as rock, rap and reggaeton, leaving the legacy of Cuba’s rich native dance music to decay.

Alexander Abreu and Havana D’Primera

For Abreu and his new band, the challenge of generating a revival was overwhelming. No new Cuban dance band had managed to break into the top tiers of popular music acts since the turn of the century, when Cesar Pedroso broke away from Los Van Van and formed his own band, Pupy y Los Que Son, Son. Record companies, radio stations and nightclubs all focused on the latest fads, especially reggaeton which had removed salsa off the music charts. Amazingly, so many deejays had turned to reggaeton that there was no place to dance salsa in the capital of the country where the music was invented.

The crisis gave Abreu the opportunity to build a grass-roots fan base just like the timba pioneers had done at the start of the dance music movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That was known as “the special period” in Cuban history, a time of extreme economic difficulty when bands were forced to practice in the dark due to frequent blackouts and try out their material on stage due to a lapse in record production. For a while, Cuban dance music was all about the live performance, a need that helped stimulate creativity. Following his predecessors, Havana D’Primera began working live shows, building a following the old-fashioned way, one fan at a time.

Before long, fans were packing Havana d’Primera’s regular Tuesday shows at Casa de la Musica, a club and cultural center in the residential Miramar section of Havana. Even though they had not yet released a record, loyal fans memorized song lyrics from the live shows.

The weekly concerts were essential to the band’s development. Soon, the unknown band started to develop an underground buzz.

Alexander Abreu y Havana D’Primera – Haciendo Historia

Havana D’Primera recorded its first album Haciendo Historia in 2009.

In 2012, Abreu performed as an actor in the movie 7 Days in Havana, in the section “Tuesday Jam Session” with Serbian film director and musician Emir Kusturica.

The album “Cantor del Pueblo” won the Cubadisco Award in 2018.

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Embassy of Mexico to award Cuban artists

The Mexican Embassy in Cuba will present the Cultural Merit award to Cuban dancer Viengsay Valdes, choreographer Alberto Mendez and cultural official Reinaldo Mendez, it was announced at a press conference.

The award will be presented at the close of the 'Cultura a lo Grande' concert, performed by the Mariana de Gonitch Singing Academy and scheduled for November 18 in downtown Havana's Cathedral Square.

During the event, Valdes will also be presented with the Tropical Gypsy distinction, annually awarded by the capital's Provincial Directorate of Culture to those who contribute to the development of Cuban culture.

For the occasion, first dancer, actress and singer of the National Folkloric Group, Zenaida Almenteros, will join the Okantomi company to perform the Habanera 'En el claro de la luna,' written by singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez.

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Tribute in Spain to Cuban culture and foundation of Havana

Cuba's embassy in Spain was the scene Thursday of an emotional gala in honor of Culture Day on the island and 500 years of the foundation of Havana.

The Cuban National Culture Day evokes every October 20 the composition of the national anthem, the work of the patriot Pedro Figueredo, just 10 days after the beginning of the independence struggle of 1868.

'Our anthem is a direct expression of our Cubanness, and in its letter it contains many of our essences,' said Cuban ambassador in Spain, Gustavo Machín, before a large audience gathered in the legation of the largest of the Antilles in Madrid.

'Not only the verses, which urge to combat, to fight for independence, and express the defining metaphor: To die for the country is to live, which is essentially in line with what is considered Cubanness today', Machín said of the fervent notes of that song.

The diplomat said that culture in his country grows fresh in these times, fertilized by these roots, against wind and tide.

'One can understand, then, that without freedom and independence there would be no Cuban culture, and without Cuban culture, we would lose independence or have no reason to fight for it,' he emphasized.

Regarding the capital of the Caribbean nation, that next November 16 will be half a millennium old, he recalled that it was one of the first seven villages founded by the Spanish Crown on the island.

The ambassador took advantage of the evening to share with those present the victory achieved the eve at the United Nations, where for the twenty-eighth time the international community overwhelmingly condemned the US blockade imposed on his country.

The gala was enlivened by Cuban troubadour Ismael de la Torre and his compatriots Andres Puig, a well-known painter and sculptor who donated several works to the Caribbean nation, and singer Arahi Martinez, former member of the Anacaona female orchestra.

The celebration was attended by several ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in this country, members of Cuban resident associations and the solidarity movement with the island.

On behalf of the Spanish Government, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, Secretary of State for International Cooperation and for Latin America and the Caribbean participated.

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