Yambambo Community Project Defends Haitian Culture in Cuba

The Yambambo sociocultural community project is currently focused on fostering and preserving Haitian roots and traditions in this central province.

Sponsored by the Nicolas Guillen Foundation, this community project is based in the Tuero neighborhood in Moron municipality, where customs and cultural practices brought by Haitian immigrants in the last century are kept alive.

Haitian descendants here preserve the beliefs, religious ceremonies, culinary and beverage traditions inherited from their ancestors, as well as the use of green medicine to cure diseases.

This project has also allowed women to enter the workforce, since they are currently responsible for the sale of handicrafts and traditional Haitian food, which has greatly benefited Tuero residents.

  • Published in Culture

Cuban culture: The good music of La Academia turns 10 years old

Drummer Ruy López-Nussa and his group La Academia are turning 10 years old on stages, which they wish to celebrate with performances in theaters, a tour of art schools and a greater impact on the media.

La Academia cultivates Cuban genres with winks at many from other latitudes, without aspiring to please mass tastes. Its musicians are deeply interested in rigor and more inspired by the musical inheritance of the universe than by radio and television producers.

The price they pay is high: they do not appear on the media regularly. However, they have a passionate public that follows them, composed of music students and professionals who enjoy what the ordinary public usually do not discover during a concert. López-Nussa and La Academia are not interested in the very high artistic concessions that achieving better diffusion on the media would demand.

The outstanding drummer is the younger brother of Hernán López-Nussa, one of the greatest Cuban pianists, and father of Harold and Ruy Adrián, talented pianist and drummer, respectively. The family’s trunk was painter and journalist Leonel López-Nussa.

From a very Cuban version of “No woman no cry”, Bob Marley’s classic, own compositions such as “Descargando” and “Sahara”, to recreations of “El cumbanchero” and “El bodeguero”, by Rafael Hernández and Richar Egües, La Academia cultivates it all, with something that allows an artist to reach half the way when he/she achieves it: the stamp.

With a roster marked by trumpeters Roberto García, musical director and composer, and Maikel González, and percussionist Octavio Rodríguez, La Academia has recorded five albums with Colibrí record label and none has hit the market. “The greatest prize at the age of 10 of the group would be to see at least one of the five albums, we have faith that this would be the case”, states Ruy, while talking to CubaSí at the study of his apartment, in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood.

One of those albums features Jamaican-born Canadian singer Paul Everton, a group of pieces that include reverences to Bob Marley.

While it celebrates its 10 years of career, La Academia tries to overcome all bureaucratic obstacles and apathy it finds on its way, driven by the encouragement of music and the incentive to be able to reach more public in Cuba, to leave them a mark of good music.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Renowned poet and essayist Roberto Fernandez Retamar passes away in Havana

Renowned Cuban poet, essayist and literary critic Roberto Fernandez Retamar passed away in Havana Saturday. He was 89.

Abel Prieto, president of the Jose Marti Cultural Society, confirmed the death of the president of Casas de las Americas on Twitter.

“We have lost one of the greatest poets and thinkers of America and the world.  He leaves us an exceptional work, focused on decolonization and anti-imperialism,” Prieto tweeted.

Fernandez Retamar was a central figure in Cuba literary scene since the 1960s, he wrote over a dozen major collections of verse and founded the Casa de las Americas cultural magazine.  He had also served as president of that institution since 1986.

Fernandez authored Calibán, considered one of the most important essays written in Spanish language in the 20th century.

In 1989, he was awarded the National Prize for Literature.

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Martinique Theater Crams to See Lizt Alfonso Dance Company

The company Lizt Alfonso Dance (LADC) and the Failde Orchestra crammed the Great Carbet Aimee Cesaire in Martinique, with capacity for about 900 people.

At the closure of each of the three shows offered there, including the one on Friday, in addition to the usual applause, the public's heels imitating artists filled the event as a sign of maximum approval and in tune with the show's title: Vibrate!

According to Prensa Latina, the producer of the traditional Cuban music group, Pedro Pablo Cruz, thus fulfilled the prediction of the organizers of the 48th edition of the Cultural Festival of Fort de France because they had announced the Cuban representation as the golden moment of the event.

Such clatter against the floor is not usually heard in all parts of the world generating a speechless satisfaction. It is always said that the greatest prize of an artist is the applause, so imagine when that applause comes multiplied in such a cheerful and unique way, commented the first dancer Massiel Yedra.

LADC imposed its seal of quality for the third time in Martinique, where the dance fusion style that characterizes it already gains followers.

This year, Alfonso Company triumphed once again with Vibrate! in the United States, where it performed at the invitation of the so-called 'Queen of Country Music', Dolly Parton, within the Festival of Nations that the artist sponsors in Dollywood, Tennessee.

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Tribute to Havana for its 500 Years from Cuban Culture

Prestigious Cuban singers and musicians joined their talents in a video clip to mark the 500th anniversary of the founding of this city, producers announced.

In a press conference, musician and director of Surcaribe group, Ricardo Leyva, considered that the audiovisual had as its first objective to illustrate beautiful, romantic and nostalgic Havana, which opens her arms to visitors.

Titled 'Forever Habana mía', the clip song is signed by Leyva and has the collaboration of artists such as Frank Fernández, Beatriz Márquez, Ulises Aquino, Isaac Delgado and Alexander Abreu, among others.

In addition, the video brings together various music genres and styles, tinged with lyric and reggaeton, the latter through the incursion of Yomil and Dany duo.

Directed by young Asiel Babastro, the material offers a fresh look of the Cuban capital with breathtaking aerial views and runs through emblematic sites such as the Capitol, built in the first half of the last century.

The presentation was attended by the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in Havana, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, and Cuban Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso, among other authorities.

On November 16, Havana will celebrate its 500th anniversary in memory of that day of 1519, when Spanish conqueror Diego Velázquez established his third and definitive settlement.


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Cubanisms: North American Band with Deep Cuban Musical Roots

The echoes of Jazz Plaza still bounce in Cuba. Every year the festival becomes a true musical bridge among groups of different formats that defend various sounds, going hand in hand with the countries they represent and the roots or musical influences they have.  

The story in this article speaks about the band Cubanisms, a North American jazz band from Kansas City but with the Cuban tres guitar and the fusion with different sounds of our country build up the essence of its musical arrangements, even the primary source for inspiration of its leader and musical director Michael McClintock.  

This multiethnic band is sounding since 2015, last year 2018 they earned according to the newspaper Pitch the “Best local Band”; the nomination as “Best performer” went to McClintock; and its vocalist, Fedra Cooper, received a nomination for “Best vocalist”.  

They have been trying to come to Cuban for a while now as a group and participate, after in 2017 they launched their first album: “Cuban accent”, where songs like El cuarto de Tula, Inolvidable, and Aguanile stand out. The group also has interesting song arrangements of Flor Palida, of Polo Montañez, and other icon songs of the Cuban music besides Michael already works in the writing of his own songs thinking of the second album. Without renouncing to the essence of their proposal so far.  

Going back to their presence at Jazz Plaza Festival, they took an important step when they were in Cuba in January 2018. They promoted their disk here in Cuba, McClintock had the chance of being invited as tres guitar player to play with different Cuban bands, and that opened him the doors to come in 2019. Besides, the band’s debut album competed in the category of International Prize in Cubadisco 2018.  

Of course whenever asked about the drive of this special opportunity he always asserts that it’s his wife Dálida, Cuban through and through and whom he met precisely here in one of his previous trips to take tres guitar lessons.  

“She has a huge energy and an organizational capacity that I’ve never seen in anyone. She takes my musical career more seriously than me. She is my manager, consultant, main promoter, she gives ideas, and what’s essential, inspiration source. I am blessed to have met her and have her by my side", said the musician.  

He decided to establish a romance with the Tres guitar after listening Barbarito Torres (Buena Vista Social Club) for the first time, Mc Clintock deepened: "The Tres guitar is basically an accompanying instrument, essential when defending Cuban traditional music. What I think is interesting in our proposal is that the arrangements and proposals of Cubanisms are not bounded to traditional music: we shift in styles like jazz, flamenco, bossa nova and other Brazilian rhythms. All that merged with the Afro-Cuban rhythms.  

We are extremely happy, because Jazz Plaza was the first international performance for Cubanisms, and the first time the band was in Cuba complete. It was an honor for all of us to be able to perform in one of the most important musical festivals of this country.  

In fact, we are working in our first DVD with the footage of the concerts in Bertolt Bretch and at Fábrica de Arte, a place simply incredible, where people connect with one in a very natural way.  

That is something that all my musicians praised here and that it differs when we perform in Kansas City or anywhere within the United States: the way in which the public connects and gets involved with our music. I believe is in the blood of Cuban that musicality.  

The essence of what we seek with Cubanisms is that when people listen to our music they can identify us right away. I personally love Cuban rhythms and the fusion with other sounds of different countries. We are working so that the second album, with most of the songs written by me, it comes the as near as possible to that objective", he said.  

An interesting element is that Cubanisms is more than a musical band. Since it started wants to become a cultural project that also includes the organization of trips to Cuba to be deeply involved with culture, the traditions and different institutions, besides working as bridge in the relationships between our country and the United States. A bridge spread by music, love and respect to our people and its culture.

Art Instructors, the 15 Year-old Waltz

Making it massive, to share, to promote, to create are some of the words for this celebration and the topic: The best of Cuban culture...

The objective of art instructors, the amateur movement, the Culture Houses, are present in the Speech to Intellectuals given by the leader of the Cuban Revolution in date as early as 1961:

“… One of the Revolution’s fundamental purposes is to develop art and culture, in fact so that art and culture become a true patrimony of the people.

Just like we have wanted for the people a better life regarding material things, we also want for the people a better life in the spiritual realm, we want for the people a better life in the field of culture. Just as the revolution is concerned about the development of conditions and the strengths that allow the people the satisfaction of all their material needs, we also want to develop the conditions that allow the people the satisfaction of all their cultural needs.”

It’s easy to recognize that very feeling in the optimism with which Fidel welcomed the second graduation of the schools of instructors that he encouraged in the beginnings of the third millennium:

“It’s amazing the path that opens up toward the training of sensibility and appreciation of arts among the youngest and towards the ambitious purpose of creating a massive and comprehensive general culture in our people.

“A culture that is not only artistic, but also historical, scientific, economic, geographical, environmental and in the most diverse fields of knowledge, with a deep humanist meaning.”

It’s in fact to instruct, of training the aesthetic pleasure, the artistic sensibility of Cubans, it’s to elevate to the maximum the critic capacity to tell apart between banality and art, between vulgarity and creation, thus was created the José Martí Brigade of Art Instructors, an idea born from Fidel that in 2019 will reach its 15th anniversary.

What are we going to dance in that party? Hopefully, rumba and mambo and the Waltz of Butterflies no wonder we had Lecuona and everything that’s good and beautiful that we Cubans have been able to create, the wonderful heritage we have amassed for centuries, before portable speakers came into fashion and certain sectors forgot that what’s national, and authentic transcends and becomes universal.

Once again in Cuba we bet for the amateur movement, the workshops at Culture Houses, the visualization of groups displaying authentic Cuban features, facilities are remodeled and reviving the true Cuban essence is paramount. It’s urgent.

The challenge is to make massive the best of the Cuban culture, the treasure of our authentic groups, and the repertoire of creations that have grown in this country where talent is widespread.

  • Published in Specials

Culture in Cuba will never be merchandise

In times of overwhelming globalization, culture remains synonymous with identity and resistance of peoples.

Art and literature aren’t mere commodities, although some assume it as such. Nobody doubts there’s a market for art, but that does not mean art can be reduced to a purely commercial expression.

I say art and can tell culture, which is a broader and more embracing concept. No one living in society can be on the fringes of its culture.

After repeating it so much, it seems a set phrase now, but it is a truth as a temple: culture is the very essence of identity. There’s no nation without culture.

That’s why it’s vital to defend that heritage in these times, which seem marked by the globalizing desire of the big market.

Right now, the world is hit by numerous wars, many of them particularly bloody. Most of are explained, at first glance, in the contradictions among dissimilar ways of assuming and understanding politics, though at the bottom, economic conditions almost always prevail.

But there’s a much more widespread (and effective) war: that of symbols.

The big hegemonic power centers bombard citizens with productions from the so-called junk culture, designed to stimulate boring consumerism.

Those who believe there’s no solid thought column behind this strategy are too naive. Theoreticians of that globalization have a clear understanding of the power of culture.

The real logic is that of money, which in the end is the logic of most wars, even though nationalisms and the fight against terrorism and oppressive regimes are made explicit.

Without firing a shot, they dig a favourable channel through by-products of the cultural industry.

And it is not just about the naive and necessary aim to entertain, since paradigms are established in the end.

Hence the huge importance of the entertainment industry, which is supported by a gigantic advertising system.

It is not that easy, walls won’t be worth building, since they will also be reductionist and in fact, impracticable.

The most effective barrier of peoples is promotion and defence of authentic cultural values that become guarantee of resistance and reaffirmation.

Art and literature can and should participate in the public debate without assuming dim propaganda and doctrinal stances, which are by force oblivious to creative exercise.

The entire artistic heritage cannot be confined to a purely ornamental purpose.

It’s true that Cuba has now the same challenge to solidify a productive base.

Economy must be a priority, because it becomes support of the national project.

But not just economy: culture cannot be held hostage of commercial conceptions that, in the long run, will relegate it to mere entertainment.

Some Cubans, even with leadership responsibilities, understand it that way today. They believe, for example, that art is a secondary issue, mere complement.

Certain views consider that some cultural proposals should not be subsidized, because they might become a burden on the nation.

Some request that culture self-finances, thus ignoring that this framework is precisely one of the pillars of national sovereignty.

The enjoyment of art in all its expressions must remain a right.

Our liberation struggle always leaned on the traditions of a creative people.

Prohibitions, impositions, or schematic, utilitarian and chauvinistic views make no sense. Culture is guarantee of emancipation and freedom, as José Martí so wisely said.

This country enjoys a great privilege: its main hero is also one of its greatest poets and thinkers.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials
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