Havana Jazz Fest: Artists and fans flock to Cuba for week of music

World Today

CUBA-PERU-US-MUSIC-FESTIVAL-SUCCARPeruvian-American musician, Latin Grammy nominee 2018 Tony Succar, plays the drums during a rehearsal in the framework of the 34th International Jazz Festival of Havana. (AFP/YAMIL LAGE)

Musicians and music lovers gathered in Havana for the 34th International Jazz Festival.

CGTN’s Luis Chirino was there.

Havana nights lit up during a week of jazz performances by some of the world’s best musicians, with both local and foreign artists taking to the city’s stages.

Renowned Cuban jazz bandleader Orlando Valle – better known as ‘Maraca’ – was a festival highlight. As were appearances by the Grammy award-winning American trumpet player Brian Lynch and Puerto Rican flutist Nestor Torres. During rehearsals, Maraca talks about this standout performance:

“It is homage to Roy Hargrove and Dave Valentin, two giants of Latin Jazz who once played at this festival and have already passed away,” Maraca explained.

“The central core of the sensibility of jazz comes from the African music sensibility,” Lynch said. “This is something that the US and Cuba really share.”

The concerts were held at Havana’s main downtown theaters, and drew huge crowds from near and far. Jazz has always built bridges between the American and the Cuban people, and this festival is a clear example of that reality.

Many American fans timed trips to Havana just so they could attend the festival.

“Music is another form of communication,” Mark Kilby said. “It’s a beautiful way for us to communicate with the Cubans and vice versa.”

Cubans and Americans enjoyed the jazz stage together when the creator of the festival – Maestro Bobby Carcasses – was joined by US jazz musicians Scotty Barnhart, Roger Glenn and Dick Griffin.

Another memorable performance came from British soul singer Joss Stone, who brought a special touch to the jazz fest with her mezzo-soprano voice.

An emotional moment came during an improvised duet between Joss Stone and Cuban singer Omara Portuondo. Their Spanish-language collaboration an embodiment of a festival theme bringing Cuban and world musicians together.