Rumba, almendrones (vintage cars from the 50’s now used as colectivos and taxis), salsa, cajons(a type of drum used in Cuban music), congas, magnificent restored mansions, crumbling estates, high rise government housing, sidewalk cafes, vegetable venders, bicycles, car honks, clave rhythms, dancers, drummers, bungavilla, more car honks, Santeria (an Afro Caribbean religion) , arroz y frijoles (rice and beans), strong coffee, Cuban ballads, tobacco fields, bananas, pineapple, pigs, oxen, chickens, and stray dogs, and many, many, many gracious and beautiful people. My group of 11 intreped travelers settled into this beautiful and complicated tangle for 12 packed days on a recent trip to Cuba! I joined Andre Mallinger and Laura Tyson of True Nature Journeys for a transformational, small group adventure trip focusing on the music, dance, and culture.
On the first part of our trip, we stay in the cultural heart of Havana, the Vedado district, known for its hotels, theaters, and music venues. Here colonial mansions mingle with high rise 50’s style buildings. Our hosts for this portion of the trip are Cuban families who operate casa particulars, private rooms in large apartments.
While in Havana, we attend music classes with both highly trained professional musicians and dancers and excellent street style players. Local scholars enlighten us with discussions about music, culture, and Cuban history. Stand out experiences include neighborhood gatherings such as El Gran Palenque, a Rumba fiesta where multi generations mingle together for music and dancing in a lively party scene.
In addition to our time in the city, we travel out of Havana for a look at rural life in Valle Viñales, where we stay in lovely, family-owned casitas. Here, life moves at a slower pace. We stroll through fields and tobacco farms, and enjoy beautiful rock formations (migotes) which rise like giants (as high as 1,000 feet), out of the floor of the green valley.
This weeks recording is a video of a group heard on our first night in Havana, the group was playing at UNEAC (a beautiful courtyard venue dedicated to writers, artists, and musicians in the Vendado district.)
The next few posts will go into deep depth about Rumba, Cuban Canciones, and Cuban culture.